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Humbug Valley was not easy to reach. In early summer, I flew to Reno, rented a car, spent the night with friends, and in the morning drove a two-lane highway toward the Sierras as white clouds floated in the sky like the painted backdrop in a Western, and yellow balsamroot speckled green foothills and road construction backed up traffic for miles. It’d be a long trip, and I wasn’t sure how to get where I was going, but Beverly Ogle, a Maidu elder, had invited me to a healing ceremony, and I did not intend to miss it.

I’d talked to Beverly about Humbug Valley a year earlier. She’d told me about her family’s long history there, about the natural soda springs and the archaeological sites, and about her small federally unrecognized tribe’s effort to reclaim this sacred place. I’d talked to her more recently too, about what happened in the fall after a wildfire burned through the valley. Throughout the winter and into the spring, I kept in close touch with her about the damage.

Now it was time for healing. If, that is, I could find the valley.

Even at the ranger station in Chester, the nearest town, the receptionist didn’t know the route for sure. We checked the fifteen-minute topographic maps and then the seven-and-a-half-minute maps. Humbug Valley lay at the juncture of three maps’ corners: upper right, lower right, upper left. You’d have to buy them all, she said apologetically, and paste them together. Instead I bought a forest map—too big, with details too small—and headed out. I stopped for watermelon and some ice, a meager potluck contribution, and drove past Lake Almanor, a drowned Maidu valley that is now a clear blue reservoir reflecting Mt. Lassen in the distance.

Not far out of town I turned off the highway and followed logging roads that branched at intersections marked by flimsy brush-hidden posts with four-digit Forest Service road numbers or, more often, by paper plates with first names I didn’t know and arrows drawn in Sharpie or crayon. The roads were rutted and washboarded, ungraveled and twisty, the trees dense enough to shade blind curves and obscure the landscape. Tall peaks? Creek ahead? How would you know? The trees were thick as my arm is long, the bark sun-stained orange. The day was windows-rolled-down hot, and classic rock on the rental car radio blared loud: Van Halen, Foreigner, Blue Öyster Cult, and, finally, fittingly, AC / DC, “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap.”

I parked beside a small shelter over the naturally carbonated springs. This, at last, was the place. On one side of the road, a newly green meadow stretched to pine-fringed ridges and beyond. On the other: a clearcut slope with stumps black and not-black and slash—discarded trunks with telltale green needles—piled high. The postcard invitation Beverly had sent showed this view exactly: the forested hillside as it looked before, separated diagonally by a fierce red line, from another view showing how it looks now. In person it was even more disconcerting.

Don’t get me wrong. After two decades in the Pacific Northwest, a clearcut alone can’t shock me, but this one with its sloppy skid marks and massive heaps of green-needled slash, seemed wasteful or worse. Pink flagging fluttered around what I assumed, from Beverly’s description, were the archaeological sites. Some flags were wrapped around fresh stumps smack in the middle of the cut-over area. A dozen vultures circled overhead, so I walked out into knee-high grass to find what they were after: a half-deer carcass with the head still intact, one glassy eye bulging, a cougar kill by the looks of the tidy gut pile nearby, covered entirely by flies, an image as disgusting and predictable as what had happened here.

In a nutshell: Humbug Valley had belonged to the Maidu since time eternal—they considered it a sacred place—but it had belonged on paper to Pacific Gas & Electric for eighty years. The huge utility acquired the land from Oro Light & Power Company, which had planned to develop Yellow Creek for hydropower in the early 1900s, and then dropped the plans for reasons that were still unclear to me, even though I’d been following the story for months. What was clear was this: in the wake of the Enron scandal and PG&E’s resulting bankruptcy, the Maidu were poised to reclaim the land, to gain fee-title, to make it their own again. It was a triumphant story, or seemed to be, an against-all-odds victory for people who’d been damned-near annihilated a few short generations ago. But just as the final negotiations were getting under way, a forest fire burned along the edge of the valley, and PG&E used that as an excuse to get an emergency permit from the California Department of Forestry that allowed them to mow down a few thousand trees—“salvage logging,” it’s called—and make as much money as they could, as fast as possible.

In the wake of the Enron scandal and PG&E’s resulting bankruptcy, the Maidu were poised to reclaim the land.

