Everybody in La Honda has the same prefix for their phones, so when we exchange numbers we drop the first three digits and say, for example, "Call me. I'm at one two three four." Danny says, "I'm at zero." And if you raise your eyebrows, waiting for more, he'll explain: "I'm at zero, zero, zero, zero." If you've ever met Danny, it makes perfect sense. Somehow the phone company knew it, too.
Danny is a sprite: hair of ringlets, dimple in the cheek, twinkle in the eye. He makes jewelry. He's part of the La Honda Poets group, which is how I met him. Danny can be sharp-witted and articulate but seems to hide behind a fuzzy mask, making a point of unpunctuality and living on the edge.
Danny bought a tumbledown summer cabin and is gradually making it livable while building a separate small outbuilding for a jewelry studio. There's a redwood tree growing in his yard, unremarkable amid a redwood forest, but Danny's particular tree lost all its needles over the winter. At first he thought it had died, but in the spring new needles appeared. It is a deciduous conifer - two opposites, combined. After some research, Danny learned that somehow a Dawn Redwood (Metasequoiaglyptostroboides), an endangered species of Sequoia that grows in the Sichuan and Hubei region of China, had found its way to California, to his yard in the middle of a Coast Redwood forest. If you've ever met Danny, it makes perfect sense.
There's an old toilet under Danny's house, tossed there instead of hauling it to the dump. When I crawl down there to install a pipe, I see that a mama possum is making a home inside that commode. Rather than play dead, she arches her back and snarls.
Today I'm doing a barter exchange with Danny. He's making a custom-designed ring for my wife, and I'll do various gritty plumbing chores for Danny. First up: install a new water heater. Danny has chosen a location and already dug a hole so I can pour a pad. He's dropped all his diggings into a blue wheelbarrow, which is sitting out in the rain.
I look at the hole - he moved a great deal of earth - and then explain various reasons why it would be better to locate the heater somewhere else.
Danny shrugs at the wasted labor. "Oh well." Then he smiles with the dimple, the twinkle. Lifting a soggy clod of dirt from the wheelbarrow, he says, "Fortunately, I numbered each piece..."
it has never been so much
the color of the flag
as the fact
that it blows gracefully
in the wind.
(Dan Rosenquist lives in Oregon now, where he and Dorothy Overton create Purisima Jewelry.)