An Appalachian visit to my sister, her daughter, and their red dog.
Some days we drove,
my mother and sister and I,
skirting the Blue Ridges,
layers of smokey blue that rode away into the horizon like a tide.
Through rolling hills of green that fold back and forth onto themselves
as far as my eye could see.
Miles and miles of trees that thronged with birds,
red birds, blue birds, yellow, brown.
Birds as unfamiliar to me as the very air here.
And overhead, birds of prey wheel and cry like falling stars from some ancient tale we never knew.
On the way, we sang songs to our small travelling companion,
our little stalwart passenger whose bright presence was our totem, our lucky charm.
We delved into caves,
great endless milky caverns where we stood enthralled
listened to the rocks as they sang to us
a deep melancholy song,
a song we could not decipher,
a story as old as the earth itself.
And I could not help but dwell in my mind,
ponder, on what these lands were like
when smoke rose in the distance,
when the earth ran with blood
and your sons marched away over the mountains,
those boys of yours, tenderhearted, naive, awash with bravado and terror.
Marched away and did not come home.
Everything I saw was new, yet so familiar, like a memory, or a deep knowledge I had forgotten, that now stirs with something like hope.
The unfamiliar birdsong,
the clamouring, legendary brood II cicadas, heard with disbelief in the place Jefferson heard them,
fireflies in my bedroom,
the scent of skunk that greets us on the doorstep in the morning,
the kindness of strangers,
but most of all, those mountains.
I will hold on to those.
It is morning now, and today I will be returning to my home,
back to my dearlings and my sea, my heart sore and yearning for them now.
Though how I will say goodbye to my sister, and to this other tiny dearling who has a hold on my heart,
and to the red dog, I do not know. for they are leaving this place too,
beginning a new part of their story when they join her husband in Mexico.
And it's true also, I find myself heartbroken to be leaving these mountains,
these blue endless, mysterious mountains that are not mine, yet somehow have a hold on me,
have burrowed under my skin a desire to come back.
And I thought my heart was already full.