Friday’s Poem: Our Tulip Times

It’s April so the flowers are talking to me
about a perfection of love, a medley of laughter.

They say that what feels empty is in fact brimming so
I walk under overripe clouds split by soft tearing;
radiance gilds each open and closed countenance.

Tulips swing and bob in breezes; daffodils have arrived and left.
Rows are tidy and proud, painterly with tonal harmony;
earthy scents arise, a potency of secrets and purity.
Country days explode from under winter’s heavy cape of rain;
every flower trumpets extreme beauty and I shield my eyes.

And then open my arms, breathe light in, let go grief.

Amid this paradise I imagine the vastness here for me,
though blooms gaze on those, too, who little care.
I bend to a cherry cup of tulip, taste its dew, recall a spring
we three strolled other acres ablaze, our words silky as threads
embroidering stories, each stitch freeing, tightening our family bond.

Even silences were resonant; we knew what we knew, it felt enough.

The tulips were a signal of more, better to come.

Who could know that such a wealth of happiness
cannot be demanded or hoarded, only known in moments with wings?
We had planned more visits, farther travels, easy
outpourings of words. A greater variety of flowers.
But if time has unraveled leaving two of us behind,
our sister heart will not wither. Though human-tender

it beats inside a whole and holy life as we stumble on,

or turn and depart; it braves it all, it will not stop.

Mondays’ Meander: En Route to High Desert Country

We started south from Portland but in a short while turned off I-5 toward the Santiam Pass in the Cascade Range. We were embarking on a three day weekend trip in Central Oregon. I was looking forward to the drive toward the 4,817 ft. high pass situated betwween volcanic peaks of Three-Fingered Jack and Mount Washington.

The weather was cloudy and roads were fine, with a spatter of rain now and then, and plenty of white snowy banks and forest floors at highest elevations. But soon we had to pass through countless charred remains of coniferous trees and through Detroit, a tourist town of 231 which sits alongside Detroit lake and Detroit Lake State Park. The infamous Santiam Fire in August 2020 began as three separate fires due to lightning strikes, merging into one horrific fire spurred on by 50 mph winds. It finally burned 402, 274 acres. We recall it well; it spread to four counties including a part of ours. Under fire watch for weeks, we remained indoors for ten days due to gathering thick smoke and gusts of high winds; bags were readied for an evacuation order. We didn’t get one, but thousands of others did. It was an unprecendented monster fire as it began to creep closer to Portland. I already had a healthy fear of fire; I tend to be very careful even when using candles. The smoke lingered for a very long while; there were many fires trhoughout Oregon that summer and fall.

And this was our first time in this particularly damaged Cascades Range area since then. And as we drove closer to the areas impacted, I had a window partically down–I could still smell the entrenched odor of old burned wood.

As we climbed, we began to see the black tree trunks and stumps. It was unnerving to drive from lushly green Willamette Valley into fire-eaten landscape.

Above, a view taken by Detroit lake which does show some greening of the forests; the darker and somewhat sparse areas of the mountains are not the worst damage, it seemd, but it was still apparent. Marc captured subdued feelings as I scanned blackened parts of trees beyond the camera, as I tried to imagine what it was like for residents to scramble for their lives amid an inferno…Any charred remains looked worse with each mile travelled. Five people died in the wide ranging fire. And all homes in Detroit were destroyed.

We continued into and past Detroit, gazed quietly at remnants of fire’s path–as well as hopeful rebuilding of homes and mercifully greener spots. Forest habitats heal and even can flourish, finally.

(Apologies for some poorer shots–I was shooting from a moving car mostly during this part.)

Below, a part of Detroit Lake with a view of Black Butte, left.

We began to reach the summit and then to descend.

Before long, we were entering the rain shadow side of the mountains–and into Sisters, OR.

Well-known for its touristy Western-themed atmosphere and shops, there are many reasons to visit, including hiking, fishing, horseback riding (lots of ranches in this area), mountain biking, skiing–as well as enjoying the Sisters Rodeo, a Quilt Show and the Sisters Folk Fesitival. Here are a few shots taken as we drove, then walked a little downtown. But it was very windy and cold and we wanted to get to Bend by late afternoon.

Then we were off and into sprawling high desert, a whole other experience and one of my favorite kinds– despite being a rainforest sort of gal…For one thing, the different types and fragrances of plants and the rocky, dry earth are fascinating, really lovely. And sunlight shines hotter; my skin’s rosiness after three days attests to it. And everywhere around the flatter landscape–easily seen mountains!

