While winter still reigned in the mountains, spring was on its way to the valleys below, and this meant the busy time had arrived for Susan and her greenhouse business. Already she had started rosemary, chives, winter squashes and twelve varieties of Siberian tomatoes for later sale to the public as garden sets, Bud given the task of keeping them warm and thriving by managing the wood stoves that heated the place. Following their visit from the feds the day of Einar and Liz’s departure, things had gone along reasonably quietly for the couple, both of them spending several weeks at Bud’s house in Arizona during the winter while he attended two separate primitive skills gatherings at which he had made a yearly habit of appearing.
Here, he caught up with old friends, taught tracking and trapping courses and introduced everyone to his new wife, who showed up wearing a beautifully fringed white buckskin dress he’d specially commissioned from a friend for the event, and a muskrat hide vest he’d made for her, himself. Here, also, she brain tanned her first fox hide, learned to dig clay from the creekbank and fire her own pottery in an improvised kiln of stacked rocks, became a fairly decent shot with an atlatl and made began several friendships which would last a lifetime.
Back at Bud and Susan’s mountainside home above Culver Falls, Muninn had even settled in to some degree, though clearly still mourning the loss of his people and often, even after all that time, taking off now and then on days-long flights, presumably searching for them. Between these times he spent his days roosting on the front deck railing where he was afforded a good view of the surrounding country, flapping or hopping into the house whenever offered the opportunity and perching on the back of Bud’s kitchen chair to give his long-winded opinion about the world and all its inhabitants in the raspy raven’s voice which Einar had come to know so well. Bud, who had been annoyed at first by the brooding black presence hanging over him whenever he ate and glaring at him as if plotting how best to dart in and peck out his eyes, had to admit that he was starting to get used to the bird. Raven didn’t mean any harm. Just missed the crazy human to whom he had for some unknown reason chosen to attach himself.
Susan, too, missed the little family, kept them constantly in her prayers and wondered every day how they were getting on in their new home, what new things Will had learned or accomplished, and whether they had found a place where they could really settle and get down to the business of life. The most difficult thing, and one which she simply had to accept, was that she would probably never know…
* * * *
Einar staying for the moment, sipping his soup and planning construction on the roof so he could begin as soon as the snow slacked off, Liz emptied the drop bag, lining up the food that remained. Einar scooted over nearer, began helping her. Peanut butter, split peas, almonds, raisins, good, dense stuff, but it wouldn’t last them forever.
“Guess we’d better take an inventory of what we have left from Bud and Susan, huh? See how urgent it is we go back after some of that moose. Don’t like the idea of being in that canyon again with whatever was going on with the guys on the rim, but it’s an awful lot of food to just walk away from. Once we get set up here, I could go back for some if I have to.”
“We could go back, if you decide it’s a good idea. But not unless you’re pretty sure it’s a safe thing to do. It’s not like you to want to retrace your steps like that…”
“Not seeing an awful lot of trapping prospects up here, to be honest. Not in the sort of weather we’ve been having. Nothing much out and stirring, and you’ve got to have plenty to eat for you and Will.”
“Oh, we’re alright for now I think, between this stuff and the moose we brought. It will hold us for quite a while. For all of us though, for you, too!”
“Right. I’ll get out trapping just as soon as this snow slows down some. Rabbits and such are bound to be out and moving at the first opportunity. Will be hungry after the storm. That’ll help us stretch what we’ve got until we can either get back for some moose, or I get a more regular trapline established.”
“We’ll be fine. I just need you to eat your share right now, so you’ll have the energy to do that trapline…”
“I’m eating my share!
“Not of this split pea-grouse bone soup, you’re not. You’re just sipping at it. No way you’ll even keep up with the energy you’re expending going at it like that, never mind getting enough to let yourself start putting on some weight again.”
Einar hurried to gulp down a portion of his soup, unable to deny that she had a point. While split peas were a good, nutritious food and he was happy they were now no longer on the run and had time to cook such things, he knew they were starchy enough to cause him some muscle and breathing trouble, potentially, if he should eat too many at once after such a long time of consuming nearly nothing. Didn’t want any of that sort of trouble, which he’d experienced several times in the past, but was at the same time reluctant to explain the situation to Liz, since she seemed not to realize just how far behind he had once allowed himself to fall, nutrition-wise. Well. Best just eat the soup, hope he could keep any unfortunate effects from showing. Definitely time to start remedying the situation, and perhaps the soup could be a good first step.
Because of the high level of activity demanded of him by the life they lead, he had managed to retain as much muscle as was possible under the circumstances, but with his body having fed almost exclusively on itself for so long, this was not nearly as much as he might have wished. Increasingly, he found himself frustrated at the hesitancy of body to meet the demands of will, legs giving out unexpectedly under the weight of a wind-felled aspen which his mind told him ought not have been any problem at all. Though he did derive a certain satisfaction from the struggle of keeping himself going despite this challenge and accomplishing all the things demanded of him by their rugged life along the canyon, he knew he needed to be better able to provide for and defend his family than his current condition allowed. Liz saw that he had finished his soup, poured him another mug full.