Day 16

It’s day one of the residency and already Beth, Kyle, Catherine, crew, and I are clinking our Mason jar glasses in toast to the clouded sky and the summer solstice. We walk far, far into the night, past the downtown houses and businesses of Forest Grove, past the new development, past the houses in-progress, and to the edges of a swamp and where the sidewalk ends.

“What color is that reflection on the glassy surface of the water?” says the nonfiction writer (me) to the fiction writers (Beth and Kyle).

We discuss. For twenty minutes. Blue, silver, muted violet, black, sea green, yellow, splashes of pink. The only consensus is that color, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Kyle hops over the wooden fence and wades through unmowed grasses to the water’s edge, bends down as if prayer, a yellow halo of street light illuminating his spiked brown hair. He glances at his own reflection for a moment, then bends lower, knees tucked and back arched, and begins to cup fistfuls of water over his back, the top of his head, and his face. Rising, he sighs deeply, like a wind that could part clouds, his spirit lifted.

“Clear,” he says. “The water is clear.”

Later, we sit on the campus greens and play guitar and sing into the night. I wear my fedora and Lara comes out to give us Norwegian seashells and request songs. Thom, the new kid poet, shuffles his flip-flops across the paved campus trails to follow our song, plops his tired legs down beneath him along with a stack of paperback books; lights a cigarette, and already my heart says – can we all just stay here forever?

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