A sculptural group of wild horses.

It was just the start of a fun and relaxing trip. See you soon for upcoming posts–I have many more pictures from this Central Oregon trip! Next up: the bustling small city of attractive Bend and more of the surrounding environs.

Friday’s Poem: For the Living and Dead

(Photos by this writer. Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island, B.C.)

For the living there are offerings of flowers rising,

embroidered throughout valleys and mountains,

and green things that shimmy in rainfall and wind

and zigzag calls of feathered, furred,

the sleek and shelled creatures as if

nothing was awry, and the earth is at peace.

For the dead, perhaps silence, and sudden dreams of beauty

that cover the past, rescue the present or design a future

we know nothing about; their gardens beckon in ways

only mystics can conjur when everything is torn inside out.

The living, the dead; what truth can be said of them?

What falsehood separates them and us?

My heart speaks to those here; eyes weep for those gone.

And the blood of earth recapitulates with clusters of

snowdrops, marsh marigolds, wild roses, tiger lilies.

Wars indict humans by the roots of resolute trees.

Thousands of years we have mastered, failed, fallen.

Bitter seeds attempt to take hold

but cannot flourish forever nor

invade realms of Power beyond our ken.

There is wisdom we do not seek enough,

nor decipher well when we most need it.

And yet bees still labor happily;

redwing blackbirds trill their stories;

foxes hide and seek, nurture new life in the den.

I cover my head. I toil in time until unable.

I await an invitation to paradise as I tire.

But today, prayers for sweetness

and mercy for the living;

For the dying and dead,

a crying out,

a plea for safe passage,

a benediction uttered into deepest night

into deepest everything

Monday’s Meander: The Grotto in Early Spring

Another family gathering in March during a sporadic rainfall included a visit to The Grotto, the National Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother in Portland. Though I am not Catholic, I find it a lovely meditative expanse among huge trees. I do walk the labyrinth, designed after the one at Chartres Cathedral, from time to time.

It felt like a good choice to stroll about and share quiet talk.

The 62 acres upon which it was designed were purchased in 1924. A cave for a scultpure of Mary holding the crucified Christ was chiselled from a 110 ft. high mound of basalt rock. A stone altar was made shortly after. People come to pray, leave flowers and light candles for loved ones. The first mass was conducted in 1924. There is also a church and smaller chapels on the grounds, as well as a contemporary place of prayer that oversees some of Portland and across the Columbia River towards Washington.

Our twin grandchildren were fascinated.

This is a Roman Catholic sanctuary and place of worship, lived within and run by the Order of Friar Servants of Mary. Sometimes they are glimpsed moving about, but mostly they do their work on the grounds or in the monastery atop the bluff. In this area there were built the Stations of the Cross, small chapels and gardens.

Below, outdoor seating is seen for Mass in good weather and various family members (2 daughters, daughter-in-law, a future son-in-law, Marc and me, granddaughters) chatting before using the elevator to the top of the bluff. My son Josh and visiting daughter, Cait, are middle photo.

Shots below: a glimpse of the glass/cement chapel when disembarking elevator; entrance to walkways on second leve; 3 views of the contemporary chapel atop the bluff. This building holds a copy of the Pieta.

I am always stilled and deeply moved as I slowly make my way to the center of this labyrinth (see small areas above). When I arrive at the center unbidden tears flow. I feel the power. I became enthralled with Chartres Cathedral and the original labyrinth when I read about it and studied photos as a teen. I had hoped to one day visit. But, too, this sacred space of daily, intentional compassion and healing prayer of the Servites imbues the area. The quietude of the Grotto reaches and settles inside; towering trees tower over all as people walk and rest. I am reminded anew of my love of God and God’s love of us as we sort out life amid the pain and troubles of this world we live in for a short time. The labyrinth reminds me of the intricate design and mysteries of the universe, eternal Light, and the soul journey we each undertake to find or refresh hope and wholeness.

I wrote no poem last Friday. It was Good Friday, and I am Christian. And the following day was both the third birthday of our twin granddaughters, as well as the first anniversary of our 26 y.o. granddaughter’s sudden death last year. Yes, the same day. I could share nothing of it. Now it is noted and over this year, and I am grateful so many of our family were gathered together in love.

