Summary: More of Scott’s musings
I wonder when it was that I had started paying so much attention to the times of the year. Although, I do remember my complete fascination with the spring equinox. Never in all my days had I ever seen anything so wondrous, or worked so incredibly hard.
I came home from calving season, bone weary and exhausted, but with an odd thrill. Life, at its most basic and most magnificent.
I wondered what today would hold. The summer solstice was upon us. The longest day of the year. At breakfast when I complained of the already mounting heat Murdoch chuckled, but Johnny laughed out right.
“This ain’t hot, brother-mine. You ain’t seen hot, yet.”
“I have survived hotter days than this, brother-mine,” I teased back. “And it’s not so humid here.”
Murdoch joined in with a laugh of his own. “True, Johnny. I’m not sure you’ve experienced the kind of humidity that Scott is talking about. That East Coast humidity will suck the life right out of you.”
Johnny tipped his head and looked at us both sideways, “I’ll take all the humidity you can give me over an August day in the Mojave, and don’t you think I won’t.”
“I’ll take your word for it,” I conceded. “So, what is on the agenda for today?” I had been here last year, but I have been informed by many that the temperatures had been quite mild and if we didn’t get weather soon, we’d be in a drought.
We headed out to ride fence line. Propping up a post here and re-stretching a line there. I learned some colorful new phrases from Johnny as he explained in passionate detail his dislike for “the evil wire”.
We worked until past the noon hour and took our lunch at the side of a wide meandering creek in the shade of some willow trees. Teresa had taken to packing our lunches with a little treat each day, so we dug in with enthusiasm. Today we got apple pie, wrapped in cheesecloth and then in newspaper. It was still messy, but you didn’t hear a complaint out of either one of us.
I had learned from Johnny that it was not good to work too soon on a full stomach. I have to admit that it still nudged at my strict upbringing, but I had learned he was right. Trotting a horse in the hot sun with a full stomach was likely to bring it back up for examination.
I stretched out on the grass and put my hat over my face. Johnny stretched out beside me and I could hear him tossing pebbles into the water. After a few minutes of silence he suddenly asked me if I could swim. I acknowledged that I could, but it still stunned me. I sometimes forget that we haven’t known each other all our lives. I had lifted my hat and watched him as he nodded. I guessed that meant he did, too, but that could have been a completely erroneous assumption on my part.
With nothing further said, I lay back in the grass. I must have drifted off to sleep because I felt a gentle tap on my arm. I ignored it until I felt it again. Forced to raise my hat and look at Johnny a second time I noticed that he was looking back at me with his finger to his lips in a shushing gesture.
I followed his gaze to a spot beyond my feet and saw a huge bird in the creek just a few feet away. It must have stood four feet tall, with a smoky gray/blue body and a long white neck. It was both elegant and awkward at the same time. It ducked its head in the water and moved on sticklike legs.
I looked back at Johnny and saw two things, one I expected and one I didn’t. He was grinning. He did that a lot, but this was one of those rare grins that lit his eyes and made him look his real age. He’s the only person I know that can bite his lip and smile at the same time. He was watching that bird with a kind of childlike wonder. As if he’d never seen anything like it before.
I suddenly felt old and jaded. Had I ever looked at anything like that? I remember the buildings back home and how big they had been. Made of brick and covered in ivy they were impressive monuments to the works of man, but I don’t remember being awed by them.
There was very little time or inclination to be awed in my travels, before, during or after the war. I don’t remember being inspired by anything I saw in my journeys. I remember the people, especially the ones with dark eyes and haunted looks. I remember New Orleans and St. Louis and other points east of the Mississippi and the large numbers of people on crutches and with other visible signs of the four years of destruction that ravaged the area.
But what of Boston? Massachusetts had numerous areas of open spaces and wildlife, but I don’t remember seeing them. If I had, had I seen them? I read Thoreau and Emerson, but I don’t think I understood them until today.
Before me sat a man who’d had so little in his life. Raised like an alley cat on wits and guts, but he still took pleasure in simple things. He laughed and was passionate and full of hope for a better tomorrow.
‘Oh, what a piece of work is man.’
I watched the bird, and I watched him, and I watched him watch the bird. I moved slowly hoping to avoid startling the bird and came to sit next to my younger brother. Shoulder to shoulder we sat for quite a long time. Long enough for the ground to feel hard on our backsides.
I compared Johnny to that Great Blue Heron before me. Graceful in his body and yet, at times, strangely awkward. Quick movements designed to insure his survival. Constantly searching and yet, not ever completely satisfied. Untamable and free and still belonging here, in this half-wild setting.
I don’t know if he moved, or if I did, or if it was some other fleeting thing that impassioned the bird to move on. With a great thump of its wings that filled our line of vision it forced itself off the ground and into the air. I could feel the power from those strong and delicate wings move my hair as I watched until it was only a speck in the sky.
Just like Johnny. If we weren’t careful he’d be gone, leaving barely a ripple in the water when he’d passed but a profound image on my soul.
I looked back at Johnny and he was grinning at me, looking boyish and happy.
“We should get a move on.” He got to his feet and slapped his hat on his leg, forthright as always.
“Times a’ wastin’,” I said before he could, which made him laugh.
Perhaps I’m learning to enjoy some of the simple things in life, too. Who would have thought that just hearing that bark of a laugh would make me feel so content. “And instead of singing like the birds, I silently smiled at my incessant good fortune.”
“You say something, brother?” Johnny asked, a serious worry line between his eyes as he mounted his horse.
“Not a thing, brother, not a thing.”
June 20, 2002