While Maxwell and I were on a day trip earlier in the week, we stood in a field, and I noticed a break in the trees that formed an archway that led into the meadow beyond. It made me wonder who had gone through that nature-made entrance in the decades prior, maybe even centuries prior. Where were they going? What were they leaving? What did the meadow beyond promise?
THE PROMPT: Take a journey through this doorway that nature created with branches reaching out toward one another, embracing. Create a narrative of one person or a group of people who are going through this entryway. What’s on the other side? Was it what was expected? Give this picturesque scene a worthy story.
“HOW much farther, grandpa?” Robbie said, the pitch of his voice rising an octave each time he asked.
Ernie wasn’t sure he and his grandson would make it to the fishing hole in one piece–in particular, he wasn’t sure he wouldn’t resort to snatching said grandson bald-headed before they got there, a threat the boy’s grandmother often made when he pushed her limits. But instead, he took a deep breath and answered.
“We just have to cross through the woods, and it’s on the other side,” he called back. Again.
When they had started their trek to Ernie’s secret fishing hole, Robbie had been all for the expedition. “It’ll be a long walk,” Ernie had warned him.
“I’m almost six,” Robbie had said. “I can do it, and I can carry my own lunch and my own fishing pole.”
Ernie now carried both, as well as various rocks, sticks, and leaves that Robbie had collected on the two-mile journey from the farm to the pond.
“Now you’re not going to want to carry all this stuff,” he had told his grandson after Robbie had put a fourth sizable rock and seven leaves in the overstretched cargo pockets of his shorts while dragging several sticks behind him.
“Yes I will, Grandpa. Besides, I need them to make my sculpture.”
Whenever Robbie wanted to collect souvenirs from nature and Grandpa scolded him for accumulating more rocks and sticks and leaves that would ultimately litter the living room floor and draw grandma’s wrath, Robbie reminded him about the sculpture he planned to create when he had amassed enough rocks and sticks and leaves. The sculpture would, of course, be of his grandfather. How could Ernie say no to that?
But now as he trudged through the field, two fishing poles, a tackle box, Robbie’s sweatshirt, two bag lunches, four rocks–oops, make that five rocks (”Robbie!”)–seven leaves, and three sticks in tow, Ernie began to wonder if he ought to learn how to say no to his only grandson.
Robbie lagged behind him six or seven paces and called out, “Are we ALMOST there YET?” Ernie unconsciously tightened his grip on the bouquet of sticks, and he heard them snap from the force between his gnarled fingers. He immediately felt sorry.
“Grandpa, you breaked them!” Robbie’s voice seemed to reach an octave Ernie didn’t realize possible for a human boy.
And just when he thought about calling off the whole adventure and heading back to the house to watch another mind-numbing episode of “Power Rangers,” he saw the break in the woods, a perfect arch welcoming him back. For sixty years–since he had gone to the same fishing hole with his own grandfather, then with his son, and now with his grandson–the unexpected opening in the thick stand of trees that lined the pond had hastened his heartbeat, quickened his breathing. It announced the end of the long journey and the beginning of the best fishing he’d ever had.
“See it? See Robbie?” He couldn’t contain his excitement, it bubbled from him like a stream winding through a meadow. He felt it every time he saw the tree limbs reaching over the path, the leafy fingertips grasping each other and forming a demure entry to the fish-filled pond beyond.
“See what?” Robbie’s voice sounded at once less exhausted and more expectant.
“The doorway to the magic fishing hole.”
“I thought you said it was a secret fishing hole,” Robbie said, his skepticism subtracting an octave from his voice.
“Well, it’s secret, because it’s magic.” He stopped and turned to his grandson. And then he told him the story his grandfather’s grandfather had been telling every new visitor to the hidden fishing hole for the past 90-plus years.
“See, the woods want to keep their pond a secret, and so the trees use magic. When folks who don’t have good hearts and clear minds come along, they knit together and make a wall around the water so thick, not a soul can get past.” He kneeled down to look straight into the boy’s wide eyes.
“Trees can do that?” Robbie asked.
“Yes sir, these trees can.” Ernie answered. “But when the woods know that kind, honest folks are coming, just to do some fishing and enjoy the breeze singing through the tree branches, one spot in the line opens up and shows a path to the best fishing hole in the whole state of Virginia.”
“Really?” Robbie said, his voice a whisper. Grandpa’s stories always mesmerized him.
“Sure, can’t you see?” And grandpa stood and took Robbie’s hand, turning him toward the opening in the woods. He smiled as he watched the boy’s chest rise once he saw it.
“I do see! I do! That means I’m good, right? We both must be! The woods opened!”
And grandpa repeated the moral of the story. One his own grandfather had told him each time they came upon the magic archway. It was a moral he lived and breathed each day and would until he breathed his last.
“Robbie, if your heart is good and your mind is clear, the whole world will always open for you.” Robbie smiled and hugged his grandpa.
“Now son, let’s do some fishing.”
And so they did.