First, I came to house-sit.

I had no idea what was in store for me. I was an innocent: a lonely writer who’d been living in San Francisco for five years, a city dweller who’d been so dulled by cement and buses and noises that she’d misplaced the belief in breath-taking, natural beauty.

I gingerly meandered down Yosemite’s Tioga Pass in a sun-roofed ’63 VW bug. It was the first of June 1975; it was one long dramatic gulp. Ice and snow were melting into slender, bending mirrors. Everything was silver and white and sky-blue and high and deep. I edged along in second gear, but my heart was in fourth. I felt like a golden eagle who’d suddenly burst the door of a metropolitan cage and rocketed to 15,000 feet. Space welcomed my wings.

Water lapped high in Mono Lake that year and reflected the dome of the world. Surely, I thought, there is no more exquisite place on Earth.

But when I turned south onto Highway 395, the sun began to set. The expanses of land rolled away from me in my little car; they stretched and then curled up into great peaks on both sides. The Sierra stood gold and shiny copper to the west; in the east the Whites held their shoulders straight under the thick, downing mauve of an early summer dusk. Every mile dropped me deeper and deeper into color and desert warmth and ever-increasing beauty.

Thank-you note to San Francisco,
Written on bended knee in the desert
Perhaps it is cowardly being here
Perhaps I should have stayed on the subway
or the buses of wear and tear and fear
I could still be lunching off plastic tray
at Fireman’s Fund—in temporary days
of insured claims, filed and lost, filed and lost
I could have learned to be desk-ridden, mossed
in the brain and heart, moldy in the mind—
metropolitan! But I chose instead
to run where the rapeless mountains stand lined
like massive love prayers waiting to be said
By my cowardice and will I’ve been led
to a land of columbine and aspen
to a dream where God will be and has been

So began my intense love affair with Inyo County….