I feel as if the last few days I have been living in the middle of an Aesop fable.Yesterday on March 28 while out on an adventure with a friend just 3 miles from home we stumbled open a lady my friend had met once before. Some people call her a witch, some people call her the crazy lady of Tiger Mountain and other people just call her by her name. As we approached her home we called out hello and in reply she said,” come on in.” As we got closer to the door she warned us that even though she had given us permission to come in the door way was booby trapped. As we opened the door slowly we noticed an old milk crate filled with fire wood which she directed us to step over as we came through the door.
I looked at her and she looked at me. My friend took a seat on the wood bench that faced her. I stood for a moment and was checking the place out. She quickly asked, “Do I scare you?” I replied.” why, should you?” She said, “ Well am a little old lady who lives in the woods dressed all in black and some might think I will turn you into a slug at midnight if you annoy me. “ I smiled and she said,” good! Now sit down, you see, I have had people bring me an apple so I could look like a character straight from a Disney movie.” I was hooked; I had instantly fallen in love with her. For 3 hours my friend and I sat on the bench visiting with her, we talked about music, Richard Feynman, anthropology, her wit and humor made me feel at home yet I kept looking around at her 6×8 foot home, from the beam above hung a rope with knots which she used to grab on to when she wanted to stand up. She used a walking stick to prop the door open when she could see we were getting warm from the heat of her little wood stove. I was in a trance her stories of living in the woods, her travels her life …Such an amazing lady to be living off the grid. I was wondering so many things but not sure if I should ask.
In the time we talked I learned her husband died in 1983 and she buried him on the property and in 1984 gave everything of material value away. Her house burned so for the past 30 years she has lived in a small 6×8 foot home that she built herself. No power, no running water, no money yet she has everything she needs. She told me she has not looked in a mirror for 30 years and would be afraid to! She made of vow of solidarity.
My friend and I said farewell and parted.
All evening I thought of the lady of the woods. I kept seeing her sitting on her bench, her long grey hair almost to her waist,when she stood she was not 5 foot tall. Her tobacco pipe that she smoked with ease and almost constantly. A Bible sat open on the table behind her, long white handmade candles hung from hooks, 5 very dusty Tolkien books sat on a shelf and a very old battery operated walk man radio that she had told me she used to keep up on the news and to listen to music.I felt as if a spell had been cast, I did not turn into a slug at midnight but I could not stop thinking about her. This lady has a young and playful spirit. I found myself at peace around her. She is not just a squatter or a crazy old lady. She was educated at Berkeley and Stanford and is very well read, yes a bit eccentric and sure she has some interesting traditions and rules but heck so do lots of people.
After a restless night sleep I decided since it was a new day, I had to go back, alone this time. I went to her house. I called out hello and she called back oh Cynthia I was expecting you! We talked for over four hours and she asked me if it would be selfish to burden me with a few things she felt she needed to share. I asked if these things needed to be kept secret or not and she said,” oh I would not burden you in that way, once I tell you, you decide.”
Before I left she asked me to promise to kick her if she continued to ramble on about herself and I promised to kick her with a feather. As I left she said, “ take this with you” and she handed me a piece of kindling that I had noticed the day before on her window ledge, then she said, ‘It looks a bit like a bird don’t you think? Well farewell my friend, I love you,” and as she spoke she grabbed hold of the rope hanging from the beam and lifted herself up to bid me farewell, whispering in my ear, “until our paths meet again may God bless you.” I am not sure how long I should wait to go back?