|Me at age 6|
Running down the back side of a hill was a small stream that filled the gully left by the work crew when they widened the road last summer. On either side where the water had receded there were mud flats and beyond them, on the far side, the earth was cracked and craggy, looming up like miniature mountains, their tops rock-studded and grass-anchored.
Something inside me shifted. I was suddenly six again and imagining I was three inches tall, a trick of the imagination I often employed when I was young. I squatted my small self down at the river’s edge and stared up at the immense mountains on the other side. Grass grew past my shoulders and the river, fleeing downhill, was swift and deep and sparkling in the late afternoon sunlight.
I walked out into the soft mud and glanced behind me. There were my footprints, small and perfect, dissolving slowly in the wet earth. I looked about and found a twig. I scratched my name in the mud and watched the letters fill with water and fade like invisible writing. I looked about for a sturdy leaf to make a boat, wondering how long it would take me to navigate the river to the bottom of the hill.
Though the sound of a car brought me back to my proper size, I kept the sense of being a kid. I picked up a stick and dragged it along the pavement, liking the buzzy sound it made as it bumped along behind me. I walked the length of the gully to the bottom of the hill and there I knelt at the roadside. I put the flat of my hand in the gooey mud and pressed down, pulling it back with a squelching sound. I heard birds calling. Jays screeched in the distance and two ducks, flying low, quacked to each other. I flopped down in the meadow grass and swatted at bugs and watched the clouds change shapes. Blown by an invisible wind, they drifted above the trees and I watched until it seemed the clouds were standing still and the trees were moving.
I watched the faces in the cars that passed, solemn and serious, and wondered how they came to be that way, going home at the end of the day. Where was the happiness that came from listening to the birds, from seeing the fluttering green leaves of late summer? Where was the contentment of work well done, of supper waiting, and a vibrant sunset painting the sky?
I smiled at them and waved, a six year old disguised as a grown up, mud-splattered and dragging a stick. Some of them smiled back.