Tuesday, November 13, 2012


You come here again, knowing there is something about the place which touches your soul. In absent moments, when you surrender to the feeling of the land, you know that there is some quiet mystery here, some sense of peace which you choose not to explain. There seems, at first, nothing special about this place; a dead-end valley hemmed by low hills, empty mostly, save for a few dog-walkers on weekends. You wonder why this place holds such resonance, the way that the hiss of the stream echoes around the valley, as though the hills themselves were composed of sound.
Above the waterfall, the valley opens to a broad basin of sedge and moss, rimmed by blocks of forest which, today, are still in the absence of breeze. The larches are shedding their needles, a thistledown covering of gold to the forest track. You have passed through this hidden valley so many times that it becomes like a touchstone, a talisman to remind you that the land is kind. Most times, you are on your way to somewhere else, returning from a walk on the hills, following the track down the valley as the light fades. Today you have come here for the valley itself, to test the peace which you believe exists here outside of all human bidding.
You see deer here sometimes, vivid in the afternoon sun, grazing in the pools of space between the trees. Flushing them with the noise of your passing, they slip through the young conifers at the edge of your vision, the way that a dream recedes in the waking light. They seem to own this place, so that your presence here is a gift, a conferring of privilege which you must guard with care. You imagine that the passing birds fly slower here, then smile at the foolishness of the thought.
You feel drawn to this place because of the way the rivers dance through the folds of land, meandering in a rhythm which only they understand. There is a sense of accommodation here, an adaptation to the shape of the gravel bluffs which fringe the river, a harmony which seems effortless to your modern, cluttered mind. In flood, after heavy rains, the shingle bars of the streams shift and flex, adapting themselves to the muscled water. Sometimes, when you come here, the boulders in the river have moved, the stepping stones at the crossing place askew.
Standing at the confluence of the two mountain streams, there are no stories, no answers. You stand in the gravel shallows and look from one stream to the other, pouring their waters into the broad channel as they have always done when you have come here. And somehow this makes you think of the way that two lives merge to become one, flowing together yet distinct until, spilled into a pool of riffles and stones, it is impossible to tell them apart.