One day in October, Beverly Ogle happened to be leading a crew into Humbug Valley to build a new split-cedar fence to prevent vandalism of her ancestors’ graves, when she discovered heavy-equipment operators skidding logs directly across sacred sites. She suggested they halt operations, suggested it strongly. She was ignored.

A mile up the road at Yellow Creek Campground, nine undeveloped campsites—with running water from ground spigots but no showers or flush toilets—nestled among tall pines. The place was silent. The only indication of the planned ceremony was one site, the best one, closest to the creek, reserved for attendees by a bear skin draped over a picnic table. The rules posted on the bulletin board clearly stated that saving campsites was prohibited, but I was glad to see this particular violation had been overlooked. I set up my small tent and ate jerky by the creek and listened to the sounds of bugs and birds and burbling water. The valley seemed soft: grasses in shades of green-yellow, some seed heads turned auburn. The different heights too, made the grass wavy and textured, a feathered expanse unbroken for several miles except for the willows along the creek. Ridges hemmed the meadow, and the place felt rife with contradictions: sheltered and expansive, safe and vulnerable. Sacred? I couldn’t say.

Noisy campers arrived late in the night, and I was awakened at dawn by the sound of thrushes and grouse and the strangest-sounding elk I’d ever heard. The call seemed more pathetic than majestic, and this did not seem like elk country, but I heard it over and over, until I was wide awake. Usually I jog in the morning, but I’d not planned to since there wasn’t a shower in the campground and I wanted to look half-respectable, not sweaty. But as I lay on the ground thinking about the clearcut and the ceremony to come, I thought, Jogging is the only way that I know how to pray. And prayers seemed in order.

I ran alongside the split-cedar fence whose construction, last fall, had brought Beverly Ogle to the valley in time to discover the logging operation. Newly weathered rails sat upon rocks beside lupines in bloom. I peeled off my coat and hung it on the fence, and ran on. I ran for a mile, past the pink flags waving and toward the soda springs, where a woman in a tie-dyed shirt and a tall ponytailed man with a handlebar moustache and a striped Western shirt stood. They turned out to be two of Beverly Ogle’s kids, Brenda and Fred, prepping for the ceremony: hanging a tribal banner and setting up a tent awning for shade. I introduced myself, and they told me they’d been expecting me, and I told them how sorry I was about what happened.

“It’s not what was done, but how,” Fred said.

Fred was a logger himself, an independent contractor for thirty-five years. Even he would’ve salvaged the worst-damaged timber, he said, but he would never log like this. Never. He pointed out the erosion along the skid trails; he would’ve used a highline to yard the logs out without disturbing the soil. And he wouldn’t have cut everything. He would’ve been selective. Even black bark can be superficial, deceptive, you know? I said I did know, a little, from living and working in the woods. Even if it’s black fifteen or twenty feet up the trunk, you can slip a pocket knife under the bark to find out whether the cambium is still alive and schlepping water upward.

“These trees would’ve been just fine,” Fred said, shaking his head.

He pointed out a hillside across the valley that had been damaged by the Storrie Fire, a 60,000 acre mega-fire back in 2000, but left to recover on its own. You could see the trees coming back amid the silver snags.

“That’s how this ought to look,” Brenda said.

For this job PG&E hired a cheap outfit to get the job done fast. To do it right would’ve cost more. Fred started to guesstimate how much more per acre—a pittance, he figured, chump change in the big scheme of things.

Brenda interrupted him. “They don’t care.”

“They don’t,” Fred said. He sighed and turned to me. “You saw the flagging?”

I nodded.

The sun now hit the hillside directly, and the smell reiterated the view: fresh needles and charred earth mingled with dew-wet grass. A car approached in the distance, and Brenda wondered if it was Beverly; she hadn’t yet arrived. As we squinted into the glare, I noticed a fenced area across the way, a small ranch.

“Are those cows?” I asked.

Brenda and Fred looked at me in unison. Well, yeah. Duh.

I told them about the odd-sounding elk I’d heard at dawn, and we laughed. The car passed; it wasn’t Beverly. There wasn’t much else that needed to be done to prepare, so I began to jog away.

“Check this out,” Fred called. He pointed under an eave on the shelter over the soda springs.

“Barn swallows,” Brenda said.

We stood together, me on my tiptoes, and watched three beaks emerge from the nest, gaping wide, straining upward into empty air.

