Just fair warning, this isn’t a post about Spandau Ballet, although it could be—I’ve had Gold stuck in my head for about six months, ever since my friend Arman and I road tripped to the ranch together and dance/karaoked to 80s classics the whole there. Gold came up more than a few times and now I can’t hear “GOLD!” without the following line, “always believe in your soul!” also popping into my brain. It’s not ideal, but it’s what I’ve got right now. Anyway I digress, from a story I haven’t even started yet.
So here’s the real thing I came here to say: My dad and I went to the ranch last weekend, and though Spandau Ballet never came up even once, we were awash in the color gold, all different shimmering shades of chroma. It was my weekend to ostensibly hunt for a bull elk, and though we put some time in, our hearts weren’t really in it—mine wasn’t, at least—and there wasn’t a herd like there is sometimes on the ranch, so we packed up and went chukar hunting instead.
It was the morning after rain, so the land looked extra saturated, thick with chroma, on the way over to our spot—even the gravel of the road looked denser because of it—and you could tell by how quickly the water faded that the ground was thirsty, eager for the moisture. A hot, dry summer has been followed by a hot, dry fall, so everything is even more parched than usual, but that morning there was a hint of winter in the air, a crispness around the edges that felt good. It seemed to promise that a long sleep was coming soon, the cold will began to set in, and the land can finally rest.
But when we got out of the truck the sun was still shining, and though the air was cool enough I knew that the steepness of the ridge ahead of us was going to keep me plenty warm. So we set out in t-shirts and with our vests weighed down by water, trudging up the ridge with our faces nearly in the dirt from the angle of it, close enough that I saw two big black beetles moving through the grass, one perfectly still dead one, and the soft, shimmering iridescence of disintegrating moth wings left on a wide rock. I was reminded that day that most of Oregon is a desert, that this kind of landscape preserves. The valley consumes, leaves anything left outside rotted or moldy or bloated or crushed or covered by mud, but here things are given time under a wide open sky to fall apart gracefully. It is harsh country but kind in a way too, gentler in death than the hungry crawling wet of the valley.
We are all quickly beat down by the sun, especially the dogs, their tongues hanging low as they work the rocks and the ridge lines. But it’s also because of the sun that we are walking through a kind of phantasmagoria of burnished canyons, glinting in the light. We saw birds—Cedar pointed a chukar who had somehow met his end some other way, not by me, and a covey broke behind us, so we watched helplessly as they scrambled up a rocky cliff line—but what will stay with me is the memory of the way it all looked, our bodies against land radiating color, existing in a space outside of time.
When we drove away, I looked back at where we’d come from, the long line the ridge’s horizon high above us, and couldn’t help but feel so lucky. Maybe there’s a way to tie this into Spandau Ballet—what’s the line? That’s right. Nothing left to make me feel small, luck has left me feeling so tall. Gold!