nature writing part 2 (remembering)
Posted February 4th, 2018 by Swallowtail
in new york/massachusetts
My brother, younger cousin, and I ran down the steep hill far too fast. We stumbled over stones that had been worn smooth and swung ourselves around the trunks of trees. At the bottom, we clutched dented tin pails and took little steps into the cool stream as we waited and caught our breath. My aunt picked her way down above us slowly, holding the hand of my toddling cousin and with a baby on her back. Ahead of her was another younger cousin, too old to grasp at hands but too young to keep up with us. When they reached the dense shade where we stood, the three of us were off again, racing each other joyously through morning mist until we reached a split in the trail. There, we swung our pails at each others heads and stood with our mouths hanging open as if we could taste the mist, turned gold by early sun. Then my aunt and other cousins came around the bend and she nodded at us, releasing us to run again. After a few of these pauses, the three of us reached the thicket. Dew hung still heavy on each blade of grass and mist played beyond us in the trees. All around us were dense bushes, where glistening berries hung all over. We rushed forward, eager to fill our pails as much as we could until my aunt arrived and the three of us were banished to the outskirts of the thicket so that the littles could clumsily grab at berries in peace. Easily visible were the unripe berries, red and bright, but the ripe ones dripped shining black and sweet, hiding in the shadows of leaves and guarded by thorns. We searched deep for them even as our hands and arms were torn at, persisting at it as the sun burned the mist away and our backs got tired. The three of us refused to eat any of them until our pails were entirely filled, thinking of crumbles and crisps later. Only when glistening berries threatened to spill from our overfull pails we gathered handfuls to delicately balance and slowly eat from. When the littles were exhausted and the three of us couldn’t fit another berry into our pails we all walked together to the meadow, the three of us carefully holding our pails in front of us, my younger cousins swinging theirs, careless. It wasn’t far to the meadow, and there my aunt spread out blankets and my brother, younger cousin, and I dragged one into the tall grass where we could sit and not be seen. When the sun inched past midday shook out the blankets and folded them into neat squares, then marched home tired and triumphant.
The sidewalk is narrow and cracked, the paving stones buckled upward and eroded by time. Now they suddenly end, replaced by a large circle of dark pavement shimmering with heat. Across the circle is a worn wooden fence and a sign about dog etiquette, and beyond that a worn dusty path beaten down through fading grass. Right next to the fence is a spindly rose bush. The roses are gone, but the rose hips remain, shining and red. I remember when I sat perched here with my brother and younger cousins, and we took tentatie nibbles of the rose hips as we gazed down the hill, waiting. In the winter, plows pushed all the snow from the street here and it swallowed the fence. Since we could no longer balance on the fence, we clambered to the top of the pile and dug caves and tunnels to burrow through. I walk past the fence and the additional signposts about drugs and litter and into the park. Straight ahead is a trail through pines and while I can’t remember where it leads, I can remember when I ran down it barefoot on an evening in early October. Up ahead and a bit to my left is where we collapsed in the snow both on our way further into the park and our way home. I remember how I lay flat on my back, closed my eyes, and pretended it was summer again. I turn to my right and go down a narrow, but well worn path through tall grass. It bends and now I am among trees again. Ahead the path curves steeply down a hill. I have a hundred memories of this path and the stream at the bottom. I half walk, half skid down it, catching myself on a tree at the bottom. I continue down it slowly now, looking around and up at the tall, slim trees and the blue sky beyond. On this side of the stream, most things are deep, bright green, but here and there faint tinges of yellow and red are spattered among the trees. A few vivid leaves drift down the stream, dancing under the worn wooden bridge. I go to the bridge and duck underneath it, walking to the wide flat rocks at stream bank. On top of these sit many stacks of stones, each one worn smooth by the water. They’ve been elegantly balanced and built slowly with care. I sit down among them, water rushing by right past my feet and just look out the happily gurgling stream, the old trees gently rustling, and the thick moss that looks like a miniature forest. Everything is quietly busy and peaceful, and I wish it was possible for me to stay forever, but it’s not. I get up and look again over the stream, where I know lies the bright meadow,the tunnel of trees, the blackberry thickets. But I don’t have time for those places today, so I turn away and walk carefully back up the hill.
See more stories by swallowtail