The Hour of the Pearl
I read a bit from Cannery Row, then shut off my bedside lamp and closed my eyes. The day's heat lingered in the room and I soon discovered fleas sharing my bed - really only a minor nuisance after so many nights spent outdoors. The windows were open and the cool night air seeped into the room and a wave of comfort and calm washed over me. Though I had not yet fallen asleep, I felt as if I were in some sort of dream state and pictured an idealized image of the world outside our little cabin - a damp, lush and cool river valley. A scene formed in my mind of moonlight shining down on dew-covered grass. Fireflies flickered in the air. I heard a train go by and it was not startling or disruptive, but rather soothing to my ears. There was something magical about that sound and I imagined it as a locomotive traveling from one quaint hamlet to the next within an idyllic landscape somehow not part of this reality or age, somehow lost to time. The white noise of the tiny stream outside the window filled my ears and I drifted off to sleep. I slept well, though I occasionally awoke throughout the night, at which point I savored the distinctive atmosphere of my surroundings - part reality and part in my mind - then quickly and contentedly fell back asleep.
"In the gray time after the light has come and before the sun has risen, the Row seems to hang suspended out of time in a silvery light ... Its is a time of great peace, a deserted time, a little era of rest ... It is the hour of the pearl - the interval between day and night when time stops and examines itself."
Steinbeck, Cannery Row
I awoke before sunrise and ate my typical breakfast before indulging in watermelon slices brought to us by Brenda, the trail angel. She shuttled Whitewater, Early B and myself back to Belden Town Resort. We resumed where we had left off, walking across the red steel bridge that spanned the North Fork of the Feather River; the waters I had swam in the previous afternoon flowed underneath. We crossed the highway and set foot back on trail. I gradually rose up above the river and looked down at the scene below - with the river and forested hills it was reminiscent of some small Appalachian town. I found it much more appealing from a distance.
I felt still submerged in the dreamlike and subdued atmosphere of the previous night. It lingered on with the cool morning air as I hiked along the shaded trail. I passed a dead milk snake, its body twisted into contortions of red, black and white. The colors of its ringed skin echoed the colors of Belden Town below - the reds and blues and whites of its steel bridge, its faux totem poles and the painted facades of its buildings.