Up the driveway, around the curve, down a hill, past the barking Dalmatians, through shadow and shade to the brilliant sun. We step carefully, for the road is full of fuzzy caterpillars. Half a mile in, we come to the turn-off, the path to the river. Grassy, muddy, mossy, we're in the tunnel of the trees where all is silent and holy. Past the pond, the full-sun pond with cattails and croaking frogs. We come to the deck built over the wetlands, then we're in the trees.
Grass gives way to moss-covered roots, forget-me-nots, star flowers, parchment berries, wild lily of the valley. Oaks, maples, pines above. At our sides, ferns whisper, poison ivy tangles with blueberry bushes.
"Look! There's a lady's slipper!" We count them on the way to the river. Two, three, four.
We are underwater, we are in a dungeon, we are in a cathedral. We sing at the top of our lungs and the sound echoes. We would dance, but the roots and stones stop us, caution us to slow down, to see what accompanies us on our walk. We sniff the air, so sweet and full.
And then. Oh, then. Wall of trees hiding, hiding, hiding, but we know. Oh, yes, we know. There's no secret here. Water rushing, water gurgling, shining sun pressing down. A flash of gossamer light: fly-fisherman in the middle of the river, looping, cajoling, caressing, a tempter of what swims below.
The path continues, fallen pine needles, trodden, trodden, tread. Tread lightly, says the lady's slipper by the river's bank. And when the wind picks up, when the fisherman wades ashore, when the explorers have explored, we step lightly back through the brown and the green, out from the cathedral, out from the dungeon, back to the brightness of the day beyond.
By the side of the road
Between those two trees
Five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve.
An even dozen.
Pink lady's slippers dancing dainty, bobbing on their stems.