Late in the afternoon,we race the setting sun across the length of southern Wisconsin. We win.
Feet in the water at the Mississippi river's edge as evening's glow fades and twilight’s cape spreads luminous across the sky. Sitting on the long wooden dock as we dangle our toes below the surface, hand in hand. A heron stalks slowly on the far shore, and the water's shimmering golden surface comes alive with the dance of water bugs, thousands of rippling circles creating a shifting, ephemeral weaving. Sitting, silent together, as darkness falls and stars emerge and bats flit past. The Big Dipper. The North Star. Far, far from home. Far, far from “the usual.”
Morning. Interrupted en route to our destination, an abandoned, ruined railroad depot beckons, mysterious and ragged. Decrepit wooden ties rot between the unused rails. A derelict passenger car, rusted and graffitied, still colored an improbably bright orange between the corroded rivets and peeling silver paint. Structures crumble, weeds grow tall, iron rusts, couplings are frozen in place.
Then on to a perfectly kept, perfectly manicured Victorian mansion on the river to watch well-mannered, pampered and braided horses and ponies trot smartly with costumed ladies and gentlemen at the reins. Fancy hats abound. Parasol fringe sways in the breeze. Sipping iced tea at ringside in the shade of an enormous tree as bits and harnesses and bridles jangle and hoof beats thud in rhythm in the white-fenced arena. Chestnuts, bays, blacks, dappled greys. Clydesdales, Shetlands, Morgans, Hackneys. The familiar language and details and arcane knowledge of my girlhood obsession with horses, and the later, fond years of owning my own horses, now long past. Their pastures are overgrown with brush now, but the long grass, untrampled by hooves, has never been more lush.
Adjourn to the river once more. Eagles circle gracefully, far above boaters speeding up and down stream, leaving plumes of white spume and chop in their wakes. White pelicans swoop and soar en masse, their feathers knife-edged in inky black. They are far distant, yet the sunlight illuminates them as though they are one graceful, silken entity.
And yet another delightful surprise awaits! The white-bearded fisherman who sits with pole in hand catching bluegills and enlightening us about the environmental rebirth of the river is/was a fellow newspaper reporter in Milwaukee. Conversation, memories, acquaintances flow freely. Finally time to leave, with one last visit to the horsey set, now with picnic baskets spread on the lawn and the horses unharnessed for a while. An exquisite little pony is petted, then another,. Then, with the familiar smell of horsehide on my palms and the smell of the wide river still on the breeze, we begin the long journey home.
Causes Mary Wagner Supports
Washington County, Wisconsin Human Society
Crohns and Colitis Foundation
Chicago Writers Association