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I remember wandering the green world in my spring time, black dog at my heels. I watched for the changing phases of the moon, dancing in the variant lights… I remember sitting on hill tops in the cold, my breath steaming before me. A blanket beneath me and another wrapped around my shoulders, I watched for shooting stars, meteors lancing quickly, thin streams of light that existed instantaneously. I waded in rivers under the summer moon, full and fat in the scattered, wind tattered clouds. I rode horses under that moon, disappearing in the fog drenched valleys.

I remember lying on the slopes, cheek to the ground, trying to feel the earth turn and hearing the far off rumble of hoof beats. The grasses grew tall on those slopes and burned gold in the summer. If you lay in them and looked up, the world vanished, reduced to a small patch of blue sky and the ends of the grass, as tall as trees, waving against the blue. They turned russet in the fall, like the hide of one of the horses, like apple cider, like my hair when the evening sun lights it up.

I sat in the roots of ancient beeches in the slanting rays of the setting sun. I talked to it and it whispered to me. I watched the leaves turn from green to beaten gold in the winter, the only color in the gray forest.

I remember running wild over hillsides and watching the passing shadows of hawks against the sun. I remember calling to owls at dusk, and hearing their sonorous replies in the gloom. The tree in the backyard would come alive with birds on spring mornings and sing. There were hummingbirds at the feeder out the window over the sink. Their backs glimmered with green scales, their throats burned red.

I remember storms in spring. The green of new leaves would burn against the blue gray of clouds. I remember that color, and how it shook my heart. The thunder shook me, startled me. I wanted to dance in the rain, but was scared of the lightning. The lightning lanced across the sky, unfolding like cracks in a broken mirror. In summer, heat lightning would turn the clouds pink on the horizon at night, silent but present. If you put your ear to the ground, you could hear the far off rumble, but maybe that was the horses on the other pasture.

I remember snakes. Their backs were black and starred with scars, their bellies checkerboards. Their musk was foul, putrid. I remember holding one, feeling its muscles curl across my arms, watching the tongue dart in and out, fast and delicate. I remember seeing them dart through the undergrowth, startled by my approach. I was never scared of them.

I remember the afternoon light shining gold through green leaves, blinding me. The clouds were gold and crimson, pink and vibrant. I read them, read stories in their shapes as they went from gold to blue in the fading light. As dusk crept in, mist pooled in the lower pastures and bats darted in the gloom. Sometimes I saw shapes in the mist.

And the creek, the creek was the epicenter around which all life turned. It was a great nerve cutting through the pastures and woods, and all existence was controlled by its caprice. The creek cut our property in half, snaking its way between our pastures, marked by the trees and bushes that grew up on either side. At times it would rain, and fill our lower pastures with brown roiling water. I remember waking to rain on the roof in the night and knowing a flood was coming. Each flood changed the creek. It flattened bushes and made new sand banks. Over the years the creek cut deeper into the bank, toppling trees into the water.

I remember walking across these fallen logs in fall and winter, when the water was too cold to wade. One foot in front of the other on the slippery bark. Walking slowly, looking down at the water.

We would spend our summers in the creek, when we were young enough that the water came to our chests. We swam and waded, explored the banks, made castles from mud. We rode our pony into the swimming hole and jumped off his back. We made boats from leaves and sent them off upon the waves, following their journey eagerly. We (did I mention I had a sister?) made our kingdoms along its banks.

I remember walking in the water at night under a full moon, my flowing skirt buoyed up around me. I would walk slowly so I wouldn’t make a sound.

There were lots of stars then. The Milky Way was a burning brand in the sky. I remember picking out Orion by his belt, and Scorpio by his tail. The tail came over the ridge in the summer, chasing Orion, but never the full behemoth scorpion. I would sometimes go weeks without looking up, and when I finally did, I would be overwhelmed, my mind ringing like a bell, a single glittering crescendo.

I remember spring rains, watching the storm clouds come, listening the thunder rumble closer. And then, when it was close, roaring loud enough to make the glass in the cupboards shiver. The lights would flicker and sometimes go out. We would light lamps and play yutnori by the dim light, until the storm died enough for us to sleep.

