She squats low to the ground; her rump nearly touching the grass and damp soil. Toes grip unconsciously onto the smooth-soled sandals that barely hold her still on the bank. Her weight pushes last night’s rain out of the earth and over her feet. Heavy lines of brown outline her toenails and there’s a smell of fresh soil and stones. The mud isn’t a bother. Even at a young age the fear of unwanted, limbless serpents slithering their way toward her, or even near her was more overwhelming. Her senses are hyper-aware of any startling twist in the grass or an unexpected dart behind a rock.
She puts her hands down at her sides; feels the cool ground on her palms and the sharp blades between her fingers. There’s a breeze and shade on the bank. Her knees are beginning to burn. She stands and her weight thrusts her forward clumsily down the knoll toward the water. The fluid mirror at her feet reflects sunlight that flickers behind leaves suspended high in the trees; looming above her. The currents flow makes her own shadowy reflection hard to distinguish. Her toes slyly slip into the creek water. The cold is biting, but washes streaks of mud from her soles down stream. She slowly creeps in further, inch-by-inch. The tops of her feet sting, her toes become numb and slowly her limbs acclimate to the temperature.
An algae covered rock helps her quickly slide in deeper; deeper, into the stream that runs down the hill heavily after the last snow has thawed and consistently throughout the summer months, feeding into the horse pasture down the road. It’s clear. The blond hair on her shins stands tall. Her calves don’t react, but the thin skin behind her knees is sensitive to the temperature and for a second it aches as she steps forward. She finds a solid place for her foot to rest and she looks straight down. A decapodal body crawls along the rocky floor below her. Without hesitation she reaches down with her right hand to snatch up his body for a closer look. Her fingers and forearm nearly immune to the cold lunge in and her upper arm is chill with relief. As her knee bends she’s careful to keep her bottom dry. Her face nears her own reflection and her noses meet for a second on the water’s surface. She then victoriously pulls a rusty orange-colored crayfish up to her face and gives him a quick inspection. His tail curves under his body and his arms flail along with his antennae. She admires his small beady black eyes and non-aggressive nature. She carefully slips him back in to the water and watches him retreat backwards into the shade.
For the sake of balance she quickly dunks her left arm into the stream and puts her wet hands on the back of her neck. She shivers as drops slip down her spine and sides, and she notices the crimson hue of her shoulders. Her legs have now become numb. Not wanting to walk home in wet shorts she cups her hands and dowses her face, arms and neck again.
The water pushes past her legs and threads through a large metal barrel that runs under the road above. If one chooses not to climb into the barrel and enjoy the cooler temperatures it maintains, it’s customary to at least shout a name or toss a stone in before one leaves. Breaking the quiet hum of the stream seems necessary in bringing one back from the surreal calm of this place. She resists shouting and slowly eeks her way toward the barrel. She stares down the dark tube to the other side of the road where tall grass and wild flowers blossom and grow without abandon. She fears what could live in such unkempt terrain. Hands cupped around her mouth she gently whispers, “Hello!” into the barrel. It echoes deeply to the other side. Satisfied, she swoops one more handful of water over her right shoulder and waits for it to hit her back as she climbs up out of the stream.