She gazed out onto the stillness of a landscape broken only by the strong breeze blowing off the lake through the towering pines. Opening the wooden window with difficulty, she shimmied it up from one side to the other, splintered paint curls stabbing her finger pads. The fresh air was a welcome replacement for the stale cardboard perfume that permeated the room. The echoing sound of a distant woodpecker gave her resolve to embark on the task before her. It would start with ripping the window shade from its anchorment – except its brittleness caused it to disintegrate in her hands.
It would be a long day – probably an even longer summer. Yet, she knew it had to be done. She had put it off too long already. Working would take her mind off all that had happened in the past three years. Here, she could escape from the penetrating loneliness that only separation by the death of her beloved mother could bring. Here, she would remodel the home where she, herself, had been raised.
She was determined to chisel away at her list of repairs, yet her furiously-paced work was tempered with long pauses… expanded moments of contracted hours… gazing out this window. Not that she planned these reprieves…in fact, mostly she felt them an intrusion – robbing her time and her mind from needed tasks…and often leaving her feeling guilty for the work that could have been accomplished. It was the kind of guilt that made her reluctant to acknowledge the welcome emptiness these moments enjoined.
A few years ago, she might have thought the scene from this window unremarkable. Not so now. She was different now…and so was everything else. Four years ago, she would have inwardly felt smooth and easy peering at this view. Now, she felt rough and jittery…like an old cob with its corn popping to all the ends of the earth.
The road winding from the street, around the house, and back toward the lake caught her attention. It wasn’t exactly a road…more like two paths joining everywhere to nowhere…paralleling ruts connecting perpendiculars. Connecting everything beyond nothing… The tractor that carved out those parallels had not bounced along this dusty trail for years, yet the grass and the weeds failed to grow in its vacant spaces. She recalled those tractor wheels with a bemusing smile. Giant tires, larger than she was tall – even with her arms outstretched over her head. The criss-crossed treads stood out so far they could be used as handles to climb to the top – that is if it wasn’t too hot. Black rubber sizzles summer hide no matter how fast she could scamper up its massive rounded height.
Two parallel ruts in the grass…that’s all that was left. If she strained hard enough, she could squintingly see the hard ridges of the tractor wheels still etched in the hard, yellow clay. Weather had worn down the high points of the ridges made by the tread. Ridges that she used to love feel dry and crumble beneath her feet…sometimes crumble even without the aid of her feet. Ridge tops that would harden and dry even while the deep pockets made from the tread stayed soft and mushy, cool, moist and muddy. She had always thought these pockets surprisingly crisp and distinctive…always thought they would have made perfect plaster molds of castings for who knows what…maybe for the cast she might need when she turned her ankle because her foot didn’t quite conform to the angles and holes left by tractor treads.
“I’ll walk that road before I go back home,” she thought with determination. But that would have to wait until tomorrow…and she’d stay on the soft level mound of grass between the ruts. No twisted ankles for her. For now, there was work to be done – but maybe not as much as she originally planned.
You can read stories like this one in Deborah Grassman's book, The Hero Within: Redeeming the Destiny We Were Born to Fulfill.