a river to the sea

The strange, quiet woman sits near me on a log in the middle of the river. It's a raft of a log, a water-sogged tree-trunk settled onto boulders where the high-rains left it. Dark and punky on the underside and deep in past the top layer, which is bleached and brittle in the sun.

The woman sits there, not saying much, as I fill the air with the noise of desperate, strung-together words. Not desperate in some frantic way, but in a quiet way that can't quite sink into silence -- doesn't yet want to risk what I'll find if I join this woman in her way-off way of looking. Of seeing.

She's a strange one, this. Dressed gypsy-like, in the thick knits of a woman raised away from glossy pages promising meaning and fulfillment through a plastered-on ideal. There's a roundedness to her -- a soft naïveté that feels like Prince Myshkin, as a woman. Or Jesus. Like one of those god-dropped angels, the down-syndromed holy ones who walk among us.

There's something else, though. I can't help but think of her as weird, too, in an almost-witchy way. Where's your kettle, silent-woman? Where's your magic, mirrored brew?

At last I stop talking. The rippled sound of the river rises all around us, and I begin to hear birds, insects, and my own subtle breath. I think about that breath as I pull in the warm, wet air of autumn and breath it out again, changed. I think of this body of mine, so seemingly invulnerable, yet so fragile, frail. So open to a thousand subtle and violent shocks that could rip it from me and I from it... to what?

Each breath a gift, stolen from a virus I somehow miss ingesting, or a poisonous water snake perhaps buried under this very log, who decides he'd rather sleep a little longer than surprise me up here on this, his sun-baked home.

She speaks, then.

She tells me that God has shown her something, then qualifies to say she thinks he might have, and wonders if I'd like to hear what it is. She promises a vision, arcing from a parallel reality to her, and glancing off onto me.

I've heard this once before, this promise of a Word for me, from Beyond. But that was couched in the smoke and mirrors of sound and song, the frantic fabrications of a church service designed to invoke an emotive state to drag me ever forward (I cynically reflect) to the offering plate. This is different. This is quiet, and calm, and so as the river flows around us I nod, yeah-sure... okay.

I try to hide from her the doubt I feel -- the disbelief that this strange young woman I've known for a day will have something real to offer. I am here, after all, to make her feel welcome on her meandering path south, bound as she is toward a hopeful unknown. She wants to be an artist. She thinks I am one, so she has been listening as I have cobbled together bits and pieces of thought, making them into an understanding of this journey of my own.

A writer, am I? A storyteller? Or just a noisy fool, trying in his folly to drown out a river with his words.

She says she sees a faucet. Almost off, cranked so very, very tight. There's pain in that tightness, and struggle, as each new drip flows not easy but hard, winding slowly around each thread to fall, at last, free. I am the faucet. I am the water. I am the eyes that watch this struggle, focusing on the slow, unrelenting pain of the process.

And then, she says, God says to stop. Says to look away from the faucet and the drops and the struggle and see what I have been too focused on the pain to notice -- that slowly, inexorably, my many, many drips have made below a vast sea. That the time is ripe, and the sea has risen. That now -- this very year -- the time has come for me to dive into that refreshing reality. To accept that it is here.

Silence, again.

I thank her, because I do not know what else to say. Like all witches, fairies, or elves, she cannot be taken as an Ordinary. She cannot be heard by the wise as anything other than a voice, speaking out music at once beautiful and dangerous. Am I mocked? Promised? Tricked, perhaps, into a lulled complacency?

Who can know?

All I know is that I feel assured, and that for a moment the anxiety of the clamped-down faucet she so aptly describes just drifts away, dumped out onto the water below like handfuls of dry, brittle autumn leaves. I watch them bob and whirl their way downstream, channeling between rocks and around more logs, catching here and there a moment to rest, before continuing on their way.

The next day, the woman is gone.

I am alone, again, in my cinder-block shed. Just me and the ivy choking out my window, wrapping around the bird feeder that draws in my only visitors for days -- weeks. Finches, cardinals, sparrows, wrens. And on the sill below there are mice, scampering their way here along the vines from God-knows-where, to grab the seeds the birds have scratched away. To live their quiet, furry lives in holes, in walls, in the spaces in between.

I sit here watching them. I sit and I write and I stare at this screen and write some more, willing worlds into being and hoping that one day, if I squeeze hard enough, the words will fall together into a sea where others, too, can swim.

- - -

*Note: I put a lot of time into giving you this (ad-free) reading experience. If this post means something to you, you are more than welcome to pay me back by linking the bejeebers out of it on your social medias. And/or better yet, you could go pick up a copy of my book, "IMMORTALITY (and other short stories)." Dankegratzithanks.


  1. Quite a dramatic delight is this stream and the witchy-woman. She speaks out of her vision/inspiration to tell you what we (the readership of this tapdripping aqua-blog) already know. You are leaking. It is a gooooood leak. Do not go to Lowes and buy any leak-prevention. Preferably, get the tap to open freely. Or, alternatively, as you say, recognize the sea around you. I do.

    1. Thank you. You're very kind. And also -- leaking out a sea. Go swimming!


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