He ate his breakfast from an old tin can that could be seen through the pilothouse window of his boat, “Rolo” – a rig that had logged more hours pushing and towing freight and hauling fuel than most people spend breathing. His s-shaped frame – slight bend at the knees, hunched shoulders – hid a nimble man of seventy-two who scaled his boat’s confined spaces with a familiarity found nowhere else but when his wife of fifty years folds herself inside his arms each night. “In the Spring,” he said through wrinkled lips that gracefully obscured broad teeth browned with age and tobacco, “when the sap is running,” his voice trailing off, giving way to dexterous hands holding a seasoned Old Timer pocket knife and a small section of green willow, notching the bark and heart then, while turning the branch between gnarled fingers, running the blade just down to verdant core and still turning, taking the knife by the scarred blade and tap-tap-tapping the bark with the handle, “you can make a whistle,” as he pulled the now loose from the core bark free and put it to his lips to serenade the swallows chasing bugs over the steadily churning river.
They were different this time; more green and less white from the last time I looked out of the hotel window. Hard snow caps still lay on the mountains further up, untouched by the harsh sun, reminding me of how majestic the Himalayas are.
So close yet so far, sending perceptions of distance to a new low. I want to touch them, reach for the criss-crossed, pointy deciduous trees, feel the sharp sting of the hardened slippery ice.
I long to reach them, to climb them and feel the crisp air, embrace it.
The snow flurries of Saturday morning have turned into thick ice. These days when you step outside – out of the government-controlled heating – the cold smacks you hard in the face. Dry lips, stinging fingers and swirling clouds of white breath are with you wherever you go. And the bright blue sky sparkles like a wintry dream.
Once in a great while, I wish that I did not live alone. I expected one of those great whiles, the night that Sandy roared in. I lit the candles and scooted over on the futon to make room for Fear. Instead, old friends settled in: Louise Erdrich, Annie Dillard, Robertson Davies, and Leo Tolstoy. When Hayden and Handel arrived, I knew there would be no fear, only wind and rain.
-Melanie Lynn Griffin
As the damp daylight faded into dusk, as the warm lights glowed outward through the windows, the lush green of the grass, the trees, the perennials intensified to a deep emerald. She watched the branches whipping in the wind like a troupe of dancers madly twirling to some New Age song, and she saw the clouds moving across the sky like a herd of mustangs frantically fleeing from the threat of captivity. She was worried about the integrity of the house, the house that had stood for decades teetering on the brink of collapse. Would the basement be flooded with water, the slate shingles be ripped from the roof? This storm, the tumultuous cauldron that threatened to spill its churning chaos, could be the end, the final squall that promised to cease her calm existence.
I had witnessed so much, after three weeks in Africa, that I barely registered the image at the time. I’d like to say that our eyes met, but I don’t think they actually did. She just slipped inside my head and made me cry when I got back to the States and started a load of laundry.