My first real breath of air smells of pine and woodsmoke. It comes to me on a cool breeze, mid-afternoon, a sunny day that becomes the kind of staple nice day that every other future nice day of my life will be compared to. I think a part of me knows that this is what it was like Before. Before everything became crowded and bustling and rushed. This is time slowed down, the seconds counted out in the rings of the trees that the makeshift roads were built around. This place looked the same yesterday as it did fifty years ago. It’s a fragment of space, eternally paused, a map drawn from landmarks instead of buildings and roads. And the glee of being here hits me, and it feels like riding a bike without holding onto the handlebars, swimming out to where my feet can’t touch the lakebed, seeing a faun grazing not ten feet in front of me as I walk back from the showers, not scared, not angry, not rushed. It feels like laying on the beach, stretched out on a worn towel, looking up on a clear night at the universe as it presents itself to me, waiting to be graced with the sight of a shooting star, locating the familiar constellations, talking or not talking, my eyes adjusting to a sight that should be more familiar than it is. Now it’s like a reward. If I leave everything that forged my impatience behind, the stars will teach me how to let the waiting moment surround me. And it doesn’t feel like waiting. I think that’s the secret. I am henceforth taught the art of genuine connection.
On the cliffside, stories are told through pictures painted in pigments, by a hand whose mouth spoke a language I could never hope to decipher, and yet the tales of good and bad and everything in between still stand out stark red against the stone walls, faded but not gone. Fifty yards due North, Old Walt watches over kayaks and canoes as they drift along, claiming to know the amplitude of time, and it seems like it might be possible, on days like this. Soon after, a loon calls for the sun to set, and the rock is set alight by the burnt orange of the sun. This is what my father calls the golden hour, and I savour it. Later, after a good meal, contentment folds me in a warm blanket, the firelight reflecting off my face and the faces of the people I love, softly singing songs by heart that my mother and father sang when they were my age. We wake up to the sounds of birds twittering and chipmunks scavenging. My mother doesn’t wear her watch here. Alarm clocks are not in the vocabulary of here. We eat when we’re hungry, sleep when we’re tired, and only make plans with words like ‘morning,’ ‘afternoon,’ and ‘night’; all things made apparent by where the sun sits in the sky. We drink real coffee, brewed from the bean, because we finally have enough time to skip the instant stuff. Sometimes I kayak early in the morning, and the water has not yet woken up, is incomprehensibly still for something so intrinsically fluid, a mirror of the clouds in the sky. Small birds hurtle toward it only to lift up at the last possible second, thrilled to be alive in such a world. And so am I. I ache to trail my fingers alongside the boat, leave a wake behind me, something to mark my existence here, even if only for a moment.
The featured image accompanying this piece, entitled ‘Birds Go South’, has been used with the permission of Malaysian artist, Airahnn. You can find out more about Airahnn on Deviant Art and Tumblr.