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Late One Evening

(c) Linda Hutchison August 2016

The moon rose late one evening over the lake. Its silvery trail led my eye to the horizon, where a single cloud appeared, drifting slowly with the gentle breeze from left to right. It drifted over the dark trees at the edge of the lake. Pines with severe points and sharp edges. It drifted further over the oaks which were changing colour with the drop in temperature. How did I get here? One moment I was in Melbourne, then suddenly I’m out in the wilds of Montana, standing on the porch of my tiny house overlooking the lake. I’d had a reasonably quiet existence until now, but it seemed that, despite my solitude, my new life was far noisier. Perhaps it was because everything was strange. The sun rose in the wrong direction, the water smelled different, the bird cries were unfamiliar and the plants seemed like something from an alien planet. Even the air felt different – cleaner and crisply sharp, but biting and even less humid, if that was possible. Even the cows over the hill behind me sounded strangely foreign. And the pine cones, although larger because, of course, they were in America, had the fragrance of pine, only not as I remembered it. It was all so new that everything around me grabbed my attention. I was a person who paid great attention to detail before, but my senses were now heightened to extreme levels.

But I so enjoy the night here. There must been an owl of sorts in the pine trees who visits my single lantern searching for moths. I’m yet to see him, but he hoots to let me know he’s here. The squirrels scurry and jump from branch to branch, reminding me of the possums back home. The ants form their usual exploratory trails, which is fine as long as they don’t explore my shack. I’ve been told that there are bears here too, but I’m hoping they sense that I’m a friendly being and keep their distance. They can have their share of the fresh salmon in the stream – there’s plenty for everyone. A few days ago I caught a glimpse of an elk standing quietly in the shadows. We surveyed each other and I thought peaceful thoughts in his direction. He eventually looked away and then strolled unhurriedly away. I felt acknowledged, if not totally welcome in his domain. He knew that where there was one human, others had to follow. But the night was ours and we would share it in silent appreciation.

My shack, half hidden by bushes, would have made a perfect postcard picture if I bothered to paint it. I preferred the rustic, rough wooden feel of the original planks and unfinished rails. It was my new sanctuary. I’d been living a normal, suburban life in Australia when circumstances brought me halfway around the world to the fringes of a new town. The village life that I’d longed for in Melbourne wasn’t quite what I found here, but in some ways it was far better. I’d got used to the local accent and was starting to sound less like an incomer. And my son, so happily settled with his new wife, lived only 30 miles away. Distant enough for us each to have our own space, but close enough for an easy visit. We’d promised him that when he found his life partner, we would move to where her parents came from – to make it easier to visit. We’d been hoping for Tasmania, or a country town in Victoria, but he fell for a gorgeous American girl and overnight all of our lives changed dramatically. The outcome had been far superior to anything we could have dreamed up ourselves.

By day I ran the library in the local school, dreaming up new adventures for the children on a daily basis. One week we were trekking in the Andes, the following sledding with Huskies in Alaska. Virtual reality made it possible to be everywhere and anywhere without having to brave the travel and without the obligatory fundraising bake sales. The children loved showing me around the local woods, and so, on warmer summer days, we would hold our library lessons outdoors, finding local plants and animals and using our tablets to build stories about them. I’m sure I learned more than they did some days. What a wonderful new season. Life, I had decided, must start in your mid-50’s.


Late One Evening: Work
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