Back at camp I splashed off some sweat in the camp spigot and changed clothes, and by the time I returned to the soda springs, the road was lined on either side with vehicles. I’d worried in advance that I’d be the only outsider here, the half-sweaty white woman from another state, but soon I saw that the Maidu had more allies that I’d imagined. A large crowd mingled: young and old, Indian and white, a Mexican flute maker from Oakland, a Forest Service employee in uniform, an African-American scholar and activist and long-time supporter of the Maidu whose young son was dressed in an NFL jersey and held a drum in his stroller. A Maidu woman in her sixties hauled a drum as big around as the firs that once stood across the road, and I tried to offer her help setting it up, though she needed none. A white man with a shock of John Kerry hair, holding a Corgi on a leash, mingled vigorously. I knew who he was: Edwin Wilson, the lawyer for the tribe. I loitered, trying to catch his attention, uncertain about his motives. Who was paying him? How committed was he? But before I could catch him, Beverly Ogle arrived.

A minor flurry erupted when a reporter from the Sacramento Bee informed her that PG&E had decided not to log the remaining one hundred fifty acres in the contract. They didn’t like the bad publicity.

“It should’ve happened a long time before now,” Beverly said.

I waited for the excitement to ebb and then went to greet her. I leaned down for a hug so she wouldn’t have to stand.

“So glad you could come,” she said.

As we chatted, two gray-ponytailed men in T-shirts, representatives of neighboring tribes, began the slow process of starting a fire by hand using a thin straight elderberry twig and two small wedges of cedar: cutting a triangular notch in one cedar wedge and setting it atop the other, then taking turns spinning the elderberry madly between two palms, hands slipping down the twig. The friction created tiny embers, like cigarette ash, that collected in the notch. One of the men braced the cedar wedge under his foot, and after a while, he removed his tennis shoe and sock, so that he held the wedge barefoot.

“Why did you take off your shoe?” an onlooker asked.

“To be in touch with the earth,” the fire maker said. “Everyone else is just watching, but I am in prayer.”

Half an hour passed before there were enough embers to put on a bed of wispy curled tinder, a double handful like an airy nest, and the two men were able to blow it to life. They set the tinder with some kindling in a metal fire pit in the center of the parking lot—and the whole setting turned holy. I grew up Catholic, and though I later left the dogma and the institution behind, ritual has always moved me. Now the pungent fire conjured the spicy incense burned at my father’s funeral, and the sounds of prayers in unfamiliar languages echoed Latin litanies, and something inside me stilled.

Beverly walked to the center of the circle slowly, caneless, though I’d always seen her use a cane in the past, to read into a microphone from loose-leaf paper.

“We are gathered here today in a good way to ask forgiveness from this land for this man-made destruction. Today we pray to Creator to bring back the trees and native plants, grasses, animals, and birds. Everything out here is connected with the lives of our Maidu ancestors.”

One of the fire makers approached each guest in the circle, waved a smudge of sunflower root like incense, and, with a hawk wing, flung away the smoke and with it any malingering spirits. It was hard not to notice that he paused with some guests longer than others, so it was a relief when he reached me, performed the ritual, and moved quickly along.

Beverly continued to read her speech, slowly and loudly, her tone resigned and stern, beseeching and unwavering.

She concluded, “This destruction of my paradise saddens me and it’s almost unbearable. The red-tailed hawk has appeared before me to share my sadness. We ask Creator to give us strength through prayer.”

At that, Beverly sat back under the shade awning, and Farrell Cunningham stood and walked slowly toward the microphone. I’d known about Farrell for months: he was the chairman of the Maidu Summit, a teacher and a native plant enthusiast, and, at thirty-six, one of the last remaining fluent speakers of the Maidu language, but in person he was more humble and unassuming than I’d expected. He wore brown jeans and a plain black T-shirt, work boots and a well-worn leather driving cap—a nod perhaps to the Welsh half of his heritage—that shaded his heavy brow. A scruff of beard showed hints of gray. His voice was soft and clear as he explained that he wanted to offer a prayer in Maidu but that first all recording devices should be shut off. He would not translate, he said, but the crowd would sense the meaning. Then he spoke, addressing his prayer to the fire and the sky and the ravaged hillside in a rolling soft-vowelled language and a voice both tuneful and sad.

He said we would understand. And we did.

