Fifteen minutes and I have to leave for the courthouse. I have on my purple hippy skirt and the turquoise necklace and earrings that The Bride, our older daughter, gave me to wear at her wedding last month. And I’m trying to keep hay off of my sweater.
I’ve already opened the aviary and fed the hens oatmeal leftovers and bread crumbs. I’ve removed the broody Kimber from a nest box, raked the poop under the roost into the peat moss, and added some cracked corn to the feeder, and I’m still relatively pristine.
Now I pour one cup of dry cob grain into each of the three goats’ bowls, and stuff handfuls of orchard hay, at arms’ length, into the two feeders. Morning chores.
The early morning sky is mottled gray and looks swollen to the south. The grass is wet as I cross the backyard in my waterproof boots. I pull up my skirt as I stomp up the new deck steps. The four-foot diameter cedar tree, which is just five feet off of our house, is encircled by new deck, designed by His Majesty who is back in college in Colorado where torrential rain and floods are making national news.
I let Garfield out of the hut. He stretches and trots off to the bean, zucchini and cucumber garden, which I must harvest this week.
Autumn has arrived. We had thunder and lightning yesterday, alder leaves rained down, and the Bearded One is in a mad dash to get this new deck finished.
Today he’s staying home and working on the railings, including a cut-out to allow for easy tree hugging. Friday he went with me to Port Orchard and Bremerton where we figured out the truth — our marriage certificate isn’t the proper official one and is too old to quality for name changing purposes anyway — so we got the forms and the court date instructions. I’m off to Port Orchard, fifteen minutes northwest, for a real deal hearing before a judge.
* * *
George Washington’s face peeks out from the draping Washington State flag in the front right corner of the windowless courtroom where I sit waiting.
This is a room of judgment. It is white and solemn, serious and formal. There are forms and strategy and winners and losers, good and evil, love and power. I think of Adam and Eve and the Bearded One and me, and the judge walks in. “All rise!” the bailiff shouts.
A middle-aged woman named Cindy enters in a black robe. She has shoulder-length brownish graying hair, parted on the side. She is tall, and she doesn’t wear glasses. “Good morning,” she says and smiles briefly. “Thank you. Please sit.” She is Athena, Goddess of Wisdom and Judgment, and I am called first. I walk to the podium, which is beside the state flag with the cherry-tree chopping George, here to remind us that we are not supposed to lie.
The judge asks me to raise my right hand and promise to tell the truth. I do this, and am aware that no Bible is involved. Not that I want one, actually, but I’m struck that she is willing to take my word without involving any gods.
She asks me about Item Number Three on the name-change petition. A double negative involving fraud that instantly scrambles in my brain, I don’t know if my answer is yes or no, so I dig deep for words. It seems to be asking if I’m a con artist.
“I. Have. ” I gesture. She looks at me, actually takes my measure, and I think of two more words. “I. Have. No. Ill…” Then I’m chasing the last word out of the depths — “Intent.”
The judge laughs out loud, as does the whole room. I am asked to state my case, which I do at length, and then I am dismissed to the clerk for paperwork.
* * *
The Bearded One greets me on the new deck with a long kiss. He smells good. He calls me Christi Glover, and we kiss again.
And then he tells me that His Majesty called. “He’s fine,” says the Bearded One. “He says they’re calling it a 100-year-flood, and that Boulder Creek, which runs through campus, is a river.” The cross-walk bridges that normally rise 15 feet over the water are now completely submerged. Classes are cancelled.
“He wanted to talk about the deck and the pictures we sent. He really likes the railings. All the weird joints we rigged.”
“I do, too.” I’m walking up the steps now to the top level. Whale-bone sized cedar branches curve down low, and shelter the deck from the rain. I turn onto the top walkway, which is narrow like a ship’s bow. The railing is cut to accommodate the ancient tree, home to birds and raccoons and chipmunks.
My sandals are sticky with sap, and I look back down at my sweetheart. I feel like we’re brand new, starting in Eden. The first man and the first woman.
The Bearded One smiles back and says, “It’s all about the tree.”