Hold On To This...
A bit of stream of consciousness that just came to me....
“Hang on to this,” he said, and tossed her a small stone. “You’re going to need it where you’re going.”
Black and polished by some ancient river she had never seen before. She had a vague recollection of such water forces, from her youth when climbing through forests were a past-time she took for granted. She closed her eyes and tried to remember.
Green foliage rich with oxygen and growth that overlaid the sweet decay beneath. Earth that resonated with the promise of life and the history of birth, death, and rebirth like a biblical sermon. She could remember the smell of nylon, the tent, extinguished camp fires and...sex?
She could not remember who she had come here with, except that he was handsome, strong... He had convinced her to come here somehow against her city ways.
But not in the way she was in the city. In the city the cold was brutal, ruthless and disarming. It molested you without permission. No matter the price tag on your coat or your face. It left you aching and breathless without a call for help as you inched your way up the steps to your apartment.
Now she experienced cold as a reality and not a sensation. She felt one with it, with the season. An extension of her being.
It started from her center instead of her extremities. Allowing her heart and soul to warm the "cold" as it worked its way out into her limbs, beneath her long-johns and army jacket, her underwear and pants, her silly knitted wool cap shaped like a bear with little ears and eyes.
She bent down and rolled her pants’ legs up above her calves. She realized that the usual river scents weren't there: algae and rot. It was clean, swift and sterile. Because of the cold. The forest was still around her. So decadently sweet with the purity of the air that it was intoxicating. She left her boots along the banks of pale river stones and waded out into the river until she was mid-calf high.
The water was icy. It sent shivers through her body, up through her like an electric bolt of exhilarating existence. She giggled with every step, the stones shifting beneath her small feet strangely painful, and, yet, soothing.
She paused. The world was still. So very strangely still. She looked up from the water, so concentrated she had been on where she had been stepping, and took in the land around her. The sun had not yet peaked above the tree line leaving the world in a haze of pastels. Fog and mist curled along the riverbanks, mysteriously indulging the half-waking world in that land between dream and reality.
A deep guttural snort snared her attention. She whirled around and spied a massive stag elk standing several yards away on the far bank. A sensation of wonder and terror washed over her at the pure grandeur of her this creature’s stature. It stared at her, pinning her to the small patch of river where she stood, toes so cold and frozen to the stones beneath them, cuffs of her pants now soaked as the river shifted and rose slightly in tide. She stared back into those deep, soulful brown eyes that had known life and death and loyalty in a way she knew she never would.
One by one the females begun to step carefully out of the woods onto the riverbank. They paid her no mind, as if she never even existed. Only she and the stag remained locked in gaze, his herd simply a passing of beautiful, elegant chaos behind his mammoth, still stature.
As the last mare disappeared over the river and up into the forest beyond the stag snorted. He did not leave immediately, holding her gaze for a moment longer. He blinked, bowed his head softly as if to give thanks, and turned, placing one hoof slowly, majestically in front of the other with soft splashes of water, as he left the riverbank.
She turned the stone over and over in her hand, staring at it. Her hands were small. Long fingers and pale. They looked weak to the casual eye, but she knew better. They were workers’ hands, struggling hands, hands that the poor had, those that had to fight for what they had, what they believed in, for that next meal on their table, for their next month’s rent. Nails cut short, slightly dirty and frayed. Not out of neglect, but daily grind. The stone was black, shot through with a florescent marbling like a conch shell, mother of pearl she seemed to remember them calling it. Round and barely smaller than her palm. She closed her long fingers around it. Warm in her grasp. And strong.
It was the Earth she was holding
She would need this where she was going.
But where that was? No one had told her yet.