It was during the years that we were living in Onyx, California, a pleasant little village tucked into the Kern River Valley. It lies in the mountainous country east of Bakersfield. We moved to this little valley while Claude worked at China Lake Weapons Center, when we were longing for hills and streams after months of living in the arid desert of the Indian Wells Valley.
We often drove the 135 miles to Riverside, California to visit our kids, and it was from one of these excursions that Claude and I found ourselves on our way home late on a frosty November night. We were driving our old green Ford pick-up and I had just made a remark about how dependable the old truck had been when all of a sudden the engine commenced a medley of clanks and clunks and then with a loud chorus of The Bells of St. Mary's, it ground to a halt. (The timing belt had gone)
We had our heavy coats, but had not thought of hats and scarves, so we dug into our suitcases and pulled out Claude's flannel P.J.s. These we wrapped around our heads. We were only about 3 miles from home, and we set off walking along the road, passing old ranch houses and barns, empty fields and deep woods. Sounds of the river filled the quiet night, along with thoughts of night creatures. . .foxes, coons, badgers...and maybe bears!
Frost fringed the fence-posts and our breath was freezing around our faces, but the sky was pure black velvet and so bright with stars that it seemed we could reach up and touch them. I felt strangely exhilarated. We must have been a sight to behold in our funny 'turbans' but not a soul or nary a car passed by. The air crackled around us, and the ground, crisp with ice crystals, crunched beneath our feet. Bright animal eyes peered out from the brush as we passed, and we heard eerie skittering noises in the roadside ditches. As the gate of the old cemetery loomed up against the night the place seemed to move and moan with real or imagined ghosts.
It was a night I will never forget. To be walking that lonely country road in the deepest night, clinging to each other, a delicious thrill of horror and dread prickling up and down my spine. . .yet at the same time being aware of an assurance of safety in each other's presence, and by being together, feeling somehow invincible.
I treasure the memory of that beautiful starry November night. Now that Claude is gone the remembrance holds within it the essence of my marriage--that perception of wholeness and refuge and invulnerability that I always felt with him.
And it is that lovely elusive memory that embodies my grief and lonliness now.
Betty L. Owen From my journals February 2006