September 25, 2018 by The Citron Review
by Chila Woychik
Once born, we decide and decide and decide, or in some cases, others decide for us, at least for a little while.
When I first learned of you, all grown and a mother and apart from me so long, I sighed, then doubted, then shed tears at the years lost, the gain of a sister, at the uncertainties to come.
Our days will not pass without meaning now, and this news will neither wither nor age. In each spring’s blossoms then summer’s fruit and fall’s boisterous leaves, I’ll find you there. Winter’s cold and knee-deep snow will remind me of the seriousness of secrets, and the seconds we can never regain. Not a day or minute passes that you’re not with me, vibrant in the shine of your smile, sun playing off the glint of your hair, a host of happiness in each beautiful dimple.
I can’t paint you in this sunset or pretend you stand nearby when the pink-white clouds sit softly in a sea of blue-gray drift, or when the six-inch-high corn in perfect rows sprouts out of zippered pockets of earth wherever I look. I can’t point out the large mass of black flesh lying in a pasture, steam rising from one end in a rhythmic pattern, the Angus bull snoozing. You don’t see the moving trucks line the streets, or hear the great hush that has fallen when no birds sing and the sugar ants have left my counter, when people edge along the cliff of anxiety and fear. You’ve missed this sad face of a flood and the river rising again, the five-hundred-year floods to which we’ve become accustomed in Iowa, and the sand lodged between our toes when waking at 3 a.m. in a cold sweat. Did you know I wanted to live near a river once?
Today, the field and forest come alive, their breath musty, earthy. Poison ivy scratches itself in a stand of similar plants, and the trees’ winter bark and leafless branches skirt around a pole of calm: the deeply furrowed black bark of the black walnut, the nearly smooth gray of the aspen, the wide spreading form and homespun bark of the sugar maple, the multi-trunks of the red and silver maples.
In the end, it doesn’t matter how long the trip if we reach the destination we sought (though the shortest distance between two points is still a straight line). They say each new road, each branching byway, changes us, and like a flood, washes something away while infusing something else, something necessary. This twisting road and rushing river has done that for me, in you.
All I know is that as long as the moon rises high in a purple night’s sky, and a wood thrush’s song flutters around our shoulders, it’s never too late for this unfolding beauty.
German-born Chila Woychik has bylines in Cimarron, Portland Review, Silk Road, Stonecoast, and others. She won the 2017 Loren Eiseley Creative Nonfiction Award and the 2016 Linda Julian Creative Nonfiction Award. She’s the founding editor at Eastern Iowa Review and has finished an essay collection, which she hopes to get published soon. Between farm chores, she enjoys time spent with family, friends, and especially her granddaughter. www.chilawoychik.com