Wednesday’s Words/Short Story (and a Note): The Shiny Surface of Things

Wednesday’s Words/Short Story (and a Note): The Shiny Surface of Things

Hello all, just a note before the story written today.

I have thought it over and yesterday decided to take a break from Wednesday’s Words posts. It has been over a decade of writing longform as well as posting photos and poetry. I greatly enjoy writing short stories and creative nonfiction as much as any genre. But this is the one posting that requires 6 to 8 hours or more of writing and revising–(and still I miss simple errors). Though usually I am quite up to writing such intenisve periods of time, there have been recent challenges to overcome. The knee injury in January has caused prolonged pain, interruption of usual routines. Now corrective surgery is at last on the horizon. I expect the procedure will restore me to health but it takes time to accomplish that. I have been tested. Despite several health hurdles in my life, the removal of daily power walks and long week-end hikes and explorations has emphasized my limitations and, many times, a lack of power to overcome them well. One learns how to surrender, even if it is not a critical thing like the heart disease diagnosis at 51–the heart attack during a hike. It worked for me, giving way to rest and recouperation, long before now so I will relearn to relent and accept. Then I get to regroup and start anew in any way I can.

Perhaps this is a good time, then, for more reflection regarding the direction I want to take this blog, as well. I have been pondering that a long time–as well as attending to a resurfacing desire to work on projects for submission and possible publication. I like changing up goals, pushing myself creatively; perhaps I have become overly content here, a tad complacent. A whole new blog or a podcast might also be an option while or after my knee mends. I will refocus my energies effectively, I hope.

I will for now continue to post on Mondays and Fridays, and occasionally on Wednesday if/when that feels good and right. I have much material gathered over the years for “Monday’s Meander” posts and won’t be off my feet for so terribly long! So I hope you stick around to further peruse what offerings I share. My mission remains the same: to highlight the active presence of beauty and renewal in this rough-and/or- ready world, to seek strength, compassion and wisdom of Divine Light, and to share my small journey as I discover more ways to still live with verve and peace as I grow older. I am a survivor of much but a student of all that is useful and ultimately healing, hopeful and invigorating for body, spirit and mind.

But if you don’t stick around, I understand, we all have priorities and agendas. All the best to you and yours. Happy Spring to you readers, to all you fine creative folks!

Blessings and good cheer,

Cynthia

***************************************************************************************************************

The Shiny Surface of Things

Everyone in Marionville soon knew who he was. They’d pass him and crane their necks for a closer look; take a seat nearer to his table at the cafe to hear what he might have to say; look toward his mother’s house in the hills when he wasn’t seen in awhile. If Heaven Steele accompanied him on errands they’d be stopped, people making inane conversation on the pretext of having business with her. The younger ones hardly dared look at him up close. People asked for his autograph right in the middle of the street, slowing their cars and hailing him. Walden Steele would study the ground or store shelves after offering a brief dazzling smile, perhaps a handshake if the neighbor (or intruder, he’d grumble as they went on) was introduced and seemed congenial.

Of course it was the women and girls who were most flabberghasted when he arrived. First of all, no one had realized that this famous man was the son of the eccentric artist who had moved there from Chicago, leaving her high-powered career ten years prior. Some asserted she might be psychic (per reports of those who’d had enlightening conversations with Heaven). Her name itself was irritating; not everyone was thrilled with her year around residency, rather than only a summer folk. It was impressive she was well known in the rariefied art world. But there remained those who viewed her as a stubborn wrinkle in the smooth fabric of the kingdom of Marionville, their northern Michigan town.

Well, if a patchwork of random pieces could be called smooth fabric… Marionville had never attracted a blameless or fully adaptable population–a murder had happened decades ago, and there were scandalous occurences of this and that, and attitudes that might be considered gauche elsewhere. But it tried to be a better community, worked at setting its sights higher each year. A more generous view held that Heaven was worthy and appreciated for her interest in everyone’s well being, besides which large paintings and renowned glass chimes drew more toutists. So it was admitted that Walden Steele, her offspring, was at the least a welcome distraction. And though he resembled his mother, they admitted that he must take more after his father, her ex-husband, who no one knew.

