Tag Archives: summer

Old Path Home

Jennie tried the handle. It was locked. She shuffled back from the door, walked around to the side of the house, and reached for a flowerpot overflowing with petunias by the iron gate. She tucked her slender hands into the moist peat and pulled the pot from its nest.

There was no key.

She stared at the empty surface, feeling her heart speed faster in the late afternoon sun. Insects floated in the light breeze as she returned the pot, and, shouldering her book bag, walked slowly back to the unpainted road.

Jennie was small for her age, often mistaken for a grade school student when she was in reality entering the 8th grade. She stepped carefully around ruts in the sidewalk, walking slow to conserve her energy. The sun was beating down on her bare head. Unsure what else to do, she stepped off the sidewalk (it was crumbling anyway toward the dead end) and onto the worn foot trail down the hill.

The air was cooler by the creek, in the shade of the old willows. Jennie dropped her backpack in the dirt by a fragrant honeysuckle bush and sat down by the rippling water, shade creeping over from the far bank. She hugged her knees to her chest against the chill and watched the waterbugs dance around miniature waves.

Things hadn’t always been this way. Mother would have been home this time last year. He wouldn’t have been allowed to take the key. Mother hadn’t trusted him at first, but now, it seemed she listened to him more than her own daughter.

Jennie picked up a stone and sent it skipping off the shallows. Her pastime.

It would be long past dark before the sound of a car door jolted her awake, once she had finally found sleep on the cold, damp wood of the back porch.


Write a Letter

To an old friend:

Remember how often we’d write to each other, pen-pal? Your letters stamped from exotic places, arriving in the mailbox on sunny mornings. I would trot down the driveway to check the mail, sometimes disappointed with impersonal printed business, sometimes cheered with a wrapped message that promised to be a delight to read.

Remember how easily the words came in those days, before there was such thing as a word count, a “good story”, structure, and grammar? Pooh. In those days there were books. In those days we told each other true stories, and wide-eyed we’d read them like the most gripping young-adult novel, except- these were real, written just for us, for our eyes only.

We wrote to each other. We wrote freely, as we were moved to. Unsupervised, unrequired writing, pure joy. Before I knew that “it’s” isn’t possessive, and before I knew what paragraphs are good for. It didn’t matter. I learned, and my letters were plenty readable.

For years I wrote to you. You wrote to me. Preferring paper and pen to face-to-face talk, I would wander the hillside like Frederick the mouse, gathering colors and sounds, images of plants in the sunshine. I would bring them back, in my mind, my camera, my words. Forest air in my lungs, forest dirt on my boots, blackberry scratches on my knees, sweat on my forehead. Alone, I would gather words for my next letter, and when pen met paper I would tell you stories of the places I’d been.

Write back soon!

Your Pen-Pal

Meadow Pond

In a dip at the edge of the hayfield on the top of a hill
past the rippling grasses, thigh high
and the grasshoppers and katydids humming away this warm summer evening
past the open sky and distant hills
down into the side of this small prairie
is a pond.

Small pine trees planted around it in the shadows. Reaching rays of orange sunlight shifting through the trees, their leaves the dark green of deep summer. Night comes closer here on the cool Northwest side of the hill.

Silent slice of sky in the grass, still reflecting pool. Glass broken by the toes of waterbugs, skimming the surface, leaving ripples in their wake. On the far side of the pond, a fallen aspen reaches out over the water, half submerged, half child’s jungle gym. White and black bark, shimmering leaves in the slight breeze from uphill.

Deep woods beyond the manmade pool, beyond the cliff that supports its downhill side. Ancient hemlock. Darkness and shadows and nightfall, wood-pewee, pine boughs and needles over the soil.

Like the dragonflies, I hover by the water.

Sparkles on the Water

Watch the river gliding past, light flashing on smooth stones close under the surface. Droopy weeping willows drift by, their leafy hair hanging down into cool pools of shade.

A cornfield in open sun, making sugar from light and air, beyond a grassy knoll at river’s edge. Mud thrown up on the banks from spring snowmelt and summer rainstorms. Water gently lapping away at slippery rocks.

Uh-oh. That’s not calm water up ahead.

Sharp, glinting river, tumbling over rocks and the occasional log. Rushing like the wind. Canoe grating on the bottom. Skidding to a halt. Now the world’s caught us again, and the river is dancing away on its own.

Bother. Get out and walk.

After too many awkward steps we’re floating downriver, calmly watching the world drift by. The surface is still and flat and motionless but for a few eddies near the bank. We’re going under a bridge. Lapping water echoes off the concrete underside just as the sunlight does, sending liquid patterns dancing above our heads.

Blue sky. Ancient trees reaching for the sun. Their roots are in the river. They won’t last forever.

Did I hear thunder? What’s that big black cloud doing in our nice blue sky?

Quick! Paddle for the lake!

The sunny sparkling world goes eery still as the cloud covers the sun. The first rush of wind tears through the treetops, sending loose leaves sailing through the air. Then the rain comes, first a patter, then a pour, and the still water dances all around us.

Blink. Raindrops shroud the banks. They plummet into the river, wash the trees, cleanse the air, and unite the world gone still.

Our canoe is a bathtub. It’s nice to have my toes in the water. Sunbeams reach around the clouds as the rain keeps coming. The river is shallow and wide. The canoe hisses as she floats over aquatic plants, land made of solid green and no substance down below.

Lake Delta stretches out before us, a puddle for giants, a playground for canoers.


Tonight is cool, after several sweltering days. June fireflies dance in the meadow, and young goldenrods shoot upwards. The grass is still now that the sun has set. It’s silent, until the softest breeze tickles the treetops, sends them rushing like ocean ripples on sand. The breeze blows itself out in a few seconds, and then another gentle breath flows by.

A woodcock flies by in the twilight, whistling its song as fast as its hectic wings beat. The bird is a blur in the distance, barely visible, when another blur joins it. Both dive downwards and are gone. The song is over; a companion is found.

The sky and shadowland are both still. Jupiter shines. First stars twinkle. The fireflies and one lonely cricket are holding back, staying subtle. It’s only June. August is the time for nighttime ruckus, the last hoedown of summer.

Tonight, the soft, dying breaths of wind are prelude to autumn. I’ve heard them before under cold, empty skies, full harvest moon glaring over a barren October landscape. Tree branches clink together. Leaves rustle. I shiver with cold.

But tonight it’s June. And just as February’s sunshine foretells the spring thaw, this night whispers of coming frost.


By Starlight

The first thing you notice is the emptiness. Notice the sound, the feel, even the taste of open air. You’re exposed, and you know it. Alert and listening, you look around at the rustling leaves and wait for your eyes to adjust. You look up and see stars, and start walking.

A crystal roof of pinpoints, featureless if you don’t see the patterns. Living alongside the fireflies.

It’s empty out there, full of possibilities. The stars are closer than the rustling leaves, closer than the blinking lights on a distant hill.

They can’t be that close. Not really . . . but they are. Lightyears apart, all you really know is that the reaching fingers of dead space haven’t caught you yet. You’re under a blanket of warmth, the summer air a thin veil between solid earth and empty sky.

The stars are yours. Made for you.

This is the only time that ever was or will be.