The valley of the Mill Brook is only as wide as the shadow of a cloud.
But many memories have settled here. From Waskosim’s Rock I see
the leaves along the frost bottom have changed. Reflecting in the string
of ponds along North Road, they blow through another sky, below
other clouds — leaves and the likeness of past leaves. One February,
I walked along the brook listening to it murmuring under the ice.
It is still snowing in my mind. That day that winter, the flakes falling
into the dark eye of water, disappearing. Nothing that happens is ever
forgotten, but the sight of the snow vanishing into the body of water
disturbed me. The first time I looked over the Mill Pond, I was a boy.
Summer days so long and consistent, I was afraid things would never change.
I have a family now, a house. I’ve come to need proof that life’s a spiral.
Each year I search out the lobelia blooming red where I first saw it
in the tangle of briars by the road, where the water slips over
the old mill dam. Continuity, or something like it, the brook runs on
where I can’t follow, and can’t imagine its life outside mine. It flows.
This should be comfort enough. We love what sees us. And what we see
ourselves in, we hold, and won’t let the shape of that love be altered over
it’s course. My children and I used to race sticks in a stretch of the brook,
where it was allowed to twist and bend freely. Along the bank of roots
and rocks we ran, making our way. We cheered as the sticks cleared
a fallen tree. We rolled up our pants, removed our shoes and socks, and
waded in to free them when they snagged. The cold set our teeth.
The sticks floated on. That was not too long ago. Only my looking has altered
it. Sometimes I forget my kids have grown. Their needs grown different
over the years. Our memories debate the past. Among the brook stones,
among the silent deep turns, they play through the wooded undergrowth of
evenings. Someday those sticks will reach the sea. The clouds will gather and
rain upon our silence. The days flow unimpeded. The foundations of our
industrious lives notwithstanding, we will be left with only memories, settled
into the landscape of our souls, reminding us how far we came, and all we loved.
— Justen Ahren, West Tisbury Poet Laureate