Then he sat, and his sister Trina stood. Her voice was as soft as Farrell’s, her presence as formidable. She sang a song she’d composed in these mountains. She’d climbed a hill and sat until it came to her, a wordless song, high-pitched, like a cry or a whistle or the wind, and then she, too, prayed.

“For all nations,” she began.

I expected an “It’s a Small World” litany with the nations of Europe, Asia, South America. Instead, she listed nearby tribes—Wintu, Pit River, Wailaki, Yuki—then tribes of the Great Plains and the Southwest, a long list of names familiar and unfamiliar. She concluded by praying for all the indigenous people of the world.

“Which is,” she said, “all of us.”

I’d never thought of it that way.

“Find your place,” she said, “and protect it.”

I started to cry. It wasn’t just about our connection with or responsibility to one another, or the Creator, but to the land itself—not some Edenic picture-bible version of nature, but real dusty damaged land, living and dying and nurturing us while we nurture it. Another singer sang in Maidu in a deep, resonant tone, animal-like and foreign, like throat singing, more command than plea, and accompanied himself with a clapper stick. The flute maker played his elderberry flute. And still I wept. Later I’d say the ceremony had been the most spiritual of my life, but right then, I wasn’t thinking that way. I wasn’t thinking at all. If there is a suitable word for how I felt, it’s the same one, I think, that described everyone there. Present.

At last one fire maker stood with the native tobacco he’d brought: a large bag of seed and two live plants. Members of the tribe carried handfuls of seed up the clearcut hillside, walking gingerly, to plant not as a crop, but as a healing gesture before the reforestation to come, and the rest of us, in turn, took a pinch to the fire. Meanwhile a smaller group walked out into the green meadow, past the deer carcass, and toward the deep green willows alongside Yellow Creek. There they’d plant the two live starts to keep the seeds company and give them encouragement. It’s important, the fire maker explained, to have relatives nearby as you take root.

It’s important, the fire maker explained, to have relatives nearby as you take root.

As the seed was tossed, and the plants planted, the ceremony came to a quiet end. Beverly Ogle took one of her grandsons by the hand to get him a drink from the soda spring while a drum circle, all women, began to sing: “Walk in beauty, it’s all around you.”

I’ve been to protests where shrillness undercut outrage, where decorum undercut meaning. Here casualness underscored something else, something deep and real and unnameable. A little kid pushed a plastic monster truck around the fire as the crowd slowly dispersed. No big pronouncement. No closing procession.

It’s not the fact that you protest, I thought, but how.

After the ceremony, at the reserved campsite, the potluck was taking shape. I went looking for a way to cut a watermelon and met potluckers roasting meat on a rotisserie who were happy to loan a knife and clean cutting board. One exuberant man, tan and white-bearded, showed me a necklace of fir needles a Maidu friend had made for him twenty years earlier. He gestured toward the horizon.

“This is huge,” he said. “Farrell says this could be Maidu National Park.”

The clearcut was out of sight and apparently out of mind as well.

A young man stood nearby watching his two small kids walk a silver log across the creek, then grinned, set down his keys in the dirt, and followed them.

Trina Cunningham stood beside me as the three of them balanced.

“Wouldn’t it make a great picture to have every­one stand out on the log?” she asked.
I nodded. “And if you fall in, it’s no big deal,” I said.

“Right,” she said.

I meant the depth—the creek was shallow enough that even a child could stand on the sandy creekbed and breathe fine—but she meant more. “We’ve spent our whole lives in rivers,” she said.

“We’re not afraid.”

The crowd gathered in a large circle while Farrell Cunningham walked along three tables of food and filled a plate with a modest portion from each dish. No one else approached the food. He took his time. Someone said meat was still cooking, so Farrell stood and waited for it to be done, and everyone waited with him. When at last the meat appeared, he added a piece to his plate, and stood beside the still-burning fire, which had been transported up the road in the back of an F-150. He thanked everyone for the food they’d brought, gave a blessing, and dumped the entire contents of the plate into the fire as an offering to the spirits of the ancestors.

People were ready to eat, but Farrell was not finished.

“Since I speak the language, I can give a bit of advice,” he said, half-joking, self-deprecating, but serious, too. “Don’t take too much. Don’t waste food.”

“This food, these dishes, are gifts,” he said. “I go to too many potlucks where I see food in the trash. Don’t be like that.” He tossed in a Maidu phrase with a sly grin, and then translated the meaning: “Don’t act like white people.”

