I thought I saw it there.
In the rocks beside the creek, nestled deep between the mountains, lay a century of hearts.
The slate, quartz and river stone had all been washed over with decades, years and long days of emotion and rushing water.
Over time, the rocks had changed shape and had become flattened and coloured by their surroundings; forming shapes like knives and hammers and balls and hearts.
I picked one up and held it between my thumb and forefinger. A chalk deposited itself onto my skin and I considered the things that I could write with it.
I imagined her standing there, staring into the river with eyes full of wishes and waiting for change.
Behind me, the remnants of a stone stacked chimney had stood the test of time. Beneath my feet, the ground showed glimpses of slate flooring.
This was their home once.
Nothing much else stood here now from those days.
New trees had grown, new deep dark creature holes had been burrowed and new footsteps had trudged across the earth.
I dragged my left foot along the dirt and tried to imagine the footsteps of a century ago.
She had waited for him.
I could feel it; the longing and the concern.
He was handsome and riding up into the hills with sturdy pigskin satchels full of supplies and hope when she’d last seen the back of him. The strong legs of his chestnut mare underneath him dodging and climbing across the landscape. The blistering wind ruefully tempted to lift the hat from his head and the scent of her from his skin.
He had loved her every day since the first time he’d seen her.
He took her for his own and let her love him too.
They had married in a small ceremony beside the white chapel in a town three hours and almost fourteen thousand clop of horse hooves away.
She’d counted that day. On the way to the chapel with her hands crossed nervously in her lap, her bottom lip bitten and her pretty face blushed with anticipation, she’d began counting the sound of the hooves hitting the ground.
And as they meandered through the more difficult and winding tracks, up into the higher ground, the wagon rocked and suggested it might tip over.
He’d smiled at her that morning, turning his head back to look at her before cracking the reigns slightly and demanding the horses ride on.
Sure enough, up and beyond they climbed safely.
He made love to her like that, sure and dependable. He cracked her own reigns and urged her to let go sometimes. She liked that best.
When he was above her, his strong and muscular body reminded her of how fortunate she was.
He was hers.
Today, she wanders through the hills, standing beside the old stone chimney, dancing across the slate flooring and drifting down toward the river bed.
She bends over and traces her hand across the clear water, hoping to see him there.
Her own reflection stares back at her and she waits for him to appear from behind her shoulder.
He doesn’t though.
He is out riding, lost in the centuries of yesterday and progress.
He never returned this time. Months of endless waiting didn’t see him lean back to her and life had become a struggle. Their two young boys had become ill with a plague that aggressively stole the fat from their bones and the life from their hearts. They had died in her arms on a night when the wind was howling and promising to frighten her.
She had carried them down to the river the next morning and let them drift away, dragging pieces of her own heart with them.
Each sad night thereafter, she waited for her man and his mare, without a return.
She closed her eyes and prayed for an end.
Nobody is sure how or when she died. Her lonely bones were found on an overgrown trail leading from the house to the river.
She had fallen with the weight of loneliness and loss.
I saw her today. She was wandering down by the creek, hiding behind the trees and the chimney. She had hope in her eyes.
No, I’m not the one you’re looking for.
I whispered to her to look skyward and I promised her that they were all waiting for her.
It was time to leave.
A new home was waiting.
inspired by a recent visit to a national park and bushland. i’ve always been a big admirer of old ruins and particularly remnants of chimney stacks .. i can’t help but imagine the lives of those who sat beside those fire places.