O Shenandoah! Dirt Road Journal
Midi file: "You Light Up My Life"
"Thank you for allowing me this time to speak." Mark's chair squeaks against fake tiles as he pulls it toward the green metal table and sits down. Straightening his notes into a more orderly pile, he leans an elbow onto them and runs dry fingers through sparse, whitening curls. As he turns briefly to the gallery rows, Haley catches his eye, giving him an encouraging thumbs-up. He smiles and turns back toward the suited array of county supervisors.|
Patricia Inglewood stands, surveying the rough, weather-worn country faces before her, and frowns.
"Although we appreciate the gentleman's views on this subject, he is completely misinformed. Obviously he hasn't done much research and we'd look like fools if we followed him down that path."
Pat pauses and clears her throat.
"Unfortunately, a few well-meaning but totally misguided citizens have stirred things up by becoming very vocal and involving the local media in all of this."
She turns to give Mark a hard look and finds his expression unreadable. Patricia picks up a plastic-encased notebook and again addresses the gallery.
"We need to calm down and pay attention to the committee's report. The committee conducted extensive studies and reached a reasonable and informed conclusion. Their work was partially funded by the very generous industries that undergird and support our area economy. That economy, after years of stagnation, is finally beginning to grow and thrive. As detailed in their report, the committee's recommendations are ..."
- - - - -
Stretched and baking in the afternoon heat, Haley lies back against the front seat of their gliding flat-bottomed canoe. Airy auburn rings escape onto the cozy jumble of towels under her head. A wide-rimmed straw hat covers variegated freckles and a silvery sty in the changing theatre of her blue-gray eyes. He dips and holds a paddle lazily against the river's flow, smoothing the natural sway of its course with sure chestnut-muscled guidance. Sliding the damp wood against Haley's ever-rosey skin, he reaches into the cooler, searching for a bottle amidst the hollowed, milky rounds afloat in waves of icy water. Haley stirs and lifts an arm, grasping with delicate, slender fingers into the leaf-tossed breeze of shoreside willows and sycamores. He senses Haley's smile from under the hat as her hand circles a beer. Amber sparkling, sundrops like rambling dew, she pulls it in under the fading brim, upending a bittersweet cascade of bubbles luminescent in their prism of gold. He grabs another near-freezing bottle, rests it briefly against the arch of her foot. From under the hat a muffled laugh expands against the mysterious whisper of dragonfly wings and the waterborne crawl of scattering, swarming beetles that ride the taunting river crescents. He slides down from the boat's woven seat into its soothing fiberglass cradle, rests the tense sinews of long, browning legs against the warm comfort of Haley's wondrous dreams. "Namaste," she whispers through the woven sassafras grains. Eyes closing, he feels Haley, himself, the planet atomize, dissemble, dissolve into the haunting call of pairing waterfowl, the slithery coolness of shoreland soil, the winding sighs and sun-searing current in silken summer air. "Namaste," he reflects, drifting through a world beyond words into an unending and timeless dispersion.
- - - - -
"We will table the resolution until the next meeting. Thank you all very much for coming." Pat closes the notebook firmly, indicating there will be no questions, that the assembly is over. She turns to the supervisor on her right and begins to converse animately in low tones. Gallery chairs screech to a shuffle of papers and feet and voices.
"Mark! What should we do now?"
"Aren't you FURIOUS?"
"What a pile of ..."
"You were great, man."
"Those jokers ..."
"I need a copy of your speech. At least we can get it in the papers."
"How do you stay so cool?"
Mark gathers his notes, shaking hands, nodding, heading for the bench where Haley waits.
"I wasn't there," he says later, as she sculpts herself alongside him and into the perfect hollow of his shoulder.
"I was in a canoe."
"Namaste" is a common salutation used in the Far East. Pronounced nah'-ma-stay', it means: "I greet the place in you which is of truth, of light and of peace."
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Original material © O Shenandoah! Country Rag April, 1996. All rights reserved.