The Winter Walk

The Winter Walk

The clouds were misty and just out of reach over my head, and there was a ribbon of sand between the snow covered beach and the quiet, slush fringed river. Our dog, returning to her puppy-hood was running and circus jumping through the snow drifts, over the hidden slopes and rocks, then racing back across the empty strip of sand and into the warm river, to bark euphorically and begin all over again. Her black tail bobbed and rose, over each snowdrift, a bouncing flag commanding joy. My husband and I walked along slowly, watching her play, sometimes making footprints in the four inch deep snow, and sometimes on the pebbly grains, the three of us alone with the winter weekday Sauvie Island emptiness. Other familes were perhaps snug at their kitchen tables or cozy before their fires, but we faced into the frosty air and journeyed, hugging our back-packed picnics close, stopping to gaze into the mythical gray distance of the vanishing Columbia River. The familiar landmarks on the beach were hard to recognize beneath the blanket of bridal white, but the heaps of tiny crystals did not quite cloak the painful memories of that shore. The snow, like the veil of time, could only partly cover the sadness of past picnics and the absence of one dear picnicker. It was his childlike smile that still came unbidden to my mind, my big-sister eyes loving him as he toddled on another beach, so many years ago. But it was his man laugh that suddenly came into my inner ear, making me smile, before the crushing scenes of his last days turned my smile down. He would have loved to be here on that day, making footprints, sharing a little fire of twigs, throwing a stick for our dog. She loved that picnicker, too.
We found no remnants of other travelers that afternoon, except the chattering noises of the forest creatures, celebrating the space between the storms. Later, as we sat on a brushed off log, eating dark chocolate to spice the hushing cold, a blue heron rose and soared across our perch: elegant and graceful, a vision against a leaden sky. Like the snowy beach, its beauty caught our breath; until its harsh and bitter cry rent the freezing air.

2 Responses to “The Winter Walk”
  1. Anonymous says:

    I really felt that the author was just talking to me or even talking to herself…very unselfconscious. I was so drawn in…where is she now; what is she doing.

  2. Marion says:

    Gayle,I liked "slush fringed river" and "bridal white." I love that we get to see this picnicker and several different ages. The description of the landscape really reflected an internal loneliness. Thanks for sharing!

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