Wednesday, November 17, 2010
A Cormac McCarthy landscape
The serrate horizon of the Cascade Range stenciled a purple jag-toothed saw blade before the incarnadine residue of a sun recently gone to its reward. Eastward, the dusk by degrees gained mastery of the magma-formed landscape, obscured shadows, nullified identity. In places, where the ground rose above the stubby fingers of lodge-pole pine and aspen, pink reflection revealed the lava rock outcroppings of the bedrock that lay in all that country. In the middle distance to the west, a perfectly round lake, dimly reflecting a pale sky, blackened with the onset of darkness, yet rippled here and there as the stocked lake trout rose to snatch mosquito or gnat hovering above the surface, concentric circles chronicling each small act of violence. The pine stands defining the meadow congealed into patches of shadow, vanguard of the night.
He sat in his canvass camping chair like a bony old horse, knees spread, elbows cocked, thumbs hitched in the pockets of his blue jeans. His silhouette, made ambiguous by the dusk, was all angles and planes.
Gits cold fast up here, don't it?
She did not answer.
Guess I oughta git a lantern lit, then. Cain't build a fire in the dark.
No sooner spoken than the darkness became complete. The mountains yet had a pale edge, but faded even as she watched until she could not say if the ghost glow was actual or but an imprint left on her retinal memory. Just let it be dark, she said. There will be stars.
A barred owl gave voice from the invisible pine stand. Hoot-hoot-hoo-hoo! Hoot-hoot-hoo-hoo!
She bent her head to listen. The Kwagiulths believed owls were spirits of the dead.
He hove himself to his feet, still spry, but a crick revealed in the motions. Thinkin' about that little girl, are ya?
Stars began to show their faces. Diamond shards pin-pricking a sorrowful sky, their coldness compassion enough.
She'd a been sittin' right here with me on this blanket, she said.
His shape bent down at her. His hand went to her cheek. Grief's a burnin' balm, honey. We cain't have it no other.
He went to fetch the lantern.