Everyone laughed.

“Don’t take it personally. We’re all Maidu here today.”

He gave one last direction before stepping out of the way. “Elders should eat first. It’s a form of respect. And the young ones, the teenagers here, well, they should find an elder and offer to make a plate.”

A small Maidu boy turned to ask shyly if he could make me a plate. I laughed. I was forty-five, not seventy-five, but the boy’s gesture was so well-meaning that I felt bad when I turned him down and he slunk away.

I carried my plate, piled high but not too high, and stood beside Farrell Cunningham, who was standing by himself in the shade of the pines. We ate in comfortable silence. After a while, I asked him how he learned the language.

“At gatherings just like this,” he said.

From his aunts, his elders, he said. He preferred their company. He doesn’t know why; maybe he was a weird kid, or maybe it was just that they made him laugh. They had a wicked sense of humor, these women, and maybe because of everything they’d been through, boarding school and all the rest, they were irreverent, rebellious, ribald even. He sat with them, always, and they’d speak in Maidu to say rude things and didn’t realize that young Farrell could understand.

“I’ve never met anyone with a sense of humor like that. I can’t even describe it.”

His face softened as he remembered them. His eyes brightened under his heavy brow. His voice lost its tinge of sadness.

“This,” he said gesturing around, “is nothing like it was. So polite.”

He chuckled soundlessly, and returned to his food. I thanked him for his time, and he nodded as I stepped away, folding my empty paper plate in half to add to the fire.

Nearby a young mother supervised a group of kids making a pine cone palace, collecting them in one area, placing flowers on top. One little boy preferred to play in the outhouse, and she had to keep chasing him. As I watched her, I saw Edwin Wilson head across the campground and decided to follow him. When I asked a few tentative questions about his role, he sat down amiably at a picnic table.

“Do you have time for a story?” he asked.

I did.

“I see it in Michener terms.” A long story, he meant. With a wide-angle lens. And an over-arching theme.

“This was all meant to be,” he began.

I was taken aback, for a moment, by the whiff of arrogance. He told me how he grew up in the heart of Maidu country, in Belden, directly downstream from Humbug Valley—the place where the neon martini glass hovers over the river, the place where Yellow Creek meets the Feather—how he’d grown up with Maidu, he was sure of it, but didn’t know them well, didn’t realize it, in a way. What he cared about was being outdoors. As a boy, he’d follow Yellow Creek upstream, and had discovered Humbug Valley as a teenager, a special place, his very own special place, and he’d return as an adult from a career as a forester and an environmental lawyer in the Bay Area, for solace, for recreation, and still he never knew about the Maidu history until one day when he stumbled upon a slim volume, Beverly Ogle’s book about Humbug Valley, Whispers of the Maidu, in a store in Chester on his way to the campground. When he arrived, he asked a young girl about the book, if she’d ever heard of it, or heard of Ogle.

“Oh, that’s my mom,” the girl said. “She’s right over there.”

Since then, Wilson had worked for the Maidu pro bono—for years.

“See?” he said. “It was meant to be.”

“Do you know why no dam ever went in up here?” he asked.

I’d heard there wasn’t enough water, I said. I’d read that. No, he argued, there was plenty of water, there was a plan for where the dam would go, how it would work. There’s even a map, he said—Beverly Ogle has it—from 1911, that shows the area, the Maidu sites, the homesteads, the topography, and the plans for flooding it all. He knew it was true because when he was a kid hiking up Yellow Creek he’d seen foundations for a railroad line to bring the equipment in. He’d played on them. Why, then, didn’t it happen? he asked me again. He didn’t wait for me to reply.

“Because it was meant to be,” he said. “Look. You don’t have to tell children what’s beautiful or what’s ugly. You can see the magic, feel it.”

He was on a roll. He was passionate. He repeated what I’d heard earlier, how this could be a first, how Farrell Cunningham had spread the word that this could become Maidu National Park. It could set a precedent. If I’d had suspicions earlier about this big-city lawyer, they melted now in the face of his boyish enthusiasm.

“Even that, even this,” he said gesturing toward the logged-over slope, “is meant to be.”

I turned to look again at the view, still ugly, still infuriating.