Second of all–after being Heaven’s secret son–he could not be missed if you tried your hardest to turn a blind eye. If you read magazines of the fashion type, you knew at first glance. He was a world-famous model and sometimes, more recently, actor. That walnut brown thick hair, long enough to pull into a stubby ponytail; the wide grey eyes densely lashed (someone said, “Steel grey, right? Steele, Like his mother’s–whose two eyes are completely different colors, by the way!” and people smirked); the generous masculine mouth; high cheekbones every one envied; his six feet, two inches of taut slimness. Beinn quite expressive added to his aura. When he moved or spoke he exhibited a rare engagement with his own body, as well as keen awareness of surroundings, and of others.

Walden Steele was a man who knew his power as he traversed the wilds of life and had no need to stake a claim to his space; he already owned it. Much like his mother–who was not as immediately forceful with her mellower presence. A sighting of Walden Steele shortly inspired the madness of first love in the youngest; daydreams of hopefulness in older ones and wistful sighs in the oldest. Most wanted to touch his sleeve, at least–and even throw their arms about him. Perhaps some men looked more than twice, too. Who wouldn’t, except the jealous ones? Of which there were quite a few.

But.

But: he was silent most of the time, even a bit aloof, and carried a slight, shifting air of melancholy if anyone cared to study him long enough to slip past his beauty. Maybe it was because of the world class status with the ubiqiuity of his image, his being pestered and followed. He’d cultivated boundaries, of course. He avoided looking at people full in the face, as if living life in real time and making eye contact was harder than living behind a camera. He covered his face with a repositioned hat brim, sunglasses, and even loose a neck scarf if there was a camera poised.

Something important had brought him to everyday Marionville. More than a visit to his mother’s. At least that’s what Charles “Camp” Davies thought, and he’d become something of an expert in people watching over forty-odd years of running a bar at lakeside.

Walden came into the bar one late afternoon mid-week. Theree were few patrons, just a couple aging alkies bent over a table in the corner, telling bad jokes with fake laughs.

“Afternoon,” he said, “whatdya have today?” Camp knew it was Walden–he was so clean, well dressed, very good looking– but decided to see if the young man would introduce himself.

“A beer, any beer as long as its sweaty cold,” the young man answered and swivelled on his bar stool, taking in the emptiness of the place. Visibly relaxing, he bent over his phone, then put it face down as the beer slid his way. He ran his hand down its length, wiped the moisture on his jeans and nodded at the bartender. Then he sipped it–no rush, eyes closed, turning on the stool as he did so, until he ended up facing the picture window that looked out on Lake Wenatchee.

Camp, glancing past Walden’s wide shoulders at the shimmering water, busied himself with tasks. If a person didn’t want to talk you should respect their quietness, unless there was cause to worry or you knew for sure the customer was wanting more. This newcomer did not. He sipped and took in the sparkling lake, a glowing sapphire lit by spring’s exuberant sunshine, then swivelled back to glance at a mirror behind Camp. He shook his head once at himself, then watched Camp. It seemed Walden might say something, so the bartender leaned back against a counter and waited a few, arms folded over his barrel chest.

“Good spot here on the lake,” Walden noted, offering a friendlier look.

“Best there is, keeps my pockets full enough, too.”

“I always wanted to visit my mother here–Heaven Steele?–but never had enough time. Very nice place you have. I’m Walden.” He held out his hand.

Camp shook it firmly in response. “Name’s Camp Davies.” He waited for the usual k=joke about his first name but none came. “Sure, we all know Heaven, good customer and friend. Welcome. Relax and enjoy.”

Walden smiled more easily, face softening some, eyes lit up as he sought the view once more. He wanted to be more alone, Camp felt, so he kept on with his business.

A couple men sauntered in after work, pulled out chairs from a round wooden table, threw their caps down as grimy hands smoothed back unruly hair. They were bone-tired after working in the forests, felling trees. When they caught sight of Walden, the red-haired one pointed, leaned over to whisper in his buddy’s ear. They gawked a moment, the older shaking his head, letting go a guffaw.

Walden had a good or bad effect, depending on who was looking. “Pretty boy” had been tossed at him plenty but as most concurred, he’d laughed his way to the bank. (And he wasn’t gay though if he was, it was his own business, others shrugged.)

Camp went to them. “Long day, aye? Heating up out there. The usual, boys?”

Walden slipped out the door. Camp had wanted to ask him if he wanted a burger on the house, a one time offer for Heaven’s son. But maybe men that put together didn’t like bar food; maybe they ate truffles and caviar. Still, Camp hoped he’d stop by again. There was something deeper in him, he felt, despite the shiny outer wrappings. He felt a protective impulse coming on. A tendency of his was to sense to much and want to respond. People! Bars weren’t all about drink; in fact, they were really about people.

