THE WORLD WAS poised on a shadowy line between night and day. The back porch planking was rough and dusty beneath my bare feet, the breeze almost cool through Helen’s thin housedress as I bent over to slip the supple leather moccasins on my feet.
A sleeping hush whispered with the wind over the dirt yard. I passed the ring of rustling shade trees and Helen’s kitchen garden and wandered past the barn with its half-finished coat of new brown paint, the tool shed, and the five tall grain silos. I didn’t look into the lightening sky until I stood at the edge of the first field, pulling up my long skirt and cinching the fabric above my knees with the sash.
Then I raised my eyes to deep blue and the bright blaze of orange sun peering over low, distant hills. Sunlight flowed onto the fields and a sea of molten copper and silver lapped at my feet, hissing in the dawn. The wind tugged at my hair and eddied over the restless stalks, painting fast swirls of blue-green in shifting patterns before the froth of the ripening grain closed behind its path. A rich smell of dust and grasses rose into my nostrils and my eyes stung and watered. From the wind.
Past the first field, the closest of the high towers rose from the stirring wheat. Sunlight gleamed down its alloy spire. Its mylar sails swept past the dim footing of three straddled legs and up again into the light—vast, fluttering wings of silver blue dipping and soaring around the tower, above the fluid earth. Down the valley to the base of the far hills the towers strode among the fields, the last looking in the distance like a child’s spinning pinwheel. The wind murmured over it all.
I took a deep breath and closed my eyes and it was summer, I was twelve, and we had just been released from a long spring term of village school. My rebellious legs free beneath my bound-up skirt, I opened the close kernel of my heart to the morning. All elbows, knees, and pigtails, I spun laughing, twirling into the head-high ripening wheat.
And now I was running again, laughing, into the windy surge of it, the stalks furrowing and closing about me. I ran with the firm kernels of grain striking my face, the tough stems whipping my legs, the smell of the grasses rich around me. A crazy exultation rose and spilled over me as I plunged on through the windy field, running to the sails of the closest tower.
Finally, gasping for breath, I fell against one leg of the tower and leaned into the cool kiss of metal on my back.
I closed my eyes and dug my toes into the dirt to search out the tremor radiating from the deep-sunk core of the tower. The vibration rose through the soles of my feet and hummed through me, the voice of Poindros itself, and that long-forgotten flush of well-being flowed up through my legs to each fingertip. Something held tight inside me eased and opened to the banished memory of the old harmony, the earth-tremor and the wind in the wheeling sails and eddying wheat.
“Breathe deep and slow, Ruth.” I could almost see the sharp blue eyes, the craggy, wind-seamed face. “There—feel it? The tower in tune with the wind and the earth-tremor . . .”
“Yes, Isaac, I feel it. Can we climb now?”
His slow, dry chuckle. “Simmer down now, young pup! We’ll get to your ‘air-dancing’ soon enough.”
I shook my head and broke away from the touch of the humming metal, squinting up at the glaring signals flashed by the sail tips as they rose and swept through sunlight. My toes found, through the thin leather, the knobbed projections of the tower’s leg. I scrambled up and sat where the broad slope of the leg flattened for the nearly horizontal sweep toward the central shaft. The thick ribbon of steel alloy curved to its intersection with the other two legs, where they joined and rose to enclose the generator-spinner. And the tremor-rod inside it, the rod that helped even out the seismic quiver to a frequency that nurtured the hybrid wheat, Poindros’s only export. My eyes followed the gleaming spire up to the ring that held the wind-spun wheel of the sails.
Sunlight slid over my face as I lay back on the still-cool slope of the leg and listened to the brisk snap of the sails. Their thin, tough mylar sheeting was clear if you held a piece and looked through it, but when it was stretched into the frame of the immense sail arms it came alive and flashed pearl and sapphire-silver in the sun. I lay and watched as the wheel spun its lights.
The wind shifted, and with a rush the sails were carried by the extension bar and the central gimballed mount to a position directly over my head. They swept by so close their breath tugged against my grip on the tower’s leg.
I closed my eyes and breathed with the rhythm of their cycle. The rushing arms counted off the days curving into another cycle before me, spinning out with a comforting sameness, drawing me back to the earth. The sails and the tremor whispered a song I had only to learn their harmony to share, drawing me close to the warm heart of Poindros, spilling generously like sun-ripe kernels of grain from Helen’s overflowing, cupped hands.
The wheel shifted again with a sharp crack. I sat up, shaking my head as a jitter of misaligned tremor shook through me. The harmony of Poindros wasn’t meant for me. The fields and towers were Taboo for women.
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