A buckram wind pushes at the scapulae, the sacrum, an absolute propulsive force even as it deftly infiltrates parka weft, fanning along sweater warp to flick deliciously at gooseflesh skin. So driven to celerity, their footfalls crunch blithely on a gravel trail studded with titian speckled leaves and golden fir needles, their hushed voices sequestered by the earthy amber folioles of ferns amidst matted beryl moss and kaleidoscopic lichen below, by the piquant fare of russet and salmon and burgundy and saffron and lemon leaves above. Beyond the bowing river birch break at lakes edge the water furrows and caps in gamboling thrill, a webbed goulash of cobalt, azure, copper and silver, reflecting the plum on peach on lilac of sunrise.
A swell of foamed iridescence laps at the eroding path at their feet and she stops abruptly, reaches for her husband’s hand, a practiced, sure gesture reciprocated in symmetry. There they stand together, erect, sturdy, towering ahead of us on the narrow track as the sun continues it’s silent ascent.
Quietly we wend towards them, as much immersed in our own reverences as giving nod to their shared meditation. We halt a short distance from their orison and invoke our own, I too gripping my husband’s snug hale hand, allowing the detail and the essence to wash over me, the wind tugging at my hood. We stand a comfortably long while.
And I am rich for this scene, this place of singular beauty in all weather, for this season, that of exquisite decay and alluring, growing tumult, for this time, hours from bother and burnout, for this man, the intimacy and mirth and passion and crooked smug smiles. Steeped in a complex calm I marvel at such spartan opulence.
“Oh my goodness, are we in your way, dears?!”
The sudden voice is small, breathy, wavering in the whiz-trill of the wind trapped in my hood. I about face to determine its issue but see only the polychromic tunnel from whence we’ve come.
“Just one moment, we’ll get to the side.”
A deeper, tottery tone rings out. I turn back towards that hearty couple ahead and am startled to mark instead two stooped, unsubstantial figures clinging to one another, scuffling falteringly toward the wood. I squint into lambent shadows, perplexed. Where are the fleet, the sure-footed pair?! The length of my cogitation exceeds that socially acceptable and I am on some level quite thankful when my husband, unfazed and jolly, at once cheerily thanking and apologizing to them, tows me past the pair.
The old man, the bend in his waist speaking a stenotic spine, has slipped a withered arm about his wife’s kyphotic back, the other gently supporting her forearm. Standing head and shoulders shorter than he, frail beneath a heavy parka and cabled sweater, she steadies herself with delicately clawed hand against a knurled maple. Her keenly blue eyes glow, auroral in their rugose, edentulous seat, seeking mine as we pass.
On finding them her thin lips arc into a striking smile, twirling through bemusement to stir like reply.
“This place makes you feel young,” comes the breathy small voice once more. Her familiar gaze holds mine until we reach the rocks and passage requires a different kind of forward sight. As we begin our climb, jocund wind at our backs, a warm voice carries smooth and strong, supple, young when it reaches my ear.
“Enjoy the days.”