And the guy wasn’t really a drinker–he’d left his bottle half-full.

***

After a week, the stares and comments settled some, or perhaps they became surreptitious, the admirers embarrassed by their own open adulation. Walden Steele had appeared on countless worldwide billboards flaunting the latest fashion with perfect face and body; he had been in three movies, if bit parts, and was a recurrent guest actor on a soap opera. And social media content was frequent if always mysterious, as he tended to show up alone, with little commentary and many shots of places he worked or vacationed. It was rumored his long time partner was elsewhere, but who knew? Photos from around the globe garnered front pages. How could interested readers break their gaze?–it was that sort of spell. Plus, he was a multimillionaire but lived more like a hermit–who knew where– except for fashion shoots, required appearances.

Which made him even more alluring. A small glimpse of a magnetic presence made you hungry for more. And he was right there in the flesh. In mostly dull Marionville.

***

On the hill across the road from Heaven’s house, Jasper Dye caught wind of the gossip and thought it a bunch of hogwash. A man was a man, no matter what shape or color or fast-held opinions. Everyone had the right to privacy. After all, Jasper was alone now and he’d also craved the peace that came with it, even before he’d had so much of it. Though some might say he was a loner even in a crowd. Except for Marv, his dog.

“My son is coming for a visit, Jasper,” Heaven had told him one day when they cleaned up plant debris from her back patio after a thunderstorm.

“That right? He travel all the time, still?”

“He does, but for now he isn’t.” She tossed a small pine branch over the tall cedar fence. “He’s taking a break.” heaven sighed deeply.

“Been awhile, yeah? I know you’ve visited him at least every year, wherever he might be.”

“Yes–but it’s been almost 2 years now. That last time was in Madrid. He models, remember–clothes and stuff for ads? He’s an actor… of sorts. But he’s feeling the need to try a long pause.”

Jasper knew that meant something more, but she’d tell him if she wanted. The main thing was that Walden was coming and she was glad of it. He’d never been to her home in Marionville. It all had to be huge in her thoughts.

“Well, I’m pleased for ya but hey, we’ll need good clippers to get rid of some of this, maybe even an ax– or I’ll get my tools.” Though Jasper didn’t really want to climb up the hill again. They’d been out there near an hour and he needed a recharge, coffee and a snack, and he knew she’d offer it–after work was done. Maybe Walden could help her out some when he had a few days off to sleep in. His own aging body felt overused lately despite the fact that he’d sold his land with his small farm. He believed his tiredness might be spilling over into retirement, unfairly, but he managed, anyway.

“I’ve got it, just a minute.” She went to the shed to get clippers but turned back to him, her differently colored eyes peering at him. He never tired of those blue and brown eyes; but it was her kindness, not the eyes. “He’s not like…anyone here, you know. But I hope you like him.”

Jasper frowned. “Why not? I like you, don’t I?”

She surprised him with a quick hug. Soon they quietly worked in tandem again, old farmer and younger, sophisticated artist. An odd and steady friendship.

When they met, Walden and Jasper were uneasy but they had a fine BBQ, hung out on Heaven’s patio around the fire pit. The place looked like the refuge it was, with fountain and fire and multi-strings of fairy lights glowing against trees and sky. They soon got on well enough. Her son was a man nearing his peak, with lots of worldy experience if few simple pleasures and insights. He looked peaked and worn out. It seemed like he could sit there forever, awash in the warming glow of firelight, his striking features less pinched as evening grew softer, talk slowed. The visit would be good for him. Anyone who couldn’t feel better in this territory had serious blocks to happiness.

“I can’t get over how peaceful it is here. I’ve been countless wodnerful places but– I don’t know, all this…” He gestured with long arms sweeping about. “How cozy–is that too quaint a word?–but lovely your home is, Mom, it’s so you…I waited far too long to come.”

Heaven was pleased, just smiled to herself. She felt almost a dream that he had finally come, and didn’t think more words added anything.

Her son loosened more in a relaxed state as he gazed at the attractive, modest ranch house, the fire crackling away, the majestic trees. Then at his mother, whom he loved but from a distance his whole adult life. The glass chimes she’d made and hung everywhere released bright music as a breeze swept trhough irregular, vivid shapes, and he sighed in relief. Heaven touched his hand; he took heres and held on a long moment. Though her eyes closed, her tightening lips were telling, beset with worry that she’d tried to smile away so as to seize the night’s goodness.

