You walk straight to the back gate and tuck yourself into the tangle of fern and Elaeagnus with long, purposeful steps. One foot, then the other, away from the dusty mantle, your laptop laboring over a painful update, and the kitchen, that fat temptress with all her hidden treats.
Twenty steps, a hundred, and everything disappears—the unfinished bathroom, the circular saw on the front porch, the tile saw in the back yard, and the stacks of tile and grout and lumber. Your new reality becomes a distant memory.
It occurs to you that this is last year all over again, and here you are seeking refuge amid the trees again. Last year they took Bob apart, then put him back together, and finally sent him home to recover inch by slow inch until he could walk to the bathroom unaided.
This year your contractor friend, Trip, and his sidekick, Jerry, opened up your floors and sistered in new lumber to make them well again. They tore everything out of the master bathroom and rebuilt it from the subfloor up. A complete re-do requiring ear protection and thrift store sheets over furniture and daily vacuuming.
The trail you made three years ago hardly needs to be marked any longer. You nudge a toe under a fallen branch and flip it into the tangle. No dusting necessary out here, only flinging. You snap off a leafy limb that might have made you duck. Nothing is going to slow you down. You can smell the water in your mind.
When you reach the creek, you listen to it gurgle for a few seconds before stepping onto the rocks. You choose one in the middle and sit facing upstream. So much lazy water. You wonder when the drops sluicing past your rock fell from the sky and how far they have traveled.
You realize you are looking at the flow of time, and you try to imagine what your life would look like rendered as a creek. All those years funneling towards the trickle beside your outstretched feet. The water talks itself over the little gap and spills past.
You stand, turn, and sit facing the other direction. Now you are looking into the future. Water flowing downstream towards the Cape Fear River basin and out to sea. You see a lot of rocks and not much water and you laugh at the allegory. The life ahead won’t be so wide-open easy. You are slowing down, hurting more, remembering less.
The creek turns and vanishes, refusing to tell you what happens next. You sigh and push your body back to standing. Push past your new creakiness, shake off your lofty musings—the justifications and the doubts—and point yourself towards home.
Leaves dance above your head, and you straighten, lengthen your stride, happy to be part of this day. Just another trickle of time to be savored, then released and sent along its way.