I can see us now. The two of us, under a hot, blue sky, intent, watching by the swampy creek side. Knees and ankles protesting, I lever myself down for a closer look; he hunkers, supple and balanced, toddler’s round butt hovering just above the ground. Following my finger, he peers into the water.
It’s a rare warm spring day. Sunlight paints the chartreuse mosses and glitters on the grasses where we sit. It squeezes the scent from sage and antelope bush on the dry hillsides above us. In the gentle heat, the muscles under my shoulder blades and along my spine soften. I roll my shoulders to feel them flex. Brushing my fingers across his head, I draw back the hood of his little red jacket to let in the sun.
Our afternoon walk has taken us into a tiny valley, probably cut by this very stream, behind and near our just-moved-to country home. The dirt track we followed — he sometimes striding ahead, sometimes riding astride my hip — threads its way, dodging in and out of sight, back through pale gold grasses, like a tether. A crow sails overhead, a black-winged hole in the sky. Rrraak —
And the silence thickens, spreads around his call. A breeze, trickling in, finds us and moves on, absorbed into the stillness.
The creek itself is our first discovery of the day. We gaze together into the water, holding our place, side by side, at its low bank. We are new here and finding our way. I learn the direction of roads, the landmarks of the countryside, and the landscape of motherhood. He, curious and brave, finds messages in leaves, mystery in a rock, jokes in the wind. Joy in whatever comes his way. He is learning the world.
At our feet, long grasses trail and wave gently in the flow of water and a mat of something with tiny blue flowers floats near the edge.
Look, he says, reaching out his own small hand.
Anchored by reedy ties, a mass of bubbles ripples in the water before us, crystal jelly bumps; tiny, black specs cannot hide in their perfect clarity.
And above … above, the sky is blue enough to cut the heart out of you.
Susan Safford lives in Kamloops, B.C. where she teaches English at Thompson Rivers University. Her work has appeared in The Globe and Mail, Descant, Cahoots and Accenti.
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