Posted: Thursday, June 14, 2012 6:51:08 AM
The man stopped and rested his elbows on the weathered wood of the bridge, looking north at the mountains that jutted out from the gentle hills like jagged teeth. A wide stream ran beneath him, spilling from a lake so clear, so pristine that the reflection of the mountains in the water and the mountains themselves were indistinguishable. From his vantage point on the bridge, the man could see trout--brook and rainbow--that otherwise would have passed undetected from the shore. Their speckled backs were only slightly darker than the stream bottom, and they flashed through the clear mountain water like lead-hued knives flecked with iron.
A few blossoms floated downstream as well, torn from their tree along the shore by some wayward wind and cast into the rushing water. The man thought of a day when his grandfather took him to the side of the road that ran outside their apartment, where the pouring rain had filled the gutter with a torrent of tea-colored water. They had folded and twisted the morning's newspaper, full of words that he neither knew nor cared to know, into three boats that the rainwater snatched and whisked away.
The blossoms were tossed to and fro by the stream, and the man was fixated on one in particular. Its paper-thin petals were snagged on a tangle of twigs and leaves that had accumulated around a jutting rock. The blossom trembled violently, caught in the full force of the rushing water, yet still tethered to the mass of twigs and leaves. It seemed the blossom would be torn asunder by the pull of the stream, yet the tangle relented and the blossom plunged into the current once again. The man watched the blossoms drift beneath him like delicate upturned umbrellas. He strode across the bridge quickly and looked southward, and saw the blossoms float on downstream. He had never seen anything so fragile and so beautiful before. They were quickly disappearing from sight, however, and he strained to keep them in view. He thought about diverging from the path and following the stream south but he knew he should not. He watched the blossoms drift away, pale and delicate in the dark robustness of the mountain stream, and thought of his grandfather.
The man turned once again to the north and leaned his back against the bridge. An osprey plunged from the sky and tore its talons through the mountains' reflection. The illusion was shattered. He watched the ripples billow across the surface with less and less vigor, before turning west and wandering on down the path. His eyes were wet.