COMING BACK FROM ELSEWHERE

Posted by | January 11, 2012 | Uncategorized | 11 Comments

The breeze lies on the water. There are two red canoes with four people in blue life-jackets paddling with silver & black paddles. Maples have pushed out their leaves to hang limp, yellow-green & newborn. The reflections of boats docked to the shore waver in the wake of one goose moving toward the island. At one time that goose had been in flight on a southern course. At one time it had been feeding in New York corn stubble.

**

A deer lowers its head to fallen acorns, walks into scented breezes proud & knowing. Empty mouths cry in the valley. Sun falls patched on leaf, moss & maple sprout alike, burning the frosted collar from our shoulders. Wind lies still in the valley. The sun goes cold over the hills, it will warm to greet us soon. Our young will grow with the seasons, nothing is lost. Buckskin blankets in the valley. Our mouths full of song.

**

From Indian Falls, Algonquin’s jagged head is framed by pine, rock, water & sky. Snow is alive on valley currents. Lifting my eyes from winking coals & hiss of unseasoned branches, through smoke I create the peak, frame its jagged head, hear the wind through pine boughs. Snowflakes land white & new on my jacket, pause, then glisten.

**

Lithe long fingers—her gray smolders burgundy, then faint green. Japanese Maple moving, then still—her graceful, tangled sweep of stars bows to the breeze & rippled water.

**

I am up early enough this morning to watch the carpenter bee that nests in the rafter above the doorway where I sit begin her day. Her buzz interrupted my train of thought about three deer I had seen in the field below our house drinking from the stream. Hovering above & behind me, I tip my head back to watch her hover just below the beam of the doorway. Her wings, dark auras that hold fast to her back & forth motion—I can feel their wash on my face. Her day of hunting for pollen grains, or soft wood to masticate, has begun. Legs folded dutifully to abdomen, she re-examines the territory around her nest, finds me incidental & moves on.

**

Canoe in dark water. Silent bow with no wake, no foam, no waves crashing. Turtles sun quietly on their flotilla of logs. Herons slow-step along green curves with careful eyes for minnows. Bushes full of white sound below yellow pine. Bass breathe thick shadows under lilies.

**

Before the fat pre-dawn (a quiet trumpet, a low moan in the pines), before sky becomes a reflection on the lake water bugs touch like tiny drops of rain, before bass are made lazy by water warming in the sun, before dogs stir & stretch their haunches, before gusts of mist rise like spirits with breath heading somewhere & nowhere, as thin light brightens…

**

I was smaller than my sister when my Dad told the story of the stones, Indian heads, hard heads, slick-smooth & half buried in shale, below the High Banks at the south end of the lake. Seneca, Canandaigua, Cayuga, Owasco, Skaneateles, Keuka, Otisco. These waters are the print of the Great Spirit’s hand, the story goes. Hills grew from between the Spirit’s fingers & the valleys beyond them. My people were born of this place, of many places & in death their skulls would turn to stone. Smaller ones were those of children my size. I picked them out of ankle-deep water, asking—this one? & this? Deeper, the lake at my belly, I would find larger stones with bare feet & stand on their easy angles like pale green hill sides.

**

I stand on this hill, above other hills, above valleys. I stand before this land that shouldered the great herds. I stand before the nations I was told French soldiers attacked while the men were away hunting. I was told, if I remain after nightfall, spirits that still defend this place will turn the breath in my chest to ash. For now, while sundown rests on these hills, they whisper to me from the grass. I close my eyes, listen across the distance. It is enough, I hope, that I hear their voices, share their steps under this sky of fire.


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