By John Gredler
Winner of the 2012 Talking Writing Prize for Nature Writing
It is windy but still warm in Tuckahoe. I go for a walk, thinking it too late to catch the sunset. Halfway down the hill, at the top of a tree: a glowing red flag. I stop, not sure what I’m seeing. I look up at it for a full two minutes before I realize it’s a plastic bag, stuck high up, catching the last rays of the setting sun.
Moving on down to the river, the light from the now-gone sun is burnishing the charcoal clouds a deep, shimmering rouge. The wind is blowing, the geese are making wet sounds as they pull at grass submerged in puddles left by the recent rain, the green-winged teals are whistling out on the water.
A woman pushing a stroller with a young child passes, and we say hello. I think it’s getting too dark to be out here with a baby, alone.
Crossing the bridge, walking up the incline on the other side past the old Boy Scout Lodge, I try to form the words in my mind to describe the spectacle of the bag in the tree catching that otherworldly red, turning it like liquid lava, knowing I’m the only one seeing it.
I stop on the other side to type the words into my phone as text sent to myself, feeling the vibration of it sending, of it going out, and then, almost immediately, the murmur of it coming in, being received.
aflame with the last
of the setting sun
a flag gilded red
turning in the wind
on the sky’s gray skin
Turning to walk back, I look up: The black branches of the rain-soaked trees, a specter against the gray, fast-moving clouds that somehow still hold light from the sun. The bright gleam of the crescent moon in an opening of sky, framed by the dark limbs, then quickly covered. I wait for it to appear again, and there it is, pristine, silver-white, with Venus shining just below.
Here in this place of house upon house, on this asphalt path hemmed by parkway and train tracks, a beauty as enchanted as I have ever seen.
Darkness now descending, the woman with the stroller running as she passes, laughing, nervous. She says, “I thought it went around.”
“No, it doesn’t,” I say. “It doesn’t go around.”
And as I pass back over the bridge, I see the waterfall again, as I’ve never seen it, looking like liquid metal sheened by the soft light of the twilit sky. How many times have I stood on this spot, how many different ways have I seen the water falling: a meager trickle, swollen brown with runoff of rain, crystalline in winter with ice flowers forming.
A rustling from above, then the geese gliding down on the mirror surface, landing on their reflections.
John Gredler has been writing in notebooks and journals for most of his adult life. Recently, he’s begun to share his work in a more public way and has published four memoir pieces in Fictionique. He is currently working on a full-length memoir.
“Glistening Scar,” the winner of the 2012 Talking Writing Prize for Nature Writing, is his first published work of creative nonfiction.