The Santa Ana joined my father and me on our trek along the eastern face of the Sierra Madre canyon. Bringing with him the warmed scent of the eucalyptus trees that bordered the hardened dirt pathway downward to my grandfather’s small bungalow below.
We flowed in trio, along the small creek that gently passed the front porch where my grandfather would usually sit to whittle, play guitar and smoke his pipe.
I anticipated the melody of my grandfather’s welcome, his sparkly eyes and generous smile. My father’s stride picked up pace as the vacated silhouette of the house begin to appear, his back and frame pulling away from me, I began running to keep up.
Today differed the norm. The porch was empty except for the guitar leaning against the wooden stool, an envelope intertwined through the strings. On the floor, next to the stool, was his pipe and a half finished wood carving doing its best not to be taken by the Santa Ana.
With our first steps up to the porch, Santa Ana disappeared taking the shavings around the wooden block without notice, leaving us behind with only the sounds of the water gently caressing the creekside rocks and my grandfather’s familiar heavy “breathing sounds”. We looked into the one room cabin to see our common thread in deep slumber, singing randomly between his non rhythmic breaths. My father felt it best to leave him to himself to complete his “conversation with the whales”. When we retreated to the porch, we sat in the absence of the Santa Ana, listening to the melody of my grandfather’s moan/sing/speak concert, trying to figure out what he could possibly be saying to the kings of the ocean. The crescendo of one run was so incredible that we turned to each other and began laughing uncontrollably, mimicking the same patterned laughter learned over the years from our adored sleeping host.
As quickly as Santa Ana’s exit, the singing/moaning abruptly stopped forever…..
By weeks end, my father and I travelled to the white sands of the Pacific Ocean, carrying with us my Grandfather’s pipe, guitar and unfinished wood carving.
My father awkwardly, but in earnest, attempted to replicate the melody of my Grandfather until giving into tears. The salted water flowed heavily from our hearts and eyes, raising the tide with what must have been the tears of the whales.