THE WORLD HAS GONE STILL, poised on the fulcrum of Now. Lindsey takes a deep breath of fir needle resin and listens to the forest hush.
She’s halted at a switchback on the Goat Mountain trail, confronted by the flaring skirts of two giant cedars flanking the trail, making a gateway to the filtered light beyond—a soft green frieze of lacy bleeding-heart, red huckleberry, and backlit vine-maple leaves. She steps through, outstretched fingertips brushing the rough bark on either side. Before her on the steep slope rises another big cedar, this one a hollowed-out husk surviving an old lightning burn. It’s a favorite spot, an intricate sculpture in brown and charred black, scooped and hollowed into a windowed tube and resting impossibly balanced on narrow spikes of intact trunk. Lindsey holds her breath, feeling the slightest breeze might crumble the fragile balance, send the whole thing crashing at her feet. And yet it’s clearly stood this way for decades.
Overhead, a raven chortles.
There’s an answering raven call behind her, full-throated.
Lindsey turns to see Damon stepping through the twin-cedar gateway, face turned up as the hidden raven overhead calls back to him. He smiles and flattens a palm over one of the flaring trunks.
“Wow.” He steps closer behind Lindsey, staring at the hollow burned cedar. “I’d forgotten about that.”
They stand quietly taking it in.
Damon lifts the camera hanging around his neck. “How about a shot of you standing beside it?”
She shakes her head. “Better without me.”
“It needs you at its feet, gives proportion.”
“Oh. All right.” Lindsey moves carefully to avoid crushing the delicate wildflowers. “How about if I crouch down? Less intrusive.”
“Perfect.” He snaps a couple shots, taking his time, and when Lindsey thinks he’s done and she’s relaxed to gaze up at the play of filtered light over cedar bark, he snaps one more. “Nice. If you’ll sign a release, I can use it in one of our hiking features.”
She bites her lip, starts to protest about not being photogenic, then shrugs.
“Look. It’s beautiful.” He gestures her closer, tilts the camera—an expensive-looking digital with a big lens—so she can see the monitor screen. The soft lighting glows over the sinuous lines of the burned sculpturing, casts a warm hue on Lindsey’s uptilted face. He’s caught a very flattering angle on her.
She blinks in surprise. “You’re an artist.”
He brushes her bare shoulder lightly with his fingers. “No. You’re a natural.”
She shivers—from his touch, or just cooling off after the sweaty push up the steep switchbacks? Adjusting her knapsack straps, she moves quickly on up the trail. “Looks like more light breaking through up ahead. We’re almost to the meadow.”
A snowmelt stream gurgles down the slope and across the trail, silencing whatever response Damon might have made behind her. Lindsey can feel the heat in her cheeks, the unspoken vibe between them. He’s been quiet on the trail, after their animated brainstorming session in the car about article ideas, but she can feel his gaze on her back, can’t help noting his appreciative glances at her bare legs and arms when they take a water break.
Damon has surprised her in the forest, the way he’s carried a sort of stillness that meshes with the forest hush. They have a good matching pace and rhythm for hiking, something Lindsey doesn’t find in many companions. She’s grateful he doesn’t feel the need to talk much, can just tilt his head toward something he’s noticed, or catch a movement of hers toward a bird or wildflower. They’ve got a groove going with the trail.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish