Then and this. Now and here.
Cool air shivers skin. The bus engine grumbles below plastic seats molded to cup a human’s soft places. Thighs of meat padding bone. Outside, women in a pack bustle down the sidewalk in jeans stretched taut.
The days grow shorter.
Even so, I forget. Forget to stop and touch the zinnia with its five shades of orange tethered to a center like chocolate. Forget to let the crepe myrtle dip across my cheek. Barely notice a fat bee chugging past me towards what bursts from the hedges. A body that should be too weighty for the tissue of wings somehow stays airborne.
I forget that eventually, everything falls. I forget to catch drift.
We walk today. Walk and talk, walk and talk. This is what we do. Commutes and kids and race in the workplace. Leaders. Architecture. Aches and aging joints.
I meet you across a desire path. You wait half in the shade. It would only take a few extra steps to go around. I forget how to slow down. I wear this groove into the wild earth, here where the plans didn’t include a direct way. All proper routes leading out from me would take me anywhere but the place of you.
The green expanse appeals too, doesn’t it? This is what we learned, what we keep on having to learn. A tract left alone turns to meadow. Succession reigns here, as it does in every place we relinquish our grip. Eventually seed gives way to sapling, branch to nest, bramble to forest. To see you across this rivals gazing at horizons. It is standing at an overlook where panorama sweeps distance into one indistinct blue.
We stayed there for a while. Turned towards other things. Rain came then a season of swelter. We watched it happen in glimpses. Weeds then a flowering. I never stopped looking even when you did.
Time is a maker of marvels. The low purple flowers, the fox that lives in a burrow under the silent earth.
Truth. I kept stepping over hedgerows. Even then. Thorns and nettle. A thirst in the skin. The single flat trail is swallowed by shadow but make no mistake, it’s there. The dusk-pearl underside of the tilted blades, each like a wrist turned open and bare. Beckoning.
No sign, no mark on the map. Of course not. This route shouldn’t exist. No one has named it, graded it, gotten it up to code. The path returns because we return to it. Only this.
Then and this.
Imagine when we speak from flesh. If.
For now, we stride, we match. We walk and talk. No yearning, not yet. Because of this, for now and here, I don’t forget. I gather what falls.
Our palms sweat. So much sun, so much momentum. A glancing touch, a release. Barely a beat yet it hums along the heart line. Even now. A copper quartz gleam, the fine grain across the soft desert of your face. We have nowhere to go to be alone. We only walk, only talk, as if we are giving the very bodies we inhabit a wide but ever shrinking berth.
One determined bird tucked high up in a tangle of rusting limbs cries her song across the sky. We quiet. We pause. We catch a ribbon of music before it’s gone.
Image: Frances MacDonald, ‘Tis a Long Path which Wanders to Desire’, 1909-15