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Part 34: Sharp Top
If the clearing had been a place to rest before the hard climb, then our kisses must have been the batteries to recharge us. The rest of the hike took close to two hours and we pushed ourselves to the limit to achieve the rocky summit. As brush and dirt slowly turned to rocks and bare leafless trees, the trail wound us up and around outcroppings that in older days must have been hard to navigate without the clear marked trail we had. As we reached the top, we noticed just how popular a spot this was. Varied groups of people had also made the hike and were milled about on the rocks enjoying a 360 degree view of the valley below. Kids jumped from rock to rock in a carefree exploration that could never be achieved behind a video game console. Couples leaned on each other sharing quiet reflective moments, filled with a sense of wonder about the world around them and how the open skies were truly the limit, not only here on this mountaintop, but for the rest of their lives. An elderly couple, whom I found hard to believe to have made the hike, sat on a bench outside an old weather worn cabin that had been built ages ago among the huge rock outcroppings. A peek inside showed us it was empty except for an open fireplace. The elderly man spoke up. “It’s a good place to get out of the wind and rain when it picks up.”
“Yeah, I imagine. How long did it take you to make the hike?”
“Oh, I don’t know. “ He looked over at his wife. “What do you think, Hon? About an hour?”
“Yes,“ she said, smiling at us both. “Thereabouts, I guess.”
I looked at Summer with a shocked look. Here it had taken us three hours and they had made it in one.
“Of course twenty minutes of that was on the bus,” the man added.
“Yeah, go down that little trail right there and it’s a bus stop. Last one leaves out right before sunset though, so if ya’ll are here for that, I’m afraid you’ll just have to roll down the hill on your own.”
“A bus,“ I said to Summer. “Now, why didn’t we think of that?”
“It’s still a little walk from here,“ the elderly missus told us. “Bus has to stop when it starts getting rocky. But it does save some wear on the feet.”
“This is his first hike in a while,” Summer replied.
“Oh me. Well then, you better take care of this fellow tonight. He won’t be good for nothing else after this mountain is through with him.”
“Oh Ma, leave them alone,“ her husband playfully admonished. “They look like a right perfect couple.”
A right perfect couple. I looked at Summer and she smiled at me. I could see it in her eyes, the want. Like me, that’s what she wanted out of life – to be part of something right, something perfect. Something we had never found with anyone else before. And yet here on this rocky mountaintop in front of this elderly couple who had shared years and years of sunsets, it somehow dawned on us – we were no longer two people walking through life alone and miserable. We were a couple stepping bravely into the unknown, knowing it was right, and that our companion was the most perfect one the heavens could ever have placed here for us.
What was left of the afternoon we spent among the rocks of Sharp Top. Sitting on top of a huge flat boulder resting between two others rocks of even larger size, we felt the wind and sun on our faces. Her head leaning on my shoulder with my arm protective around her, we sat in silence, comforted in the closeness of each other and the sheer wastefulness of the day. Other visitors also enjoyed the day, yet kept their distance from us, maybe realizing this was something special at work, a tender relationship developing before their eyes and they didn’t want to hinder its growth. As the day grew later, people began to wind back down the mountainside, either the way they had come or down the smaller trail to catch the bus. As the sun began its slow descent and the colors of the clouds began to change, we found ourselves with a slight sunburn from being outside all day. But it wasn’t the heat of the burn that warmed us from the inside out; it was knowing that we had each other to share this beautiful day with. As she rested against me, I found myself wishing that somehow we could have just as many sunsets together as the elderly couple sitting outside the cabin.
It was this thought – the prospect of other sunsets – that got me to thinking about the future and what would come after these days at Orchard House. “Summer,” I asked. “Do you really think I should pick up writing again?”
She smiled. “Yes I do. I think it’s something you’ve always wanted to do, but for some reason you set it down and never picked it back up. It’s in your blood though. You just need something or someone to get your writing blood pumping again.”
“I’ve never had anyone to push me to do anything. No one really encouraged me to keep writing.”
“Ashley?” she asked.
“No, she just had the attitude of do what you want as long as it doesn’t affect what I want.” I sighed. “She never really cared what I wrote.”
“That’s why when I was into the poetry thing I never wrote her anything.”
“Nobody ever wrote me anything either.”
I smiled. Looking at her now in the late afternoon sun, I could write volumes of it.
Summer patted my hand. “You really should write, Matthew. Your description of our kiss was amazing.”
“Our kiss was amazing.”
“Yes it was.”
“I hope there’s many more,” I ventured.
Her smile said it all. “Me too.”
We sat there a few more minutes on our rocky perch in silence. It was so peaceful. Even more so that the sun was dipping. We watched the last remaining families make their way to the paths and for a moment I thought I heard the bus straining its way up the mountain. “Want to stay and watch the sunset? Or do you want to catch the last bus down?”
She leaned closer to me. “If you don’t mind, I’d like to stay. I really want to see the sunset with you. “
“I want to see it with you, too.”
“If your legs are too tired to make the hike down though..”
“I’m okay. You can just roll me down the trail like a spare tire.”
She laughed. “As long as I don’t have to change you.”
“You already have.”
“You have changed me too, Matthew.”
“So, what’s next for you?”
“What do you mean?”
“After you finish up all your mom’s affairs. What are you going to do?”
“I don’t know really. All my life I have worked in restaurants or retail. It’s really all I know to do, and yet I don’t want to do it anymore. “
“What would be your ideal job then?”
A wistful look came across her face. “I’d love to work in a nursery.”
She laughed. “No. flowers.”
“Yeah, I love flowers and gardening. It’s so relaxing. I picked it up from my mom. She always had a wonderful garden, and as a kid I helped her a lot. Maybe in that sense, I can hang onto a little piece of her through gardening, you know?”
“Yeah, I know,” I agreed. “I kind of did the opposite with writing. When my folks died, I quit writing. It reminded me of them, how they had encouraged me and were proud of me. It’s just when I pick up a pen now I think of them and it bums me out.”
“Well, why don’t you write a story for them? I mean, you could write about Hope and Gunboats there at Orchard House, but you could also write it for your parents, too.”
“I guess it’s worth a shot. Hey look at that…” I pointed at the sky. It was really changing colors now. Clouds were streaked with orange as they sailed across the sky; a sky that was now shifting from orange to burgundy.
“It’s beautiful,” Summer said.
“Yeah. It reminds me of a poem.”
I looked down into her face, daring to look at her dark eyes, now reflecting the colors of cloud and sky back at me. I closed my eyes for a moment. When I opened them up again, Summer was staring into my face, perhaps watching my eyes reflect the wondrous sunset too. In that moment, the words finally came easy for me.
“If we could stay here forever,
Under the shimmering velvet sky
To run my fingers through your chestnut hair
And never say goodbye;
We could watch the colors swirl
At the closing of the day
From the clouds above the mountaintops
To where we softly lay
Your face turned upwards to the light
The sun catches your dark eyes
Oh, if we could only stay here forever
Under the shimmering velvet sky.”
She was silent for a moment, but a certain glow had come across her face. “Wow,” she said. “That was beautiful. Who wrote it?”
“I just did.”
She smiled. “For me?”
“For you. The poem no one had written you before.”
“I…” she hesitated. There was the beginning of a tear in her eye and she wiped it away with the back of her hand. I could tell she was struggling with what to say, until finally the words she mustered were a simple “thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” I said, and though I felt there was more both of us wanted to say in this moment, we just let the echo of the poem speak what we felt, as we held each other and watched the sun dip and disappear on the far horizon.
“Orchard House & The Heart Of Everything” 2016 Paul D Aronson.