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The International Writers Magazine: A Winter Break

Seeds of December
Karen Maxwell

Seeds of winter are alive in Montauk.  You can hear them under your boots; easy to confuse with small tree branches or bones rising from the deceased.  Indian parts may have surfaced after the rains of November last year. The floods could have exposed moss lines on gravestones as the dirt eroded down small hills.  At the Montauk Manor, Bill and I discovered a new meaning to plants and the life that can live inside a tiny seed.   They are like sacred voices of wailing children. Hundreds of years ago small lives had nowhere to go but the wind.  When you stop to catch it you can’t help but feel tiny spirits with potential that went away almost as unknowns.

Bill knew Montauk very well.  In his Jeep he drove us up roads that led to the Manor.
Horses, that weekend, roamed and ate on an Irish farm.  A December winter took on the winds: Montauk, the great chief stood up to the challenge. The next morning, we drove to Sag Harbor to feed Black Capped Chickadees from our hands at a nature preserve.  He took pictures of me holding the seeds in the flat of my palm.  Outstretched, and ticklish, my gloves were put to good use.  After throwing the seeds into the air from the first bird landing, I became accustomed to the beautiful creatures whirring in our direction.  Beaks pecked into our hands and seeds fell to the ground from the missed opportunity. We also dropped the seeds into the muddy path knowing the birds would find them.  It was okay to be hungry we knew the feeling.

Montauk Manor
The moon was a sliver and the earth moved casting the sun in its end of the day role of setting. Montauk Bay, at the point, had a tide like the ocean.  It was December, after all, and the lighthouse, like a queen mother, watched while children rolled around under her.  The Manor, we joked, looked like the motel in the movie, “The Shining.”  When it snowed the next morning I guessed that the lights would go out next.  We drove and he handled the steering wheel without gloves. Even in the cold of the late afternoon he was aware of having the feeling that others before us had. 

The bones under my feet were sacred voices of children that wail in the wind.  I heard them under my shoes. I felt them below the tires of the car.  The film of day was filtered by the sun from this time of year.  The colors of the trees, green tops and the green and orangey half-dead leaves had a shadowy memory of what was a few weeks earlier.  Entangled branches knew their way to the sun and so did we.  We found our room and closed the quarters around us. Passed out for hours on the top of the bed we lost our selves our time our spirits in the duplex room.  A fire place warmed our joy and the piano in the lobby sent us into a dance.  We had the floor to ourselves. An impromptu waltz beyond the birds and the ship wrecks from our European ancestors.  Hours later I would lean against the Montauk Point sky in front of the Lighthouse.  I wanted to camouflage myself. Not to be seen but to see: To be with the moss and part of the breathtaking winds. But how could that be? The land and the trees on the island weave together like an exclusive club. The only way in is through the sand or the trees. The ocean eats and washes the seeds and bloats the husks of corn to white fat kernels. There was little separation from the elements to the self:  Maybe through our soles.  Perhaps in the shoe leather we can separate from the enmeshment with nature. But when I got into the car to go home I was picking the twigs and the seeds out from under my boots.  In December the seeds travel whatever way they can for the spring bloom. I opened the door and dropped the seeds back to the ground for the next travelers and boarders to find.
© Karen Maxwell November 2007

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.

Vincent's Wine
Karen Maxwell
Nothing belonged to him. Only the dry mouth from the shots at The Sky Bar on York last night, but that was changed with his toothbrush and a coffee with milk within the hour of swinging his legs around and stepping onto the pre-fabricated oak floor. 

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