the cove

The back roads smelled of lilacs, the sun high in the sky. Rubber met hot cement at fifty miles an hour then slowed to a purr as the road narrowed then crested before spilling into the mouth of the cove. Once there, I dismounted and wandered toward the water to perch myself in the warm, smooth hollow of a boulder easily twice my size. Wind whistled through my helmet, its gusts playfully shoving me around. I could swear the rock and the land beneath me were moving, felt as if I were on a ship out at sea.

Several yards off lay a wooden canoe, stranded, half of its green body dipped in water tugging at its belly. A breakwater cloaked in seaweed and kelp stretched into the waves like a golden arm. On a nearby beach a boy in shorts and sneakers crunched across pebbles and skipped rocks sidearm into the bay. The sky shined clear, scant clouds clinging to the horizon just above a thick band of trees. The clouds looked lonely and for a moment I wished for them that they could possess life. But as I began to consider what that meant—life's pain and struggle and hardship—I realized that they were better off simply floating then dissolving into nothing as if on a whim. Perhaps one day I’ll be like one of those clouds, I thought—I hoped.

As the wind picked up, tiny whitecaps formed like thousands of fingers crawling toward shore. Each had a voice of its own and they spoke to me in a hush as if a river falling over stones. Voices came to me, too, from the rustling leaves and the birds and a great calm embraced me as I closed my eyes to the sun. I hope my boy is okay, I thought, keenly aware of my fear of seizures or of injury from a bad fall or of some hurt that he can't voice. If only for a moment my worry, like heavy stones in my pockets, drown there in sun and wind and waves and clouds and leaves and birds.

I flared my nostrils and took in the salty breeze off the delta, which the tide had begun slowly reclaiming. The place reminded me of the clam flats and oyster beds of Hood Canal where I’d often spent summer vacations as a kid. Dad used to set me on his shoulders to hike the muddy trail from campsite to delta and back. Mom, crouched in a half-submerged folding chair shucking oysters into a bucket between her boots, became a perfect mental snapshot. Dad dug elbow deep for geoducks while the rest of us clowned around shoving each other into holes hidden by the murky water, which then filled our boots. My kids will do this some day, I'd thought—I'd hoped.

As I left the place, I glanced back at the boy who’d been tossing rocks. He and his companion were resting in the sun on their own boulders, clouds skirting around the edges of things and the voices of the cove whispering, hush, hush.

photo by Michael Kolster

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