Slowly, she starts alone. She will find it at the top, he tells her, at the top of the mountain. She has packed her rucksack with raisins, chocolate, a flask of water, extra socks and a flashlight. She plans to reach the top before dusk, but one never knows. Better to be prepared, her father says. Over boulders and streams she climbs, at times getting caught up on prickers. After walking through an unexpected meadow on a sudden plateau, she finds burrs on her socks. She sits down to pull them off and drinks some water. The sun warms her back. She sees no one, hears only the cheer of the chickadee, the warning of the cardinal. The summit is near now; the tree line tells her and the rock face. She pulls herself up onto the worn granite, softened by time. Beside two stunted spruce, it stands: a small stone cairn, rebuilt each year.
They are her mother, the stones.
And like him still whisper
an unforeseen loss in joy.