Jasper Dye hoped for the best for mother and son. But he guessed her son was famous and Walden would have to get by gossip and false starts, the eyes of everyone in Marionville. He clearly needed space from his worldly affairs—tromping the woods, lazing on a small fishing boat, dozing by the fire.

As he trudged home, Jasper mused that he’d never had trouble with too many girls about. But he’d only wanted one and they’d been togther until she’d left this world for the next. He’d been lucky. Still, how fortunate Walden came to be with his family; his mother would help him get righted, along with Mother Nature. Of course, he’d be around as needed. Not much else to do these days.

***

It was late as Camp Davies cleaned the last surface, flicking his towel a last time against the counter, and then put away all the booze and glasses, ready to lock up. A moving shadow outside caught his eye. Someone walked by the picture window, casting a shadow across the yellow pool of light from a security lamp. Lots of random people and stray creatures came to the park at night, you never knew. He sure hoped no one had thoughts of topping the last one off in his bar. He was done and gone. It was Thursday, and Friday night would be hectic with a couple customers’ birthdays. But there came no knock or shout and he finished up.

As he pulled all doors shut and locked up out back, he rounded a corner and stood looking over the lake. The moon looked about as big as a silver dollar pasted in the heavens –as his father had said–but he thought it of it as pure magic, not cash. His parents had teased that he had a little poet hidden inside; they might have been right. But Camp liked the night. And he didn’t get home until late as three in the morning. He liked how it smmothed the edges of things, and dimmed human noise so you could hear any living thing that rustled or squeaked or howled. Nature felt like a second nature to him; he’d been raised within the family business, Mike and Mo Davies’ Campground, and that meant being at home outside, knowing nature’s ways. He’d balked at living indoors, hence the nickname.

He started toward his truck, backpack slung over a shoulder, then sat behind the wheel checking his cell phone for his wife’s nightly messages.

Along the lakefront there was little sound, as most were home or soon to be. A couple of night birds called out in the opaque darkness, the plaintive whoo whoo whoot of the barn owl a comfort. But there went one man, tentatively making his way to a public dock, the moon illuminating enough to help him find each footstep. Walden wobbled to the end, its well-aged creakiness a surprise as he went along. Then he managed to sit down. A bottle of wine he’d been drinking from was put down; he leaned back on flattened palms, head tilted back to depths of night.

Walden had held back discouragement and sorrow a long while. If he’d let his mother know much, her worry would creep into everything. And she’d ask for information or she’d discern it too fast and he didn’t have it in him to tell her, no, he wouldn’t speak of it, not yet. She’d need then to accept him as he was, accomodating and shiny bright on the outside, a deep well–or was it a a gaping hole?–on the inside. Of course she knew he was exhausted, that he couldn’t deny. He really was after travelling ten or more months a year for fifteen years, after pushing himself, taking on acting jobs in hopes of another career. The fact was, he was worn away from the weight of constant hard work with the barrage of cities and hotels, the pressures of success and demands of a public who never had enough. He had to smile or gaze dispassionately, with antic delight or with sensual prowess. Be charming, look immaculately fabulous, and speak out and shut up as others commanded.

To forget what he needed and who he was.

He’d not asked to have this face, this manner. It was genetics, not so much him, after all. Well, he was a fast learner, too. When it all began to happen for him, he’d been appalled by the fast craziness of the life, but there was money and admiration…he was greedy and young. His mother had warned him but by then he lived with his father. Who thought it a marvelous opportunity for his son, for himself. It all accelerated; in less than a year he was “It.”

Well, he’d had enough. Even before Mirabel left him in the middle of the night during their Icelandic getaway. He couldn’t stop her. She hired a private plane and a pilot. Just like that, three years erased with exciting, tender, intense days and nights. All he could do was stare into an immense, blameless sky and let the weeping come. And then he had another job in Berlin so, quick change artist that he was, he got right back to it.

Not that he blamed Mirabel. She was riding her own flashy star. It’s just that she needed it, she loved it, while he no longer did. He’d hoped when he saw how they fit together they’d be forever–and why not? couldn’t he have that, too?–but it began to ground to a halt when he told her he was thinking of leaving the industry. Creating another life before he would not or could not move on, anymore.

