• Butterfly-Blackberries-vckimcleod.com
    Micro-Version:
    A traveler’s tale in which a windy lake and winding trails conjure up the past. Follow we must. Creaky bellmen carry the suitcases. Aging ferns and mosses keep guilty secrets, and butterflies jauntily ignore all.
    Long Version:
    She remembers a time she came here almost thirty years ago when the freshness of recovery was still upon her. The mission was to complete her 5th step in Alcoholics Anonymous, admitting to another human being the exact nature of her wrongs.
    She had traveled to the lakeside resort for a day trip with a trusted A.A. companion and they walked the trails along the lake. Finally, to get off the populated track they took side trails slickly riddled with ferns, up the mountainside. In the cool of that forest, she opened her notebook, and read the list of her sins and transgressions, harms made and harms taken. She spilled the details of a decade of drunken recklessness and risk. Lies told, bottles hidden, sex traded.
    Today, as she sits on the grass writing in the garden of this grand hotel, a small boy runs past wearing a red shorts and a blue hat. He carries a yellow ball. She wants to believe he is carefree, but she fears this is not true. His future transgressions have yet to be revealed.
    And on another trip many years before that, before the decline into alcoholism and melancholy and the all the sacred mess, before she knew that all acts have consequences good or bad, she visited this hotel. She was reminded of this as she passed the bellman on her way to walk the lakeshore.
    The bellman is past middle age, grey hair parted neatly. When she walked by he was struggling to open the back door of a large SUV, the owner standing by impatiently. The latch gave him trouble, and he stumbled, off-balance. She has noticed he limps a little.
    Back in the day, her day, days of nightclubs and cocktails, and fantasies of being gorgeous and sought-after, the bellmen at this hotel wore suits, dark blue jackets with high collars and braiding. They were sassy young men; smart looking, with strong arms and big fresh smiles.
    Today they wear khaki shorts and orange golf shirts, embroidered with the hotel logo. They have thinning hair and a false cheerfulness that takes years of practice to perfect. The bellman struggling to juggle the suitcase and the car latch and keep his balance wears sturdy white running shoes, the kind made for people with bad feet, or who are old. Who do they think they are, these doddering bellmen? They are like ghosts.
    She is certain he danced with her once at a disco that used to be hidden among the trinket shops and fish and chip stands on the main street. She remembers him as taller with abundant black hair and a swagger. He was, she remembers, fond of her friend, an exotic almond-eyed brunette, who was buxom and darkly beautiful.
    The bellman that took an interest in her pale angles was a healthy golden boy named Doug. He played ball and waterskied, and was full of freckled goodness.
    She looked away as she passed the bellman. She does not want to be recognized. This is also a kindness. His aging, and the ridiculousness of the scene with the car embarrass her.
    A mean part of her wants to mock him for his age, his limp, his stooped shoulders and bad feet. The finger she points though, points only back at herself.
    Post-menopausal as she follows the trail along the lake, she walks so much more slowly than she did thirty years ago, on the day she found her feet taking her into the dim woods to find pardon.
    She wanted then as she does now – as we all do – freedom from pain, and to be known as beautiful. Thirty years ago she would have gone days into the heart of the mountain to find absolution, hunted in the green fernery to glimpse some long-forgotten lighter self, the girl she had been.
    The wind is bold on these paths. The lake is a noisy beast, lapping hard against the shore. She has traveled here with another woman, also a writer, who says she finds herself in the wind. For our walker, the wind does not bring comfort or change, only memory.
    She would prefer a different reverie, but here it is: the dark trail, the moss, rank ferns and fallen logs. She was searching for something then and now. The solutions to some riddle, clues left in the spores of ferns, the tracks of mushrooms, or found under damp leaves. She read her list of sins into the forest air, and prayed.
    She remembers. She forgives. Milky butterflies leap in the blackberry bushes. The wind snatches her words away before she can write them down.
    In the distance she hears the yellow ball bouncing.
    _________
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