Saturday, March 29, 2014

Saturday Musings, 29 March 2014

Good morning,

I tripped downstairs today to the smell of freshly ground coffee, the last sentient being awake in my household.  I sat in the comfortable chair beside my husband's place at the couch, and smiled as he rose to go into the kitchen to pour a cup of brew for me.  I glanced outside, gauging the type of day it might be; pure, clear and sweet.

Like mountain air.

The first time I set foot on Reynolds Mountain, my companion convinced me that I needed to beware of flying snakes.  I put my hand up to my head and pulled the kerchief tighter around my French braid.  "Flying snakes?" He laughed.  "Yes," he cautioned.  "They dart from branch to branch.  They're native to Arkansas and prevalent here in Newton County."  A shudder ran through me.

The thick veil of dark green rose above us as we trudged up the path towards the site where we would pitch our tent.  He carried our packs; I held a walking stick and a water bottle, my purse having been locked in the back of the vehicle. I walked behind him, watching where he put his feet, trying to match his stride.  We'd been dating for a couple of months, and I had agreed to camp.  I, a city girl, whose prior experiences with camping were minimal and years ago.  I shrugged, ducked under a branch, and soldiered on.

The platform on which we would sleep faced nothing in particular but nonetheless seemed surrounded by beauty.  The tall trees, both deciduous and evergreen, canopied the clearing.  Chester set his burden on the worn pine boards.  "Don't leave the packs open, or on the bare ground," he cautioned.  It occurred to me that he might be exaggerating the dangers until he mentioned spiders and I felt another lurch in my stomach.  He went back to the car to get our cooler, and I sat down on the edge of the platform, facing a little dip in the ridge, contemplating what manner of love might drag an urbanite like myself into the Arkansas wilds.

I heard a rustling, all of a sudden, low at first and then louder.  Pulling my feet back, wrapping my arms around myself, I stared in the direction of the noise.  The wind picked up a bit, in the cool of forest.  Something slithered past me, low to the ground, only the stirring of the undergrowth signalling its path.  I stood, panic rising, wanting to call out but afraid to alarm whatever hovered beyond the small clearing in the dense woods.

The noise ceased but I did not relax.  I watched the brush, waiting.  I don't know what I expected; a bear, perhaps, or a fox.  I saw a low branch on a shrub bend down and braced myself.  Two small eyes peered at me, surrounded by fur.  We held each other's gaze, the little creature and I; it fearful to come out, me fearful to see the rest of it.

Just then, Chester set the cooler down behind me, with a loud thump.  The creature broke its stare and vanished and I breathed, loud, jagged.  I turned around to find my boyfriend looking at me with puzzlement.  "Something wrong?" He asked as though I were not so far out of my element that I didn't even know what might be wrong, couldn't even articulate the threats I feared.  I just shook my head.

We pulled out the small tent and got it staked.  He built a fire, and I unpacked the sandwiches that I had made, hours ago, in my apartment in Kansas City.  By the time we finished our cold supper, the sun had slipped so low that our campsite seemed shrouded in darkness.  We lay in our sleeping bags, side by side, talking quietly until I felt drowsy and let fatigue overcome me.

I awakened before he did, and stood by the tent in the chilly morning air.  The sun still sat low enough in the eastern horizon that our clearing wore a twilight veil.  I took a long cool draw of air into my lungs and raised my face to feel the breeze.  I held my arms up to the sky, stretching my muscles, lifting my hands as far as my reach could take them, greeting the rising sun.

That camping trip was twenty-eight years ago.  Here in the city, in 2014, no critters lurk in the bushes except the neighborhood cats.  But I stand on my porch, the porch that Chester built, and breathe the coolness of each morning.  I often find myself transported back, to that Arkansas summer, to a time when I believed  that flying snakes existed, and an afternoon when a little animal stood in the safety of a gnarled bush, wondering if it needed to fear me, while I studied its deep brown eyes.

Mugwumpishly tendered,

Corinne Corley

Brookside, 29 March 2014

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The Missouri Mugwump™

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I've been many things in my life: A child, a daughter, a friend; a wife, a mother, a lawyer and a pet-owner. I've given my best to many things and my worst to a few. I live in Brookside, in an airplane bungalow. I'm an eternal optimist and a sometime-poet. If I ever got a poem published in The New Yorker, I would die a happy woman. I'm a proud supporter of the Arts in Kansas City. I vote Democrat, fly the American flag, cry at Hallmark commercials, and recycle.