Monday, March 3, 2008

Paul and Weedle -- a story and poem by Paul Caviness

When Weedle and I were dating, our dates sometimes consisted of a Saturday afternoon at her farmhouse in Vinland, with a home-cooked meal, playing a game with Laurel and Will, watching a little TV or a video, or taking a walk – just simple, homey things. Maybe Weedle was giving me a taste of family home life, something I hadn’t seen much of since I went away to school decades before.

Taking a walk was special – one time all the kids were home with their friends, and we all walked across Mr. Flory’s field – this was after the harvest – to Coal Creek, where we climbed down into the ravine. The stream was barely a trickle, and we strolled along the creekbed in changing groups, talking and laughing, and the kids were horsing around

in the water or up on the bank among the trees. The branches, nearly bare, met overhead, and we moved through the sparse web of shadows but mostly in sunlight. Weedle and I held hands. We moved downstream, and when we reached the low-sided bridge at 1750 Road we climbed out, with some difficulty, and walked on the road past the little Vinland Cemetery to home.

That was one of my favorite memories, when I realized I had been accepted as a part of this family and their circle of friends, all new to me.

Weedle and I often took a walk on part of this path – Mr. Flory’s field was usually not passable, and the creek usually filled its bed, so we stuck to the road from our house past the cemetery to the creek and back. We walked hand in hand, and various dogs swirled around us or explored ahead. Sometimes we were wrapped in the gentle silence of old friends, but mostly we talked, of our days since the last time we saw each other, of the people and things we loved, of our thoughts and dreams. One time, as we detoured through the little cemetery on our way home from the creek, we talked of our future together. I said something about making our relationship more permanent.

It was Laurel, not me or Weedle, who recognized this as a proposal. But we soon enough endorsed the idea, and we made it permanent, with family and friends joyfully attending.

We still occasionally walked up to the creek. As Weedle’s knees began to give her more trouble walking, we took the car halfway up the road and walked with the dogs the rest of the way to the bridge. Eventually we took the car all the way, and sometimes we didn’t even get out of the car but just stopped on the bridge and looked down at the water, to see how the creek was running. Every few weeks we’d take the detour, usually on the way home from town, just to see how the creek was running.

I used to write little poems to Weedle – usually just greeting-card style rhymes that I’d leave around for her to find. Or I’d write something more ambitious – sometimes downright pretentious, and embarrassingly bad – and put it in a nice card. She was very diplomatic about saying she liked them all.

After Weedle died I found one of those old poems that had since changed its meaning as time passed and events unfolded. I had written about the creek only as a creek, a place where we loved to go. But now, with Weedle gone, the creek has become a metaphor, and has a further meaning for me. This is what I wrote to her:

In our courting days, we’d take the dogs
And walk together, from your old farmhouse,
Hand in hand, step in step,
Up the narrow gravel road
By Vinland Cemetery, to the creek beyond,
To see how Coal Creek was running.
The creek runs in a shady little ravine,
Cool and sweet on a hot, hot day,
Soft and promising on a chill one,
Wind and water talking together.
The creek might run high or low or nearly dry.
We looked together from the little low-sided bridge.
The dogs ran happily down the steep bank
And chased shadows through the stream
And sniffed after absent possums and raccoons and deer.

We held hands.

Concluding that the creek was running all right,
We’d turn toward home. Tired and dripping,
The dogs walked on ahead.
We’d pause in the little cemetery on the way,
Where lie old family and neighbors long gone,
And where one day I offered to you what was in my heart.

We’ve taken this walk together for years.
The creek is running all right yet,
Your old farmhouse is our home,
And what you accepted from me years ago
Remains undiminished in my heart still.

Let us always walk together
Hand in hand, step in step,
Up the cemetery road
And to the creek beyond.

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