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She gathered some sage on a wild mountain in a county in western New Mexico, where the locals talked of politics with adroitness that surprised her West Coast experience somewhat. She’d thought she was in the provinces, and though it was true that when people ventured out alone on the mountain--or even in pairs--carrying a firearm was commonplace, these people knew what they had, knew what it meant to them to be free and almost alone. Eighty miles to the nearest mega grocery store, eighty miles of dusty tract lands before civilization reared its ugly head, and the smell of sage in waves all around.

She’d brought it back, loose in recycled plastic bags, and let it dry. Too long, she thought, I’ve let it sit too long. But moons later, she’d found the tough weeds only just dried. They were not brown and useless, but just right, and she spent many an afternoon in the gathering gloom and moist chill of the coastal autumn bundling them in tight sticks to burn in the warmth of a progressive city’s firelight glow while games were played in contented togetherness. A bit of the wild mountain scented her urban home and made it feel more whole to her.

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