Originally uploaded by One-Speed Photography
I didn’t want to come out today. I knew I was not going to find a truly quiet place, and I have so many works in progress that I really begrudged the time. At the very least I ought to be folding clothes so that’s not hanging over my head, too. But I have a sitter, so I take my best guess and head northward, my head a jumble of anxiety about the old novel that got two more rejections this week and the new one I’m too intimidated to start on.
I reach the Pinnacles and find that I was right. It’s not quiet. But I head for the quietest place—where the overhanging cave and rapids mask the sound, and I spread out a blanket and eat an apple.
I’ve never really appreciated the sedimentary rock here—the bulk and the variety of it, from mud-gray to caramel to slate gray and black, layered upon each other. The water tore through here, smacked into this solid wall, and in turning the corner, gouged out this deep overhang. Trees and shrubs cling to its brow, spilling roots and branches over the edge, their branches emerging from patchwork shadow in a rainbow that marches from olive to green to gold against the flawless blue sky. Its underside huddles black above the water, and rich, warm red-brown over the sand where I sit. Behind me, I hear the trickle of an underground stream working its way down the back wall. Before me, the water lies serene, reflecting the world in its depths, but in the distance, rapids sparkle, drawing my vision with motion.
A wind growls progresses along the valley, drowning out the traffic and the rapids as it rushes from tree too tree, sending a cascade of leaves whirling before it. When Alex was little, I would say, “Look at the trees dancing.” But a tree doesn’t dance with an edgy, raucous bump and grind. It follows stately Baroque forms, bowing to its neighbor and circling round. The leaves, though—no inhibitions there. Millions of thrill-seekers hurling themselves from the heights, some plunging in free-fall, others twirling madly, while the rest flicker back and forth, landing daintily feet-first in the water and then settling back on it with the sigh of those finally getting to rest after a long day’s work.
Voices approach; a young father arrives with two tow-headed boys, 5 and 7, I’d guess, and a mutt that looks half Huskie. Being boys, they pound around in the soft sand, closer and closer to the junction of water and rock wall, until one of them shrieks, “Daddy, I’m sinking in the mud!” I’m closer, and so, chuckling, I abandon my NEO and attempt a rescue. I manage it…barely. He wasn’t kidding about sinking in the mud; he loses a shoe in it and has to stretch out across the mud to dig it out. The dad heads off a tantrum by telling him to take his shoes and socks off and wash off in the creek. That wouldn’t work in my house, especially not at the end of September, with the water temperature edging downward toward winter, but it does the trick; soon the boy is running around barefoot on the chilly Missouri “sand.”
They don’t last long. Soon they’re packing up and leaving me alone again, and as their voices fade along the trail, I wonder if my long, creative descriptions of nature really interest anyone, whether I should post this on Monday or not. But I know that I will because I don’t have time to write multiple blog entries. I have too many irons in the fire.
So I twist my neck and look up again, at the monochrome rainbow. And as I turn to face forward again, I realize that despite the imperfect quiet, some of noise in my head has eased.
For monochrome rainbows,
and the chill of Missouri clay seeping upward below my back
For subterranean streams
and Jonathan apples
For running water,
clear blue skies,
and the irrepressible energy of childhood
For restful nights
and a rich life