Author’s Note: Yield to a Smile is a piece that I created recently as part of a Plein Air writing exhibition at the local art gallery. The challenge was to visit pre-selected outdoor locations and use what we saw, smelled, heard and felt to create an original essay or poem (500 word max). Inspired by Blackberry Beach and the Easy Climb Trail, Cascade Locks (Oregon), for me this piece is personally about self-discovery and about allowing myself to let go and just use my imagination. Dedicated to my 6-year old grandson, who loves to go on adventures with me and who is always looking and waiting to discover a leprechaun. The title of this piece was inspired by the sign at the trail-head with typical hiking notations about staying on the path, don’t pick and carry noxious weeds…and the second line that said, “yield to a smile.”
Yield to a Smile
Come into the dark place, the well-worn dirt path beckons. I hold out my hand and invite my six-year old grandson to join me.
As we walk, he rambles on about blackberries. “The black ones are sweet, but oh so hard to reach,” he says.
For a moment, I am distracted by his endless prattle and almost miss the weathered wooden sign stuck precariously in the ground at a “Y” in the path. “This way to the enchanted forest” it reads.
The sign has seen better days and is leaning over almost to the ground. Which way is it to the enchanted forest? Straining our eyes to see deep into the woods we try to determine which way to go.
We choose left, and for a fleeting moment I am reminded of the famous poem by Robert Frost.
“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both”
For a brief instant I am hesitant to leave behind the option of path two and it’s dusty promise; a stark analogy of life. So many paths. Choices made every day. Which direction to go? Sometimes I make my choices with confidence. Sometimes I choose a direction and then struggle through the tangled undergrowth. I will not go there again.
In the forest, we leave behind the noises of human civilization. There are no cars or trains. Nevertheless, we are not alone. All around us, we hear the sounds of forest life. Birds are chirping.
“Listen Grandma,” he says. “They are singing a song.” Such is the imagination of a child. I pause for a moment at his request to listen.
The warm summer breeze blows against my face. In it, I smell the heavy musky scent of the river close by. A rabbit startles us as it scurries into the brush and hides out of sight in the brambles.
The forest is enchanting us, drawing us into its mysterious spell. We imagine fairy homes and troll bridges hidden within the dark foliage and speckled sunlight; and leprechauns. There must be leprechauns.
We follow the path as it spills us out onto a small rocky beach that empties into a little cove. The wind is making white capped waves that look like swirls of whip cream, but it is a single white object that catches our eye.
A beautiful white swan. All alone. Just one elegant white bird in the immense gray blue of the water.
We watch as it opens up its wings, arches its long graceful neck and pulls itself up and out of the water. Giant wings pump the air as it flies towards us and over us. Little drops of water from it’s orange webbed feet fall against our upturned faces.
Then it is gone.
All is silent, as if the earth is holding it’s breath.
“Did you see the angel Grandma?” my grandson whispers.
“Yes,” I answer quietly, as I yield to a smile.