Saturday, December 18, 2010

Dark Regard And The Road Home

The raven is reaching a junction where a sandy path and a horse trail merge at a perpendicular angle. The former leads to the tree line and the dunes beyond, west to east. The dry, rocky soil of the other trail extends north and south along the shore. Most of the trees are low scrub pines, perhaps 15 feet tall near the dunes. They become taller as one travels west, into the hills where juniper and silver oak trees, and the occasional holly, grow increasingly common.

The large, black bird is caught in a gale fed by the sea. It loops upward, spins and then glides, finally finding a pine branch on which to rest. Sand is blowing in below, and a low fog has settled in just above the trees. There, in a stream of clear, bitter air the raven hops back and forth, calling out as it tries to hold on against the steady wind. A gust rocks the pines and they creak and groan.

On the sandy path below, a woman is quickly walking east, into the wind and toward the dunes. The smell of salt mingles with the sand that stings her eyes. Cape Cod Bay is just out of sight, cropped by those high dunes. She is wearing a black pea coat, black jeans, and gray sweater boots that run halfway up her calf. A hounds-tooth scarf is tucked into her coat, under her chin as she keeps her face fixed downward. Her hair is shoulder length and brown with an intrusion of white at the temple and down the back. Strands fly this way and that as she stops to look around. She appears to be somewhere between 45 to 55 years of age, perhaps a bit overweight, and not much more than 5 and a half feet tall.

The raven cocks his head and watches as the woman slows at the crossroad and exhales warm air onto her cold hands. "Caw, caw, caw!" the raven cries out and startles the woman. She protects her eyes with her right hand and looks upward. The two of them, the bird and the woman, consider each other for a moment. Black eyes high in the tree meet green eyes down below.

Those green eyes turn back downward for a second, but quickly go back up, and the eyes are locked again. This time, they gaze at each other for several minutes. The shroud of fog above the scene begins to sink, and the crisp air gives way to a gauzy blur. The wind has settled down a bit, and the November sky darkens slightly with the hidden sunset. It feels like a cold rain is on the way.

She checks her watch, an expensive looking Cartier, and turns back towards the west, walking slowly and trying to break the gaze of the black bird. She finally does, and kicks up some of the sand that ends just past the horse trail, her hands tucked into her pocket and her head down.

Those black eyes watch her as she passes beyond a juniper tree and quickly out of sight. The branch sways and mist envelops the bird and the perch on which it sits, and slowly the tree below. As it disappears, the wind picks up again, this time throwing grains of sand high into the trees, and it finally starts to rain.

The low, hoarse, "Caw, caw, caw!" of the raven can be heard, unseen now from the ground below. Then quiet except for the storm rolling in from Cape Cod Bay, over the dunes and westward.

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