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October 2016, vol 12 no 3

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David Landis Barnhill

A Boulder of Time
Shining Rock Point

The white boulders surge up to a short, sharp ridge pitching downhill. In cracks, stiff dwarf spruce shake in the wind, their needles denser and shorter than normal. Here and there a rhododendron rises, sheltered amid spruce, with a few flower buds awaiting spring. On a tiny shelf grows a mountain laurel, thickly branched but few leaves. Yet the flower bud clusters are full. A single blueberry arcs up along a curving boulder.

The sky has long since turned to overcast, the clouds seem no more than one hundred feet above the crest. To balance last night’s unmediated sunset, tonight I will see none. The valley nearby is darkened, but beyond the ridge another valley is lit with a diaphanous sheet of rain.

The first intimations of thunder. Then clouds darken, then swirl, and the rains arrive. They fall in sheets, blown nearly horizontal, occasionally windless. I walk past a huge boulder and put my right hand on it for support. I stop. I feel something, and stare at the rising roll of rock. Its white face is splotched with pinkish brown rust and the dull green of lichen. My hand, flush against it, seems to be a conduit, making me continuous with the quartz. I feel bedrock, soil that once covered it now gone save for a few cracks and ledges.

I place my other hand onto the boulder. My mind drifts into time, back when a huge swath of quartz lies silently under a massive range, and further back when the quartz initially formed. I look at a mountain laurel growing on a shelf of the rock. It has lived perhaps twenty winters. My mind becomes uncentered, dizzy, as two senses of time braid together: the ephemeral within the vast sweep of geologic history. I feel myself to be a briefest bubble in the slow stream of time. But there is no loss, only the fullness, the endlessness of the mountains surging, the weathering of rains and ice, the rivers carrying the mountains to the sea, the continents floating.

flash of rain hits my face –
this boulder
dissolving to beach sand