August 15th, 2007



A tiny sleek copper-colored snake gliding through the leaf clutter on the forest floor. Giant wooden towers built on a beach of boulders. A maze of grey beech tree roots patterning the cliffside. Karin far ahead of us, bounding down the side of the hill, first to reach the tunnel towers of wood that lead to the towering structures. Martin leaping from boulder to rock, climbing to the top of Wotan's Tower, a veritable billygoat. My heart, pounding like a jackhammer, as I lean against the trunk of an old oak tree, resting on the way back up the hill. A small seaside town, lambent in the evening sunlight, with a friendly harbor and ice cream from the kiosk. A little brown and white spaniel out on the rocks of the harbor, his tail wagging so hard it's nearly a propeller as the kids scrounge for sticks among the stones to fling out in the air for him to chase.

As the sun begins to sink, the air grows chill and we turn our faces toward home. It's nearly bathtime when we arrive but the kids have an hour to play before I call them in. After they've been scrubbed, pajamaed and brushed, we read the first chapter of The Long Winter, returning to Laura and Mary after a sojourn in Almanzo Wilder's boyhood, and then we bundle up: fleeces, long pants, socks, winter hats and a big blanket. The kids and I head out first, to lie on the big trampoline in the chilly evening. Fall is in the air. The sky is only dark straight up, there is a ring of cobalt around the horizon. We can hear an orchestra of crickets or grasshoppers and other nightbugs singing away in the ditch. A bat goes swooping in circles about our heads and over the yard in widening ellipses. Karin sits bolt upright and the whole trampoline shakes and bounces.

We lie back down and watch the stars come out as the sky slowly darkens. John and Anders join us and we lie there for an hour, counting shooting stars: the Perseids have come to town, my annual stellar birthday present. We've missed the peak this past weekend; too many things going on and a party to distract us, but we still see them every once in awhile, a faint streak of light burning toward Earth. Martin counts 8 by the time we go in, I've seen 5. The big dipper is high and bright to the left of our heads. It's cozy under the blanket despite the cold air; I feel inert and centered as if I could stay lying there, staring at the stars, forever.

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Humongous Ginormous Enormous Birthday Wishes (one day late) to Russell!