There’s not been much picture-taking going on these days. But I’m sort of liking the idea of my work standing on its own for the time being, anyway. Besides, this piece is nearly 500 words, which I’ve been told is worth at least half a photo.
Last night around seven, before the heat of the day had dispersed in full, I walked through the orchard to the pool my sons formed in the stream. They’d stacked rocks into a crude dam to stem the water’s flow, and I remember thinking it futile at the time, but obviously I’d been wrong. Sometimes it feels like I’m wrong a lot.
The orchard is old and long neglected, the trees twisted and bent at unlikely angles. Some branches extend skyward, others begin that upward journey before looping back toward the ground, still others split the difference, and most are gnarled in a way that reminds me of arthritic fingers reaching for something that’s always just out of reach. The trees are in blossom now, and I tried to note the variations of smell of each tree’s flowers as I passed, but could not. I’d done this recently with the cows, too, walking from one to the other for a quick sniff, but I soon became self-conscious – what sort of fool goes around smelling his cows?? – so I stopped three animals in, and the results were inconclusive.
At the stream I stripped naked and stepped into the pool in that tip-toed way one steps into seriously cold water, a rash of goosebumps prickling the backs of my arms and the tops of my thighs. Even at it’s deepest, the pool is shallow, and I knew I’d have to force my legs out from underneath me in order to submerge my upper body and head. And so for a time I just stood there. It was a small bravery I was asking of myself, but like so many requests for small bravery, it felt big in the moment, as if something truly consequential was riding on the outcome of my decision to plunge or to retreat.
The funny thing is, I knew I would drop fully into that water. There’d never been a question. No one walks ass deep into an icy stream and then turns tail, at least not around these parts. I mean, maybe they do that down in southern Vermont, or in Massachusetts, but around here? No way, no how, no sir. But still I put it off, lulled by the stream sounds, enjoying that quickened sense of foreboding. The air tasted particularly sweet and clean, the sun was dropping fast in the western sky, and again the light had that delightful transitory quality I wrote of last week.
So I stood. And I stood a little more. And then, finally, when the cold in my legs began to take on a certain in-the-bones sensation, and I knew I could not bear it much longer, I kicked my feet out from under me and fell into the water.