I would listen to the rain on the roof, pattering or drumming, and I knew that it was swelling the creek, churning it with brown mud. It was rising, this docile creature that snaked through our land. It was bursting free of its banks and growing fat and greedy as it filled our lower pastures. Earlier that day we had rushed through the rain and the thunder to chase the sheep to higher ground. They were now huddled steaming in Quonset huts and I was curled in my bed, but I would remember the urgency of it, clapping hands and yelling, running in the wet, shouting flustered directions to each other over the patter of rain on our stiff hoods and the rolling of thunder growing closer. Despite all, I enjoyed those moments. I would lie in bed and listen to the rain and pray it wouldn’t stop. I wanted it to fill the pastures and swamp the bridges til we couldn’t go to school or our parents to work.

And sometimes I would wake late and be flustered until my mother informed me that the weather radio had sung of my school’s cancellation. I would run to the deck and stare out at the water. Every time I saw that roiling brown lake licking the edges of the hill we lived on, a part of me believed it was the apocalypse. A part of me wanted it to be.

Tunnel

Every time I make this journey, it seems shorter. The first time I took the interstate from my home in Tennessee, it seemed worlds away. I felt that I had been in the car so long I had become a part of the sweat stained seats, that I too now smelled like cigarette smoke and the remains of the many cleaning chemicals that had attempted to eradicate it. Each time I make this journey, however, I loose a sense of distinction. My two lives seem too close now. Even the mountains between me and home are no longer an opposing barrier, but rather a scenic drive, a slight inconvenience. This time as I drive back to school, it’s raining. It’s not the clean refreshing rain of spring that swells the creek and stains the tips of trees green. This rain is malignant as it hovers over us, following us on our road east, choked with smog and acid. This rain sticks to the back of my neck as I run into the gas station to buy a pack of gum to keep me alert down the winding road of the gorge. I listen to the radio out of Knoxville as I drive, listen until there is nothing but static. After that I change stations frequently, looking for the rock and roll that I like to drive to. I find myself hyperaware of sounds as I drive. There are so many rhythms. The windshield wipers are working double time, the squeaky one sounds like someone mock crying as it slides across the glass. The fan in my car is on, roaring away the mist that attempts to cloud the windshield. The radio sings a fuzzy Kansas song. I can hear my breathing, exaggerated sighs that unwillingly rise from deep in my gut. A mountain looms up ahead. I turn on my headlights as the tunnel draws near. Suddenly the mountain is on top of me, the rain is gone, the windshield wipers sweep away nothing. The song continues for a moment then fades into static. The song seems intimidated by the weight of the mountain on top of it. It’s suddenly dark and silent. I think I’m holding my breath. I can feel the weight of it, all rock and trees. In that silent hum, I feel a sense of expectancy, like the moment the light goes dim in a theater and the crowd hushes as one, focusing on the one column of light on a darkened stage. But there’s something more to it than that. There’s a tightening in my chest, a weight in my gut. There’s an eldritch timbre in the air. I feel like the world grew silent in order that something else might speak, some awful voice rumbling from the depths, whispering things that I must not hear. I am penetrated by my own smallness relative to the mountain above, the ancient earth around me. And then I see dull sunlight tainted by rain before me. The radio starts up and now Credence Clearwater Revival is singing about a bad moon against a rolling southern rock beat. I let out a long breath and turn it up.

Down by the Pond

It’s one of those clear days, crisp and cold. It’s a vivacious wind that stings cheeks and sweeps right through denim. Muscles tense and backs hunch against the breeze. The coldness of the wind is remedied by the apricity of the sun. During each pause between gusts, the warmth of the light reaches my face for one caressing moment. The wind sounds like it swallowed an ocean, and dropped, till churning, behind the next stand of trees. The brittle brown leave of the maple above me rattle, their vibrating brown figures in congress with the breeze. Nearby, there are students at work. I can hear music churning up from the bowels of the auto shop. I’m down at the pond and it is covered in a sheet of ice. A leaf rattles, dances and skitters away from me across its surface. Winds above my head have caught the pine needles on the tree across the pond, and they sway back and forth like paint strokes against the clear sky. The sun headed west, falls at an angle across the land, so shadows grow out long on one side, and I find myself in the company of my dark silhouette, ghost pen in hand, skittering over pages of auburn pine needles. There are shadows on the ice, cast by trees, long tendrils intertwined and dancing with each gust. A crow flies, trying to hitch a ride on the right breeze. The sun catches in his feathers and they gleam like the sun’s twin in the water. He’s carrying silver on his back. There is a broken oyster shell before me, and the slanting sun has filled it with color and light. I find myself trembling like the leaves on the beech, the shadows on the ice. The wind is talking with the trees. Speechless, I sit and listen.