We hear the clearing before we see it. A parting of winds, a pause in the flickering. We emerge from the flame-trees. Our faces are painted yellow in the light. Flames burning underwater; flames that carry no heat; that is the way of the aspen trees.
From the meadow we see the ski resort across the canyon. In the snowless months it is a wound, a bald spot that is made more unsightly by those metal towers that beam, useless, in the sun. We turn our backs to it and continue uphill, through the grass, past elderberry bushes and what might be wild licorice. What I want most is to see a moose. I’ve never seen one. Today is no different; we have seen no moose, but we did hear a raven somewhere off to the east.
The path becomes mud in low-lying spots, and that’s how I know the lake is near. We turn a corner and there it is—small, still, rimmed by shrubby willows. Behind this we see the mile of aspens we’ve just walked through. From here they are an undulating summer curtain, or perhaps a kite, and despite their fall colors I feel as though it’s summer.
We sit on the bare sand beside the lake. The water-wind chills us, but we do not move. The sun is on our faces. Our breathing becomes low and flat. The aspens shhh in the distance. Time recedes and we lapse in to water-induced meditation, softer and softer, until we are as smooth as the surface before us.