The old woman in the billowing white blouse stood on the high wooden bridge overlooking the swollen Salt Spring River. Silver grey knotted fingers brushed a strand of thin hair behind one ear a large hoop earring dangling robin feather brushing her cheek. The river was a corridor rushing between green on green shade walls maple birch and ancient oak overhanging eroded banks roots exposed. It was all a bit of a blur. Clarity of vision long gone she had adjusted to soft edges the loss of lines and melding of one object into another.
Ghost Bird did you let the young man die she asked quietly. There was no reply and would not be. A whiskey jack hopped branch to branch before gliding across the river. The tail of a submerged partially hidden beaver swayed with the current directly beneath her. No. He tried to write you yesterday but failed and is back at it again. He is fine said a spider dangling from a thread near her hand. She didn’t hear but knew. Didn’t mind being born at such a late age given this momentary task and fleeting purpose. It suited her fine. She smiled knowing she was too far from home too late and would have to spend the night here. She was not afraid, but knew thin cotton and papery flesh would not keep the cold from settling into her bones and occupying her mind. She would become the cold. Shivered but was more concerned that her absence noticed would be mistaken for dementia and they would come looking with flashing lights dogs and legions of concerned bodies in fluorescent vests. It would be on the radio and in the newspaper. There was nothing demented about Elizabeth. Quite the contrary.
As the daylight faded into dusk she remained on the bridge feeling the sound of rushing water beneath her and the night before her. She hugged her shoulders and sat down with her back against a massive wooden beam. The first star winked and then the next and the next began a gathering of constellations big bear little bear a teapot scorpion the lion lyre and swan. Far away dogs were barking.
A great bird settled on the bridge railing and dropped a small trout beside her which she slid between a crack. It fell back into the river with a slap flip of the tail and was gone. The cold was not so bad. Not the intrusion she had anticipated. She began to hum a German lullaby that her father had sung to her a hundred years ago in a house of handmade bricks. Her mother still in the fields gathering potatoes. This was the story he was supposed to tell and finally did.