Wilson seemed unperturbed. He was convinced that PG&E’s bad behavior and the resulting bad press would lead to a good outcome. By the end of the year, he insisted, the tribe would reclaim the valley. He was sure of it, but he leaned forward to tell me one last thing.

“The Maidu don’t believe it will happen. Not really, not fully.”

I knew what he meant. I could sense this in the Maidu people I’d met: faith without faith, hope without hope. They worked tirelessly and with a sense of righteousness, but without expectation, as though nothing could be counted upon, nothing could be assumed, as though anything could change at any time. And of course, it can.

Late one night in August, back home at my cabin in the North Cascades, I’d receive an e-mail with an unlikely subject line: “A Tribe of Broken Hearts.” Farrell Cunningham was dead. They’d found him alone in his house. The cause of death was unknown and didn’t matter anyway. The obituaries trickled in slowly over the next few weeks filled with surprising details. Farrell had spoken seven languages. He wrote and painted and taught and gardened and sometimes raged. I’d met the man only once and I knew this much: he felt the loss of his ancestors and their language personally, and he tried to keep it alive, and he felt the burden that came with it too. The loss would be devastating. There’d be no way to overstate it. None of the condolences I’d offer could make a whit of difference, but I made them anyway. On the phone, Beverly Ogle sounded resigned. This is what you must anticipate, what you never dare anticipate.

A few months later, I’d receive yet another e-mail, this one an announcement of a very different kind. I’d hop in the car immediately to drive eight-hundred miles south through thin, cold November air tinged with sage and juniper, past cars with burned-out headlights and smokers in hoodies huddled outside mini-marts and the still-snowy volcanoes—Adams, Hood, Jefferson, Three Sisters, Shasta—floating over it all. I’d drive through Lassen Volcanic National Park, a high alpine detour on the way to the celebration, and stop in a turnout to sit on a slab of granite to gaze down at the wide swath of former Maidu lands, a soft undulating expanse of forest rolling over ridges, obscuring highways and reservoirs and dwarfing human influence. I sifted through memories to try to name what rooted in me that day in June: prayers in a foreign tongue, a song in a too-high pitch; embers on fresh tinder, morning sun on clods of earth, newly exposed, people climbing up, feet in search of stable footing, a place to scatter a fistful of seeds; the pink throats of wide-beaked sparrows, the resilience that resides in wholeness, or vice versa, the faith that lies in grass, sweat, seeds, water, fire, one place, your place. From where I sat I tried to pick out Humbug Valley, but I could not. From that distance the sacred valley looked too much like every place else. But it wasn’t. It was theirs at last, theirs again.

From that distance the sacred valley looked too much like every place else. But it wasn’t. It was theirs at last, theirs again.

That day in June, I’d already overstayed my camping permit, so I thanked Edwin Wilson and went to take down my tent.

A moment later he chased after me.
“One more Michener thing. One more big-picture detail. And this is important. Humbug Valley is the last of the great Maidu valleys,” he said.

He went on to explain that Big Meadows, Mountain Meadows, Buck Lake, and Butte Lake are all drowned, while American Valley and Indian Valley have been developed into Quincy and Greenville, respectively. Only this one remained unscathed.

“Only Humbug remains,” he said.

I thanked him again and walked through the pines to say good-bye to Beverly and a large group of friends and family, crowded around a picnic table beside Yellow Creek with dogs by their feet, telling stories and laughing, the fire extinguished, the hard work of healing finished for now. As late-afternoon sun glinted off the short pole on which an American flag was mounted at the campground entrance, and trucks and vans crept away in a cloud of dust, I thought about hope without hope and wondered if that’s exactly what we’re so often missing, that earth-solid perspective, baffling, frustrating, and true.

The logging roads twisted back down to meet asphalt at the junction with US 89, where I turned south, to take a different route, one that led me past the outlet of Lake Almanor, dry in early summer, since snowmelt has not yet completely filled the reservoir. I stopped to take it in: the giant exposed slabs of concrete, the sunburned swimmers on the shore, the smell of barbecue, and the great Maidu valley drowned beneath it all. Whatever saved Humbug Valley—the map-corner obscurity, the ancestral spirits, the tireless activists, or destiny itself—I could not be anything but grateful. I rolled the windows down and took the curves slow along the Feather River, with classic rock blaring, barely tolerable, but fitting again, maybe even meant to be: Supertramp, “Take the Long Way Home.”