Pictures in the Soul

A hint of fall is in the air, while the sun still warms her body.  Her mind begins to quiet with every stroke of the paddle on the river.  She has looked forward to her personal time. It does take some effort to leave behind the daily happenings, what she calls the family saga, that seem to take away her energy like the recent power outage. 

Noah, her little grandson, does not care about such things. He exclaims “Ni, ni,  go ni , nite’, as he piles several little blankets on the floor, takes the cushions from the chair, one of them reminding us, the home is where the heart is,  and plops himself down, smiling.  A second later, he is up again, fluffing out a blanket, up and down, before gently rearranging it over himself.  Its not quite right,still,  he thinks, and up again he goes,  and a bit more shaking, and down again,  Ni, night!  There is one to remember, and leave the rest!

She recalls a poem, she has recited and relived.(*).   When the weight of the world brings you down, I go to the river where the wood duck rests, and, and.   Keep paddling, and looking.  A sense of refreshing calm takes rest in her.  She will read a while, possibly slumber off, secure in her chair, not like one time, when the river was still high and the footing gave way and dumped her into the water.  She contemplates a quick swim.  The side arm of the bay has been cut off by a world worn tree, stretching itself across and allowing for the small sand oasis that has been built up, just for her pleasure, she sighs gratefully and gives thanks.  The late summer sun warms the water barely enough for a swim, she has braved this water as late as the third week in September, the anniversary of Merrill’s passing.  “Your spirit is with us, we trust your support when times seem rough, and recall your firm determination and strength to tackle life”.  As if on queue, the leaves of the nearby tree rustle in the wind, the cackle of a heron reaches her waiting soul, and countless pictures of events travel by quickly. 

Let me be the she I am talking about and continue meandering through the backwaters, along the area I call the “late swimming waters”, Rumpelstilzkin’s gold, where the tall marsh grasses bleached into a warm yellow, and where you must turn right, or else end up in Lake Onalaska, which is not total trouble, but not the way I want to go.  Here is the area I took that fabulous picture I still call my Masterpiece, quite humbly.  Chuckle, with me, oh all of us who get the doldrums at times, and need to take the lighter side of the road, even though it all seems so serious.  “I hear you”,  sing the crickets, and a flock of ducks alight as the canoe bends the corner.  Duck, I must, also, as I am stuck on a log, let’s try this again,  no, this won’t work, I can see the log getting thicker as I follow it along with my searching eyes. I will have to get on it, and push the canoe across for further passage.  I did do some gymnastics as a young girl, and the beam was not my favorite, but this takes only a few seconds of balance, a shove to the canoe, and voila,  hop on the back and glide away.  Wow, that feels great!  A simple stunt, but an accomplishment in itself,  a reminder of years of practice in the canoe in all kinds of conditions! Recalling briefly, the time I felt I was lost in the meandering waterways,  got stuck on the side of the flowing waters,  in those outcrops of the marsh that get covered with green, lilies and algae, and when my eyes finally adjusted to the early dark of the late fall, first one, then two and eventually three eagles flew overhead and guided me out into the light of the way. 

Soon, I shall be at that spot again, now marked by another fallen tree, and another maneuver with the paddle to squeeze through the narrow passage.  I keep thinking about how to describe this better, in that I do want for my daughter and her friend to navigate through here, and to feel some of the peace I feel.  She’ll most likely say, “Mom”, with that drawl of inflection, meaning,  of course, we’ll figure it out! Yes, I know, yet,  you would not think so, there are several passages where you’d think it cannot be passed,  right before you get to where the Eagle Nest sits high up above.  But, when you have passed there, then you are at the spot, where I am seeing an eagle right now,  sitting on the bare branch of that skeleton of a tree!  Oh, magnificent sight, I pause, and gawk, awaiting his flight, already hearing the slight whisper of the melodious sing sang of his fellow. 

It is not dark enough for me to witness the raccoons scampering up that tree,  but I remember seeing them,  as well as if I hear the beaver’s tail smashing the water as he makes a turn.  One day, I was lucky enough to capture the aftermath of the splash on the water in a picture, which is imprinted firmly in my memory, who knows where I would have to search to find the paper copy.  Pictures in my soul, I may name this, as I pass the lonely old decayed branch of what I called, years ago, the water ballet, when there were several branches reaching out.  Then, I would turn to the right, but I can see that the area forbids a passing, as it has been overgrown.  Instead, I can go on straight forward, then turn a sharp right. There again, if you turn left, it leads to the outcrops of the Lake, where I have listened to the concert of the geese and ducks some eve’s ago, that recapture the thunderous applause in a concert hall or Opera House. 

The canoe comes to rest at a small strip of sand right after that bend, where my back demands a stretch. Bending forward to a curl after my elaborate stretch towards the heavens, I let out a curious cry, giving me the impression of the Apache Squaw, I imagine my soul having been. What do I see?  Little bird imprints, and a heron’s next to it, and here, paws of the raccoon, and, to crown it all,  distinct hoofs of a deer.  I wander along in wonderment,  completely taken by the tracking experience,  turning at the end and confirming my findings, when I think, what “bigfoot print is this?”  You guessed it,  those are my own feet, I giggle. And feel content, at peace, grateful.  There’s no camera to capture the pictures of today,  but my Soul shall remember.

Rosvita Wolk -Feilinger, September 14, 2011

*Poem by Wendell Berry  The Peace of Wild things

When despair for the world grows in me,
And I wake in the night at least sound,
In fear of what my life and my children’s life might be,
I go and lie down,
Where the wood drake rests in his beauty,
On the water and the great heron feeds,
I come into the peace of wild things,
Who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. 
I come into the presence of still water
And I feel above me
the day-blind stars,
Waiting with their light.
For a time, I rest in the grace of the world,
and am free.