Walden could smell the urgent earthiness of spring, of water swaying just beyond and beneath him. He took off his shoes and dangled his feet in shockingly cold water. It was only May; it’d be July or August before it got warmer though he didn’t care. The lake lapped around ankles and toes with rhythmic gentleness. The owl called to him and he wondered if it was close by, watching over all, or hiding in tree branches intent on its own business. A more distant owl called back. All creatures had mates sooner or later yet he sat alone. Pushing thirty-five, old by some standards in his world. He wanted more but what? He sought solace, that was the one thing he knew was right.

“Mir-a-bel…”

Her name tasted like sweetgrass smoke in his mouth, sweet and bitter, and syllables floated like dandelion fluff over water into the greater realm of darkness. Her name had always sounded like music to him, but now it seemed like an eerie song from long ago, dissonant and peculiar if beloved. His cheeks grew wet as her name was spoken over and over, and he drank the wine, kicked his feet at the surface below.He dreamed backwards in time and forward into a perplexing present–but the future? He saw nothing.

He took a longer draught off the bottle, then it was empty. His head felt cottony, askew, and his body languid, even sleepy. Walden wasn’t a drinker if he could help it all those years out there. He couldn’t afford to be if he wanted top dollar, to look excellent every early morning call for modelling, for acting. That was one of his secrets–he stayed apart from partying scenes as much as possible. No longer meaningful to him, the old rules dissipated with each drink. Fine wine pilfered from his mother’s cabinet–as if he was a kid! was that how he acted when he wasn’t his own man for so long?– as she slept. It had tasted right for his mood. A hint of sweetness that went slowly sour, warming to belly and mind.

He scanned the black water, eyes widening, pupils large as they strained for the undulating swath of moonlight. It trembled and then shushed him. He was alone, blessedly alone. He would swim all the way to the other side if it was daytime. But maybe he’d just float. He’d mastered that when he’d had lessons at six.

Walden bent at the waist over the water and barely pulled back in time, contemplating. How cold was it, really? He’d noticed people on the lake most days but they’d been in boats, usually, fishing or enjoying races and rides. He’d like to own a boat…maybe he’d live on a houseboat…

Camp Davies got off the phone with his wife who worked night shift at the hospital one town over. Stretched thoroughly. Casting a glance around the area a last time, admiring the silver orb above, he saw something down by the dock. Coyote, an unlikely but possible bear, some deer? No, not those. A figure of–? He got out of his truck quietly then registered that a person swayed back and forth on the end of the dock. Camp broke into a dead run.

Walden tried to keep upright as he peered into water so like a black pit, yet how inviting. In a haze of wine, it seemed a place of comfort and ease; he could float a long while… all the way to Canada. Was that a song? How far was it from here, north or south? Oh, but no, a river took you places, a lake… it just held you.

He fell forward, but it felt like forever before he plunged into the expanse. It stung, he found no bottom, only a yawning abyss of water, a cold and alien tunnel, an aqueous journey to another side not yet known but beckoning. Why was he here? He fell or let himself fall. He held gulped breath; terror suddenly struck as he tried to move upward, upward as he was dragged down by his weight, his fear, diminished oxygen seeping away. He idiotically tried to push water out of the way with both arms again and again, lungs starting to burn, lips loosening.

Camp Davies ran the length of dock in a couple seconds, stripping off jacket, shirt, kicking off boots, then jumping. The sharp razor of cold sliced at him, but he thought he knew who it was before the man was submerged.

“Walden! Hold on, come here boy!” he yelled as he dove twice, came back up. It might be too late but Camp fought against that possibility.

There, he saw him. Walden surfaced near his straining hands. Flailing but weakly, bobbing above water only a few feet away. Camp powered his stocky body with all his resolve and might toward him, who sputtered and coughed and spewed water, trying to float his body over the surface. But Walden no longer felt cold, only numb, too tired. His legs and trunk dipped under the water.

Camp grabbed him around his chest, pulling, tugging at him up and above the lake surface, until he managed to get him to the dock where he held on to it, breathing hard enough for them both.

“Walden, you breathing?” Fear snatched away his hope.

Before he could figure out how to get Walden onto shore and save himself, too. His breath got so small in the cold and wet, his own body started to slow, when a big hand grabbed his shirt sleeve and yanked hard. A dog barked repeatedly.

“Gotcha!”

