Thursday, May 19, 2011

Backyard Fiction

DC has a lot to offer, but it comes short of providing the ideal backyard.
Nick wags his mouse, taps his password and settles into his chair for another long day sitting at his cluttered work desk and computer.  Knowing the routine, his body fades to the background and fidgets. His mind, on the other hand, runs wild, occasionally lighting upon the work he is supposed to be doing.

At the work day’s close, Nick bends in his chair, unties his brown leather dress shoes and pulls on running slippers.  The refrain of Mr. Roger’s theme song plays in his head, "would you be mine?"  He grabs his pack and races down the stairs, out the glass doors to the outside.

Warm, humid air snaps Nick from his reverie.  Clouds hang still in billowy forms.  There will be a thunderstorm later.  Nick breaks from a walk into a clumsy jog, finding his muscles stiff from sitting.  Walking again, Nick feels his body loosen and warm.

Back home Nick strips off his clothes and hesitates in his dim living room.  The couch invites him to eat, drink and be entertained by shows on TV.  First he would choose the right brew or grape to compliment his thirst, then the right snack to fit the drink, and then the right show to fit his mood.  It would be wonderful, but the next day he’d be back at his desk fidgeting and have nothing to show for his daydreams.

Escaping further distraction, Nick dons shorts of light fabric and slides his bare feet back into running slippers.  Out the door, he bounces down wooden steps, crosses the yard of ankle length grass and passes into the woods to gain a packed dirt trail.

Nick relaxes his neck and shoulders and drops his hands to the side of each hip.  He relaxes his calves and feet, letting his hips sink and knees bend deeper over a few strides.

The path descends into cooler and fresher air.  His feet pad the ground in a soothing rhythm.  He likes to begin in a state of being totally loose, on the verge of sloppiness.  Edging on sloppiness, he tightens his stride to short, quick steps.  His foot falls stiffen to a staccato tap, then soften to a seamless patter.

Nick’s speed creeps up with every wind of the path and side-stepped rock.  “Easy.”  He relaxes again and lets himself sink into the sensation of steady motion, quenching the temptation to bolt.  “Save it.”

Nick clears the woods and slows in the sudden brightness and heat.  He feels sweat bead across his back and face.  The skies have calmed and no longer promise a storm, but the light will go soon.

The path ends in a field of white granite talus and Nick’s flow of even steps breaks into syncopation.  It begins with successive hops from one boulder to the next and progresses to include the occasional palm plant, lunge and climbing move as the terrain steepens and the blocks increase in size.  Nick feels his heart speed, but his breath remains steady, his body controlled.  

The talus piles into a ridge that becomes steeper and sharper.  Out of the jumbles erupt ramparts of clean granite that curve and rise to an elegant peak atop a sheer wall.  The ridge on the far side of the peak falls and continues the curve to embrace a small emerald lake at the base of the cirque.  The orange sun appears frozen in the still sky.

Nick completes the talus and gains the ridge.  He feels the beginnings of exposure tug at his sides and slows to find a rhythm he can carry into the ramparts.  His eyes focus on the details of the stone where each finger and toe touches.  He grasps each hold firm enough to keep his body stable and to feel himself in control.  He sees his knuckles whiten.  Nick exhales and recalls the ease he found in the forest.  There had been an extended moment clear of thoughts.  Nick loosens his grip and again feels light.

The sun vanishes below the horizon to Nick’s back.  He steals a glimpse of the pale rock at the wall’s base far beneath his heals.  The void doesn’t seem real.  He twists his hip into the wall and reaches across his head to grasp the next hold on the ridge’s edge.

On the summit Nick remembers to stop and look at the view.  He doesn't feel like breaking stride, but the view will fuel daydreams tomorrow.  Nick's heart pounds.  Before it can slow, he takes off.

Nick faces out toward the dimming valley as he descends the ridge.  With a run and a jump, he ventures he could clear the valley and soar over the horizon. At a short steep section he turns and faces the mountain, carefully feeling for footholds below, then lowering himself on steady arms.  Soon, the valley is black and all he can see is the pale glow of the rock in the corner of his eyes.  At the base of the talus, Nick marvels at how little light is necessary for passing through the hills.  

Running on dirt path once again, Nick’s eyes adjust.  The air is cool and close to leaving dew.  The night reminds him of sneaking out of the house in middle school or wandering his college campus at wee hours--alone and at peace in a stolen moment.

Nick is glad as he reaches the end of the woods and sees his home.  He slows and walks across the lawn.  Images from the evening light his mind.  He sees himself from a bird’s vantage, scurrying across the sharp ridge.

Nick closes the door and kicks off his shoes.  He stands still and feels his skin cool and tighten.  He thinks back to his moment of hesitation in the same spot from earlier in the day, wonders for a moment if he’d ever left, then smiles.

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