In Deeper Still

Steep mountains stand beside a lake ringed with trees
“In Deeper Still”, 9in x 12in, acrylic on canvas

We had crossed over the border, evading the armed soldiers who patrolled the woods. At least, we assumed it was the border. 

The lands in that wilderness were unmarked by any lines. Maps showed them, but we had lost ours days before in a windstorm. My fault, I admitted. You didn’t care.

We were following the tale about a lake where mountains plunged their roots deep under the icy water to dig for gems in the crushing earth, drawing them up through veins that glimmered when the sun lit the slopes.

“It should make a nice picture,” you said. But I had lost the camera too. Damn that skittish Arabian.

The last river we forded had a reputation — unknown to us — for surprising travelers with a surge of swirling mischief. Your horse handled it bravely. Mine spooked and tumbled me into the thieving current that carried off one of the packs.

We left both horses to graze in a meadow. I was happy to proceed on foot. You were sorry about the camera.

The next day we came to the lake. 

Two towering jewel hunters stood by the water and rumbled as they worked their stony fingers far below. Vertical streaks on their sides glowed under dull rock. At their bases grew a thriving forest. 

“This would have made a nice picture,” I said. You sighed.

The water itself glittered, hinting at treasures within reach. But we didn’t come for gemstones, we reminded each other as we explored the shoreline. No rubies, diamonds, sapphires or emeralds would tempt us away from our quest.

We had come there to know the unfathomable depths of a mountain’s desire. To let our minds follow their minds, in deeper still, where earth offers up the precious creations of its being. 

Hours we spent in tune with stone and water, alive to the mineral joys that energized this sublime labor. We would not have traded that insight for all the jewels in the land. Memories of the day, we agreed, enriched us as no earthly riches could.

But when you weren’t looking I took a bright pebble I found beside the lake.

One Leap Apart

Two cliffs face each other across a narrow canyon
“One Leap Apart”, 12in x 9in, acrylic on canvas

It was the way you waved that gave me pause. An uncertain greeting, a warning perhaps, admitting that we’d been wrong.

We stood on opposite sides of a chasm, wondering a while at the twist of the trails that had brought us apart like this, knowing we could not retrace our steps.

The earlier path we’d been on together had forked into two. They would join again soon, we were sure. On a ridge this high there was nowhere else they could go. And so, “Let’s each take one and see what we see.”

But these stone-cliff ways aren’t what they seem, as we were to find.

Each path had its own purpose, with no intent to reunite. The farther we went, the more we diverged, but didn’t know it then.

When I came to the chasm you were already there, waiting on the other side. That’s when you waved. “Our plan has been foiled.”

“This terrain is not to be trusted.”

Had either of us taken a turn where we shouldn’t? Or wandered astray, distracted by thoughts of vistas more pleasing and green? No, for no tempting byways had appeared on the separate trails. The original fault had been to follow our sundering whim.

“Could you fly?” A slight updraft had suggested my jest. The air might be buoyant and lift you.

“I would need a lighter heart.” Your own attempt at a jest.

Yes. With hearts light enough we could meet in the middle and gently ascend. No knowing where to, but a sensible map would show us the way, we were sure.

We’d have to take a daring chance.

“I’ll toss you my things, then leap across.” Which of us spoke I forget. The words resounded down down into and out of the narrow canyon.

By the time the echo faded away, we were side by side once more.