Memory has vexed me of late, hence the suddenness of these prose spillings from life drawn of days passed. Memory of yesterday, memory of yesteryear, memory of walking out the door and in the door. Memory… A curse and a blessing. A road upon which we travel both willingly and unwillingly. Memory… Glance upon what is and what was. Therein you realize its potent friendship and its spiteful devilry. Memory… Cut me deep and love me deeper.
Before each step reaches the sleeping grass drawn in winter’s brown, the telltale crunch of dry leaves and twigs already sounds into the cold air. Measured footfalls carry me forward ever slowly, ever carefully. Suspended on a carpet woven by nature and spread in all directions, I walk silently in the night.
Morning has yet to reach this place. Gilt warms the eastern horizon with the day’s promise as friendly hues of amber and crimson reach into the sky with delicate fingers. Too soon will the sun visit me, and too soon will it bring forth the hordes of those too frightened of the dark yet too brave in the light. But for now, at least, the lake welcomes only me.
Perhaps in declaration of the dawn, a gull’s shrill cry echoes across the water. I listen intently as the penetrating sound flies effortlessly to the opposite shore before returning. Yet like the rapidly disappearing night, the avian exclamation dies on the cold morning air before its second life is lived. So it shrieks again. This time more voices fill the gossamer air, more gulls bellow into faint morning light.
Stirring only a short distance from shore, dark silhouettes of unidentifiable waterfowl tell me some have risen early for breakfast, while similar stirrings in the brush nearby tell me others have not yet taken their first steps of the day. I look with eyes hungry to consume all that can be seen, and I listen with equally ravenous ears desirous of that which can only be heard. And I continue walking.
Finally standing upon the pier above gentle waves lapping beneath me, a breeze caresses my cheek with cool affection. It rushes by in carefree folly and the encounter is over before it begins, my skin left slightly cooler by the invisible lover. Although I can not see it, I hear it fly along above the water’s surface, scatter a few dead leaves it wrestles along the way, and finally leap ashore not too distant from where I stand. It’s gone even while I hope for its return, perhaps only to share the moment with such a free spirit.
I start at the nearness of another gull screeching into the night. But the darkness draws to a close ever more quickly as an eager star claws its way toward daylight. Over my shoulder toward the east, the sky offers new warmth. I am reminded of a single candle burning on a desk, a wooden desk in an otherwise unlit home. Flickering casts amiable shadows on the walls. Sitting at that desk near to that candle, I picture myself wishing that its flame cease burning for but a moment more.
When I look again to the east, the candle has grown brighter still, and looking carefully toward the water reveals my own shadow drawn on a canvas of shadow. Too soon will the day break. I am not ready to leave the night, but I likewise doubt I have a choice.
As the gull again cries even nearer than before, I set my eyes upon its form floating lazily in the water only a stone’s throw away. The dark can not stop me from seeing it clearly now, from seeing its eyes cast in my direction as its voice calls out one more time. Harsh and wonderful, I let its greeting pass through me and around me, and I wear it like a blanket on a cool night in front of a campfire.
Is it loneliness, dearest bird, that makes you speak to me? Or do you hope I have some offering upon which you might dine? I hope it is the former and not the latter.
For both of us, my gull friend, cry aloud and cry often. Let your voice shatter the morning like the rising sun. Call out your desperation for companionship, for but a hint of attention from some other life, and I will share the moment with you here in this place.
Speaking for both of us, cry your heart out. The lake will welcome your tears like rain. I will welcome them like a brother.