by Patrick Papaccio

mother and daughter by a creek

You were walking more than being in the backpack by far and away at this time, so much so now that I look back and remember it through the opaque impairment of my minds bleared eye.  All these years since then, I am quite sure now, I was wearing that backpack at that point solely for my own benefit.  Clinging to a change that happened in a breath well before I was ready to catch it.  As each day passed you got older and less dependent on me as I watched, true character building for both of us.

We were on hike to a point along the Neversink River, you, me and Kate.  One day so vividly etched into my memory I can still feel the midday summers heat rising up.  Watching the sway of the leaves in a metronomic dance from the energy created by the sun, rock and river.

As I sit here and write this all these years later I can see you sitting too, on the right of your mom, amongst the exposed roots of washed away earth and well rounded smooth rocks, with both sets of your skinny legs hanging over the pitched banks on the river.  You and Kate had settled in for a snack along the high banks of the fast flowing river and I wandered off in search of what lie around a bend downstream for a few moments.

Looking back in the all to short time line of our existence to see forever, we were on an explore.  This was not a destination guided by a book, just a map of the surroundings topography, and an animals’ trail to lead us.

Upon my returning to within fifty or so yards of the spot I left you, what I saw was one of the most incredible sites I had or have ever seen.

A coyote, not twenty yards from you, both, down wind and down river and stealthy peering from around an ancient sycamore tree.  This was not a creature of spare parts, this is a creature of un-surpassing beauty. You felt he knew he was an apex predator just by the way he stood. Pure white underbelly and easy to miss.

He was trying to get your scent, or that of the sun-butter and jelly sandwiches you were enjoying. A moment of me watching him, watching you, life seemingly watching us all.

The brain stretches time out during a novel experience so they say, and for those moments I stood watching it felt like time had ceased to exist at all.  Emotions have two sides, sensations and thought, and for that time I can recall having neither, a complete cessation of wanting, a moment of just being.  Like a junkie trying to bring back that first high, I hope to always crave that moment’s memory.

All experience is temporary and due to human stupidity I moved, in a feeble attempt I thought I could move quietly and smoothly enough not to be noticed but laughingly, truth be told, as soon as I even though about moving for the camera in my front shorts pocket and my hand shifted, never even reaching into my pocket, it looked to me and was gone, IT was GONE.  The best part to me still all this time later is he was never seen nor heard from by the two he was so closest to, not out of your ignorance or inattention, out of him not wanting to be. This creature was fleet of foot.

Happenings like that are what some may call the external locus of control being in control, or in plain English, in God’s hands.  As it is always his first move when you come to think about in the end.

In places like the Nature Conservancy’s Neversink Preserve nature still exists.  We can prove as a species that we humans are capable in fact of leaving something alone.  This locale is a testament to the natural world being more than OK with it.

I’ll never understand how much I Love you, hopefully you will and possibly this story is something that shows us both that.