[continued from retreat]
the amen rings, she stops the piano.
we have been, 20 minutes and more, seeking g-d through prayer. chair to floor, they ring the room. they are scattered hopes and dreams, jeans and long hair. broken-winged, the wet tissues are everywhere. no one has enough to dry their sorrows. they call it g-d’s spirit.
my mind wanders.
outside, blue to grey, smoke lingers between the hills. we occupy green between smokes and darks. a rare year-round creek laughs and crackles its way through aspen, through little flowers.
the peaks have burned more than once.
trees beacon themselves, every flame a burnt prayer. they, rising and falling. false thermals give faith pause. they fall, like my own words. we are both, faithless in the burn of doubt. i crave the truth of ash and smoke, the bones of the mountains.
this green soft only hides the lie of hopes.
‘And now, Ladies, now that we’ve sought G-d’s healing, let us take time to meditate on these things. You have the next few hours free to do as you like. You can hike, or stay and pray, you can be in groups, you can walk by the water, just be safe in what you do. And remember, seek G-d.’
we are free.
i am hand to shoes, barefoot to the door.
the jaggedest edges of the peaks call my name. but they are standing, waiting, talking, reaching. hand to skin, the hugs come from every direction, caging love.
there is no route to door.
‘Shade, Shade, where are you going? Why don’t you want to spend time with us?’
‘i want to go on a walk.’
‘Oh, well that sounds nice. We might go on a nice little walk by the water. Why don’t you join us?’
‘Oh yes, we are going to have a small little walk. It will be easy. No one will get tired or sweaty. It will be perfect. We can all talk about what G-d is doing in our hearts.’
‘no, i’d like to go on a walk alone.’
‘Oh, Shade, you don’t really want to be alone. And besides, where would you go?’
‘there. i want to go up there.’
my hands sketch the tallest bluffs. they hover deep, shrill against the green. dust-dry and heavy, rocks line the way. it sheers almost straight up from us. i need to be the angle of incidence, sky to shadow, foot to ground. i need to climb.
‘No, Shade, that’s too hard. It’s too dangerous. Come with us.’
‘no, i want to go this way’
‘You will be lonely.’
‘i will be fine.’
‘i know what i am doing.’
‘Don’t be like this. Don’t be difficult.’
‘i will be fine, i’ll see you later.’
the mountain calls.
‘Fine, Shade. Fine. If you’re going to be like that. We will just come with you. Are you happy now?’
i keep walking. step step step, trail winds switchback against gravity, but their voices follow. little thorns of laughter, manicured nails painted against the sagebrush. i start cutting across the trail.
‘Ew, it stinks out here.’
‘What kind of person has fun out here? Why are we doing this?’
‘Shhh. She will hear you. She thinks this is fun. We’re supposed to show her we like her.’
i keep walking.
step, step, step, dust between my toes. air thins, and sage promises silver at dusk. and then sky opens. their voices fall behind, they are gravity-weighted, flat-footed. i am alone.
sky wheels, stretches under my skin.
the edges of sky are all shifted smoke, the burn grows and grows. without enough water, without enough firefighters, the mountains eat their dead, tree by field. we will ash-choked drive through the remains tomorrow. mile for mile, blue feeds world.
mile for mile, red eats green.
‘Shade, really. Are you done yet? A storm is coming.’
‘i’m ok! go on back, i will be fine.’
because it’s this, the cool shifting and wind’s regret sighing between skin and dream. this calls me.
lightning finds ground, slamming its refrain. one one thousand, two mississippi, three… air dances with promise, and its ancient twin roars through me. thunder, lightning, thunder thunder. sky runs cold, white, metal. skin-wild comes the rain.
gone the faith, gone the half-formed words.
i am being washed clean.