Jasper Dye and his half-lame dog, Marv, were at the edge of the dock. The older man lay down so he could get better purchase and pulled with a burst of energy until Camp grasped him better. Jasper huffed, strained and yanked him around the length of the dock to shallower water by the bank, then dragged him up enough onto it so they were safe. Marv sank his teeth into Walden’s leather coat sleeve to help pull, shook his furry head back and forth. Jasper sprinted to his van for blankets as Camp turned Walden over and looked at him, pushed on his chest though the man was breathing with difficulty. The young man coughed harder, emitted rasping breaths, painful ones, but he was taking in gulps of night air. And shivering terribly, body twitching. Camp wasn’t warm, himself, slapped his hands and arms about himself, and then realized what had happened, felt panic spiral and rise, then fall. Before long, Jasper’s old wool Army blankets were about them both, and the whine of sirens created a jagged alarm in the night.

Walden whispered, “We–we make it? Am I alive?”

Japser and Camp put their hands on his shoulders, and Jasper replied, “Yes, you’re with us, you can rest. Not sure what sent you over but glad oyu’re here.”

Camp asked Jasper why he was even out there in the middle of night.

“Oh you know, old men ramble when they can’t sleep. Marv likes to sniff around the lake, do his business. I like the solitude and we see the world in different ways. Hobo hearts, us two, I guess…”

“You’re a kind of funny angel, Jasper. You, too, Marv.”

***

Everyone knew about it before morning, of course. The two men were checked and Camp was sent home with the advice that if he felt worse after a hour’s warm bath, hot tea and blankets to call 911. Walden was taken to the hospital fifteen miles away for hypothermia and observation. Blood alcohol was too high for swimming in any temperature. Camp’s wife, at work when the ambulance arrived, was apprised of all. She talked to her husband, then insisted on looking after the patient. He was questioned, tended to, finally deemed drunk but sane enough and ultimately recovered enough to leave. Out in a little over twenty four hours, Walden was eager to get back to his mother’s.

There were some cars waiting and cameras readied, ppointing his way. He scrunched down until they sped past then took random, frequent turns. A gravel road was the final evasion.

She drove while he remained drawn into himself.

“You might have talked to me, Walden. About things. I am always here, on your side.”

“Yeah. I know, but some things are hard to put into words.” He looked at her with those eyes that everyone said would steal hearts and they had, hers first. “Like heartache. And disillusionment…”

“Okay. But you almost…”

She pulled to the side of the back road, overwhelmed..

“No, Mom, really–I got good and drunk for once. You know I’ve long avoided alcohol though I smoke weed sometimes…but I was acting foolish. I have been ignorant a long time. Or in denial about what I need. Me, the real me, whoever that may be, has little wisdom.” He felt and saw her pain. “But it wasn’t deliberate.” And he believed that now. Last night, as he struggled with blurred consciousness and shock in the emergency room, he wasnt that clear.

He leaned his head back, eyes closed and sat listening to the rumble of the idling engine. He knew his mother was wating for more. Staring at him, her son, trying to not cry, again. The car windows were open: perfume of wildflowers in a field of fecund earth, the drone of laboring bees and cross currents of birdsong came at him like gifts of unexpected kindness.

“Good, then what do you need right now?” she asked in her low voice, soft with weariness.

“This,” he said, pointing at the scene beyond, and opening hands to her. “You, Mom. Myself. Life at a slow pace, lived with care.” He laughed and added, “I’d like my surface to get mussed up, live like a regular guy in the woods–can’t I do that?–and my mind to get healthier. Being on stage, being noticed for my appearance was useful but distracting, then a miserable thing. It’s just the surface of things, as you know, and I want to be done with all that.”

He realized she knew some of what they felt like, with one lovely blue and one brown eye, and her prematurely silvery hair and many charming mannerisms.

She chuckled, happy he had come to this conclusion, though how he could not be so attractive was unimaginable; his father’s genes had determined the best parts. “Easier said than done… this town is so nosy. But it must be doable. First you need a steaming mug of my home brewed herbal tea, something good to eat, sleep. Time.”

And that was all that was shared between them. She understood the parts that were subterranean, in any case. He knew she could see through his walls and so many others’. They drove off, her foot pressed hard to the pedal on a sunny country road as they emerged from the forest again.

It might come to be that he would draw again, his table set up in her studio as spring and summer turned into autumn and winter. They both let this happy thought unscroll within their relief. But at least they were granted this day, a new start. How astonishing it was. They rolled down all the windows, and let their free hands flap in the wind, hair flying wild in the healing spring light.