Growth

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She hears a chickadee swiftly fly overhead, the wind rustle through the oak leaves, and the sun rays seep into her skin. She lowers her hand over the side of their canoe and cups a handful of clear lake water in it, feeling the cool water seep through the cracks of her fingers. Underneath the canoe, blue and purple rocks glisten from the reflection of the water, a sunfish flutters its fins, moving like the wind on this crisp spring morning. Her partner sits in the back, and the morning is so still that she can hear him breathing. Her back muscles tighten as she brings up her oar, then gently lowers it into the water, disturbing the taut surface for a moment. This place would seem perfectly still without further observation, like an oil painting – sticky oil paint on a wet canvas.

Coming up to the shore, they paddle hard so that the canoe lodges on the shore as much as possible. Stepping out, her boot sinks into cold, wet, sandy soil. The water splashes up onto her face as she walks up the shore, and then the drops fall down her cheeks, landing on her jacket. She tugs at the canoe to lift it further up the shore, leaving it there among the thimbleberry plants. Resting on the shore, her mind does not wander. She picks up a round purple and silver stone and rolls it between her fingers. Once a large rock, the stone she now holds has only become more beautiful from the wind weathering it.  She watches him carry his tackle box to a fallen tree that reaches out into the lake, its branches moving through the water like an ancient sea creature. He balances and walks along the log, finding a good spot to cast his lure, and she gazes into the deep woods.

Succumbing to curiosity, she rises and walks through a wide opening in the woods, until soon she is squeezing through thickets. Burrs attach to her legs. The moon is still out, hanging there in the sky, not ready to cease its decoration of the Montana sky and give way to the sun. There’s a cabin nestled in a meadow, way beyond these thickets, and she finds her way there, her shoes sloshing a bit, awaking the animals in the trees.

She lies atop a bed of pine needles, and a chill rushes down her spine from the cool air of the forest bed. A squirrel darts past, flicking its tail furiously. The cabin beside her is well constructed, but it is weathered like the purple stone, changed into a new work of art. Some of the roof is caved in, the sides worn down by the wind. She wonders what life this cabin has seen, what visitors have enjoyed the warmth of its walls, the children who played board games on the red rug that’s now damp and ripped on both sides, the animals that now nest in its corners. It’s beautiful, she thinks, the way that nature transforms even the sturdiest cabin. Doesn’t it transform us all?

She hears distant splashes and her mind comes back to the moment, lifting herself into the light shining down in parallelograms across the forest. She swiftly walks through the thickets, moist leaves brushing trails of wet dew across her pants. Soon, she can run through the wide opening, blood pumping quickly through her, energizing her mind and body. The fishing pole jumps wildly as he fights a fish. She takes off her moist shoes and lays them in the sand, walking barefoot on the log to him.

The fish plops haphazardly up onto the log, flopping around, fighting to find water. Its gills rise and fall rapidly, frustrated that it lost the fight. It’s a rainbow trout, he says, grinning from ear to ear. The clouds move slowly across the sky as she gathers birch bark and he gathers branches from fallen trees. Soon, the smoke from their fire heats their cold feet, and a cast iron pan fries the trout filets. He turns the filets with a spatula held by hands covered in crusty mud, and steam seeps around both of them. Her hair blows to the side and gently rests on his shoulder. His hand, strong and caked with earth, rests atop hers. The forest billows and sighs, their hearts beat, and the moon gives way to the sun.

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