The Rowboat

Sometimes when the wind is just right, it carries with it all the world. Today is one of those days. I stand on the end of the old dock, the one falling asleep with age and the gentle sounds of lapping waves, and close my tired eyes. The wind is warm and gorgeous. It brings the faint scent of roses, of a wild sea, and fresh cut grass. I let it inspect me, flip through me like a book. It tears out a page of my story and carries it off with the rest. Once it’s gone, I wonder at which part it took. What part of me is important enough to run with the wind? Rummaging back through my memory, I toss, sort and separate. My time is coming to a close and the wind wanted something of me to keep. But what?

All seven of my summers have been spent at this lake. Mine has been a childhood, a life, filled with chocolate cakes, Dr. Seuss, tippy toes and love. But I have always been different from the other kids. I am brought more easily to tears. The song of a bird, the call of a frog, or the smell of BBQ can take me to the edge, then along comes a smile, or Popsicle or perfect cloud and I’m undone. On most days, feelings open up and slip into the shape of tears. The world is filled with so much beauty, so much wonder, and I only get a few years.

Everything and everyone I come across is something or someone I want to keep. I fill my pockets with pieces of it all, small stones, ketchup packets, the nail trimmings from my cat. They never weigh me down, these pockets filled with life. I see myself in all of it, and it in me.

Now, I stand on the splintered dock, thinking hard, as my shadow stretches to sinewy length. What piece has been carried off by that wind? A dog barks somewhere behind me. It’s our neighbor’s lab, the one with the lovely sad eyes. They are brown and watery and match Mr. Johnson’s eyes. His grandson came to visit once. We shared stories, hot dogs, and bubblegum. And on the day he left, he took my hand and put a single yellow flower in my palm. A dandelion. I thought I’d explode right there, burst into thousands of pieces of glass, or light—or stars. All the world must have rallied! The fates had aligned and placed this boy, this gift from God, on my cursory path.

“My true love!” I had screamed.

He had run away.

I didn’t mind.

I watched the dandelion daily as its life, moment to moment, faded further away.

Perhaps that was the moment the wind chose to take?

But, then I think of the boat.

Grandpa’s tiny white rowboat. I wasn’t allowed to go in it, everyone was too afraid, concerned that the dying girl — might die. It was gone now, that little boat. People say it just disappeared one night. That sweet old boat, with a single stripe of faded blue, along the sides and such a heap of memories it must’ve just upped and drowned. I had watched it sit alone summer after summer, gazing at the other boats float by, carried by soft rippling currents, born on the words of lovers, or the liquid laughter of children, or by the contemplations of fishermen who awoke early with the fog. I would stare out at the boat from my bedroom window. Did it know that you didn’t have to be one of the boats people laughed in or fished in or whispered words of love to, to be a part of this world? That little boat that never left the side of the dock was the most beautiful of all. A floating piece of dream. Like a part of the sky had fallen and had been left to rest here, just for me. Once, on a night so deep the crickets were asleep, and the front door forgot to squeak, I snuck out, feet bare against the dewy grass, and stole the little white boat from this sagging dock. I untied the rope and set it, and myself, free. That boat was steady and sure. We drifted out together, that boat and I. The moon so absent, you could forget it had ever existed at all. I rowed it to the center of the lake, and then just let it float. The dark water around us reflected the heavens as if the universe was both above and below. And the little white boat and me, we were one of the many stars. One of the bright specks of hope on which people would make a wish.

It was then I knew.

The road ahead dipped and curved well beyond this little life I’d led.

I was going home.

And I was glad.

And that was the moment. I am sure. The moment the wind took. Long after I am gone, that night will live on. It will blow out over oceans and seas, and through colorful autumn leaves. It will whisper to dogs and cats, and clouds and stones. In winter, it will circle Christmas trees and brush against gingerbread warm from the oven. It will trickle into spring like an invisible stream of quiet hope and caress the soft growing buds. And somehow, it will find its way back to summer, and possibly to this dock.

And it will serenade the dandelions. They will fade from mere mustard dots amongst the more beloved flowers, and dying, transform into downy wishes, whose seeds will spread out into the world. And this, sweetest of breeze, this breath of my tiny moment, will be carried out. And among the others, will be the echo of a story, of a very special boat and the little girl who loved it.

And, somehow, we both will be remembered.


For the image above, and other artwork I created inspired by my short stories, please visit my artist page on Redbubble.

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