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by N.H. Williard

We are swimming across a pool.  On my back I can look up and see the bright turquoise sky winking in and out of the ivory buildings.  My friend turns over athletic arms.  Face down; she turns to breath, correct, precise.  I can see her shoulders turn in their sockets to pull through the water.  Water takes the teeth grinding anxiety and floats it off, exorcising demons of fatigue and confusion.  Sitting on the edge, I am winded from the little I have done.  The towers of hotel rooms seem to move when I look up at the clouds.  I am having trouble with perspective.  How are we in this movie set of a pool if our lives are simple?

I went yesterday to the place my son calls the home house.  I went to check the progress his father is making in cleaning up the mess he left after he moved out.  My son calls my attention to the view of mountains and ocean.  He uses my phrase when I lived here.  “Take a look at that, Mom.  Really makes you breathe, doesn’t it?”

I wander in to take pictures for the attorney and my son heads for the spa.  There is a family of frogs living in the hot tub, now many months a cold tub.  My son perches on the edge and tries to catch them.  He succeeds.  I laugh at him.  How long has it been since we have relaxed and laughed or even smiled with all of ourselves?  Our faces settled into sorrow or pain when we rested.  We have not relaxed in two years.  I take a photograph of my boy, his smile, the frog, the reflecting green of the water.

The water of the Gulf I knew as a child and the California ocean are different creatures.  The Gulf is my lover’s gentle and warm arms.  At the beach here my son throws himself violently into the cold sea.  The spray from the waves hits my skin.  I try to warm up but the stiff breeze won’t let me.  I sit up and see a woman out on a board with a sail.  Windsurfing is a fast struggle to use both the wind and water energies.  I don’t care to go so fast. I am not afraid.  I begin to walk up the beach.  Stopping, I look and smell and taste a tide pool.  The taste of seawater pleases me.  The sea anemone pulls on my finger when I touch its tentacles.  Laughing, I taste the seawater again.  Water of life.  I lie in the sand without benefit of towel.  I am finally warm.  My child whoops in his play.  His voice comes with the hiss of the sand against my ear.  Between my almost closed lashes forms move.  I don’t open my eyes yet.  I know the clouds are moving.

In American sign language, the sign for the word “content” is with the right hand over the left, both palms down, pushing down a couple of times.  It means inner feelings are settled down; you are satisfied, relieved.  “Content” is related to “contain” coming from the Latin, “com”, meaning together and “tenere”, meaning to hold, to keep in limits.  Contentment is both simple and complex; action and emotion are linked.  The accent changes the word from what is inside to the emotion of holding inside.  The act of setting limits is not the container itself however.  If you cork the empty vessel, you make it more fragile still.  With my eyes closed, I can be full of the warmth of sand, my lover’s arms and my son’s frog sprung joy.  With my eyes open, I can drink in the view that tastes of seawater even from the top of the mountain.

© 2009 N.H. Williard

My home is over 7600 feet above sea level in the mountains of California. I ride a Harley and do Tai Chi. My work has appeared in Phoenix, the literary magazine of the University of Tennessee. “Reunion 2009” has been accepted for the January 2010 issue of Helmet Hair.  My work is also on the Black Earth Institute - Planetary Stories site   Contact N.H.