The rivers flow together here, the San Joaquin, the Sacramento, the Molekumne. Eventually they all flow into the sea, sixty miles west of my little island. I stand at the turn to Jackson Slough and watch the tankers move towards that broad expanse of blue. I take my comfort knowing that my Toyota can make the trip so quickly that by nightfall, I could hear the soothing song of the Pacific.
Sunset comes earlier, as it happens. The world turns. The tallest tree in the meadow has already shed her leaves, and now stands slender and bare with the glow of the sun behind her each evening. Now the new house next to me blocks that view but I can step to the north in the meadow and partake of it any time I like. I can stand in the shadow of the California oaks and the weeping willows. I can let the sight of them soothe me.
An early morning text from an old friend reminds me of the Midwest, the south, the past. Didn’t you live near Winslow, Arkansas, he asks. Indeed I did. In some other life, I dwelt on the banks of a different river, small and slender with its bed of flagstone. At that spot, I first reveled in the quickening of the child who clung to life within my crooked belly. Nearly three decades ago, I walked without shoes in the shallow, shimmering cold water, just before the spring thaw. I did not feel innocent then, but in my memory, that woman lived a carefree, blameless life. See how cautiously she moves? See the tender curve of her hand around the small bulge? See the flicker of movement along the bank, how it draws her eye as she guards the babe within her from any danger?
The heat of a lingering summer still troubles those around me, but I see signs that winter sits around the bend, waiting for us. My broken bone begins to heal. I can use my arm again, though I must be mindful. This reminder of my fallibility could shake me, but I will not let it. I have promises to keep; and miles to go before I sleep. I cannot afford to falter.
It’s the twenty-sixth day of the sixty-ninth month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.