Ultima's soft hands would carefully lift the plant and examine it.
She would take a pinch and taste its quality. Then she took the same pinch and put it into a little black bag tied to a sash around her waist.
She told me that the dry contents of the bag contained a pinch of every plant she had ever gathered since she began her training as a curandera many years ago.
"Long ago," she would smile, "long before you were a dream, long before the train carne to Las Pasturas, before the Lunas came to their valley, before the great Coronado built his bridge-" Then her voice would trail off and my thoughts would be lost in the labyrinth of a time and history l did not know.
We wandered on and found some oregano, and we gathered plenty because this was not only a cure for coughs and fever but a spice my mother used for beans and meat. We were also lucky to find some osha, because this plant grows better in the mountains. It is like Ia yerba del manso, a cure for everything.
In the hills Ultima was happy. There was a nobility to her walk that lent a grace to the small figure. I watched her carefully and imitated her walk, and when I did I found that I was no longer lost in the enormous landscape of hills and sky. I was a very important part of the teeming life of the llano and the river.