Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Quarry

It was the time of living on the knife edge.

He sought peace everywhere but within, because there was no sign of it there. One washed out November day, under a stony sky, he went up into the woods. He might've been trying to escape the maras, but he knew better that once they had your scent, there was no escaping them. He climbed a steep path to the top of a ridge, pausing to rest for a few minutes after the ascent. Then he went on, trying to find the trail that he couldn't find in the midst of summer. Maybe it was better hidden by the foliage then. The bare branches aided visibility this time, and he could see the quarry pond through them. He followed a detour he couldn't recall from last time, and found the lost trail.

He stopped where the hiking group had stopped before, a few years before, and had gone no further because further on was private property. He read the Posted sign, and then passed by it. After a short distance, the path veered back down steeply, toward the quarry pond. It was damp and brown, slicked by the sliding boots of previous travelers. He started warily down with half steps...and then heard voices. Two men approached from his right. He lay back against the cold earth, behind the gray and brown stalks of dead goldenrod and leafless bushes. He was well above them, probably 30-40 feet, and they passed in conversation, oblivious to his presence. After they drifted beyond hearing, he crept down further to the edge of the trail. He heard their voices again as they returned. He hurried back up the path, struggling to find a solid foothold. He grabbed the hard stalks to assist him. He ducked down again as they passed a second time. He watched them return to their vehicles and drive once again down the path, which was just wide enough for a vehicle. They passed by slowly, and he could discern as they went that they followed the gravel drive all the way around the pond. He stayed hidden until they were out of sight. Assured that no one else was nearby, he finally set foot on where they'd driven and walked up to the large berm that surrounded the pond. A frog hopped gingerly away as he got close. The movement startled him. A few ducks paddled out on its softly rippled surface. The berm dropped away to the water's edge. The shore was not inviting. He decided against going any further.

More voices, approaching from his left. He scrambled again back up the path, his feet avoiding the soil in favor of the grass. Part of the path was so steep, it was like climbing the face of a mountain. He made the top again and paused, breathing heavily. His heart was stomping in his chest. His lips and mouth were dry, but then they often were these days, even when resting. There was peace here, but it wouldn't enter him. Or he couldn't enter it.

He wanted to come here because it had inspired a story he'd written once. He imagined the ground near the pond for the tale, having never observed it closely before. It wasn't exactly like his descriptions, nor was it far off. He'd has a sense of it, enough to make it reasonably familiar to him. He was angry at whoever dared to call it private land. The land outlasted all people. It couldn't be owned by anyone. After a life bitterly spent, it was people who returned to the land.

He sat for a while back in the park territory, looking out over the water toward the opposite hillside. Fall colors splashed across his vision. The unwelcome noise of a mower, or maybe a leaf blower. His lonely sojourn yielded him no rest. It might have been the chill wind, or the intrusion of strangers where he desired none. In any case, it awakened his hunger, and he decided to head back. It would be dark soon, though it was only 3:30. Peace would have to wait.

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