Outside there is a clanking, a sick whine. I don't know what it is but feel suddenly, at the pit, a cold heaviness.
Our summers stretch late here. Both Middlest and Young still at home for one more day. "What is that?" they ask me.
Soon they run back in. What it is . . . is the 100-year old Doug firs along the road. Mowed. This is the road department's new low. I've seen the damage along other county roads, walking over the hills Saturday mornings - cracked branches, barked, ragged, open to pest infestation, disease.
"Someone ought to do something about that," we say to each other, my friend and I.
Middlest and Young are outraged. Voices hot, faces full of grief . . . and expectation.
Who am I? A tired woman at the midpoint of a life. Heel so painfully inflamed I can't walk my hills - just when I need to carry double loads. Sometimes I think I miss my Eldest, but what I miss most are the years of my competence and strength. Those years of speaking earnestly, looking into those soft young faces, earnest words about not accepting victimhood, not standing by when wrong is done.
I feel victimized.
YoungSon's eyes are frightened as he describes what's gone. Something green and lovely now matchsticks, litter. These trees older than the road, so big they have a presence that we've read as protecting, benevolent, patient, wise. The profanation of their sanctity, their age and heavy shade frightens me. Their vain dependence on us who have failed them when we thought we sheltered under them.
Middlest, face fierce, pauses to catch her breath.
I sigh, breathe deep, run my fingers through my hair. "Well, I'm going to need my gray jacket."
"YES!" says YoungSon. "I'll get it!" and runs to my closet. He calls, "Where are your boots?" Because he knows the costume I wear for battling injustice.
* * *
After I return with promises of reparations, I ask my children, "What will we do the day the gray jacket gets ragged and wears out?"
"You can save a piece of it," says YoungSon. "You can keep it in your pocket always."