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The International Writers Magazine: Dreamscapes Summer stories

Conversations With the Trees
Karen Maxwell

We pushed off from the side of the lake with Jonathan’s strong arms and his paddle extended onto the shore line. We paddled into the center on our way, to cross over, to the other side. I sat straight with the paddle in my hands grasp.
The water was layered in the light from the sun. The top surface had mosquitoes and darning needles skidding around in the late morning air. The next layer was swimming with dark lake-colored fish, about nine inches long and rising closer to the surface when the insects flirted with a landing on the water port. The insect’s radar was finely tuned and rare was the fish with a belly filled with this summer’s lost bug.
Our kayak was a plastic tub it resonated a hollow sound from our paddles that hit into it. We were not always in unison. We relied on our discussions for our rhythm.
I watched the trees move slightly as we paddled along the edge of the lake. We hit a rock and stayed there for awhile without talking. We pulled our paddles out of the water and watched the conversation take place in the world of Lake Tiorati.
Later we fell into the womb between the mountains and the trees. The roots siphoned the rain before it could evaporate into the clouds or seep into the lake. The trees had returned to the new green color of summer. Somehow, I know that trees can talk and that a tree is more than a tree.  An aqua winged bug landed on the tip of the kayak. It looked at me as I watched to see if it had a needle, a point or a stinger. It tilted forward as if it were on its knees. The wings stopped flapping and there was a movement with its head, a feathery profile in the sun dropping its waste or spit on the boat below its wings. We stopped moving. Jonathan told me not to move, “It’s not going to do anything,” he reminded me. The lake water lapped against our kayak - rocking in the motion with the wind. I stayed still. Silent. The wings were transparent and as the background changed for our visitor so did its color.
Jonathan placed his hand on my back in the center. I could feel the heat. His palm with his fingers stretched toward my shoulders. A second insect hummed around and landed on the kayak in close proximity to our first new friend. It flapped hard and tipped forward like a helicopter crashing onto its nose. Jonathan’s touch was warming me and extending to me. It reached my neck where I started to sweat. The first insect had flown away and I didn’t notice. I had been so focused on the newer addition to the family that I realized he was missing when it was too late.
Jonathan started to paddle. I grabbed my paddle to row ignoring the insides of my thumbs that were sore. Rowing from last night without protection had worn out the top layer of my skin. Jonathan told me to hold the paddle with all of my fingers going in one direction instead of the grab position. It was not effortless. A kayak in bright red came closer to us. We had not paddled for too long in unison. My arms were not as strong as I wanted them to be: Jonathan’s strength, his focus…I admired his determination.
We were going to row. Relax. Paddle into obscure lake shore lines where trees grow out from rocks and wander their long branches into tiny waves that mimic a larger body of water. Lake water washed my hands and splashed my arms. Jonathan kept paddling when I stopped. He told me to stop if I needed to that he “had it.” Behind me, in the grasp of his strong hands, he paddled into a cove.
Darning needles flew close to us like windows opening in a dream. The leaves on the trees reversed their presentation to the world showing the underside of the leaf. It was the lighter green that signaled when rain was to come. We paddled to a rock and landed the kayak in far enough so we could get out. We sat on a rock: A rock that was left from thousands of years ago that was 6-inches under the water. We watched tiny, dark fish swim around our bouncing legs. I kept washing my arms wit lake water. Jonathan dipped grapes in the lake and held them up to the sun as the water drained out of the weaved sack they were in.  He had on a red cap that he turned backwards. He threw pumpkin seeds into the transparent lake. We all mixed together: The leaves turning inside out, fish sniffing out our flesh, seeds landing on the bottom of the lake. Fat bark assembled in geometric shapes full with water and drinking toward the sun. Trees out-running people for centuries…the heart of a tree was still pumping green blood and brown seeds still fertilizing after the true American’s set up territories out of the scope of others.
Trees wave to us. They watch us while he slips his fingers under my vest to feel my breasts. They comb back their twigs and dress their roots in moss spreading carpet for our feet. Dried branches, broken and hollow poke out from the lake. We skid over them and listen to their mammoth scraping on the bottom of our craft.  Two women row up to us. They are in a row boat and one is telling the other about the wind. It’s not the same when you closer to the sides,” she says. We say hello to them. Voices continue and they noticed how hot it was in the noon hour on Lake Tiorati in Bear Mountain State Park.
I slipped into a dream. In the day, the light of the morning leaving floated with us on top of it. He rolled the tips of his fingers along my arms and across my chest. Back and forth he drew his hand on me. We calmed down and he pulled me back onto him. I couldn’t open my eyes. I stopped thinking in the weightlessness of the rocking where ripples in the water are created from the wind. We let the wind and the water take us to a different rock. The kayak stopped on its own. It was in the middle of the water where duck droppings lied on top. The kayak pointed east and the back rocked to the left with tiny waves pulling and rocking it out from the tiny inlet. The bark of the trees fluff outward, as we near the cluster of tree roots. They bend with arthritic looking knuckles drying on the surface and the lighter under-bark freckling in the sun.
It is July. Greening is full and the cycle to the mid-summer look of life-in-change. Dark, green to eat: Dark, green to wash your face in; to lick. We paddle again away from the rock that offers moments of stability. Fast, we go quickly suddenly picking up speed between us. We fly into the thick water. We dig with our paddles into the depth below us. A branch arrives from nowhere. Leaping out and over like a bridge. It comes faster in its ominous power. Our heads ducking, our necks curving to the side. We are swans. We are ducks. We fish our thoughts to the origin of life in the plain and simple in the lake. The water is our calling. It is our nemesis; floaters in time with the sun penetrating the cracks of our skin. Trees watch us as we take them for granted. The lake is a beach but the trees their leaves and their calls keep them as a different body. The trees change everything.
And I ask questions in my mind; I ask Jonathan in my thoughts: “What does he want to do?”  Does he want to take me kayaking for the rest of our lives? Are we to float every weekend in a lake?  In a river? Does he ever want to stay on land? The trees shelter us from our thoughts. They protect Jonathan from my crash into him. They keep me from dropping my feelings into the air. Preventing me from contaminating the life we have in a boat. The trees distract me from myself. They hold me like a mother and cower like a house with an open roof: The trees in the sky, the branches silhouette for now against the blue above us.   

© Karen Maxwell August 6 2007
Kpineiro2 at  
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