Watching Cindy from across the room, as she gazes at the mountains through their bedroom window, William can tell that she really does love the place. And he is quite happy to see that, since that was the point of bringing her up here, after all. But now that they've been staying at his home for awhile, he can also sense that the first stirrings of restlessness are starting to present themselves within her.
It's quite understandable, really. For all of the wonders that this place affords, it really would be quite strange for one not to eventually develop some form of cabin fever, as it where. And so it's time for a change.
"Do you want to go see them?" he asks.
She turns to look at him, smiling lightly. "The mountains?" Then she looks back out the window again. "They seem quite a way off…"
He nods his head. "Its a fair distance."
After a moment's consideration, Cindy rises from the bed and saunters over to where he is sitting, on a tall wooden stool next to his workbench. She puts her arms around his shoulders and touches her nose to his. "We could make a day of it." She suggests, "Pack a lunch…"
Cindy runs her hands down William's arms and takes hold of his own hands, leaning back from him and slowly swinging from side to side. "It'll be quite a hike, but I think I can handle it." She leans in and grins at him. "You think you can handle it?"
"Oh I'm pretty sure I can manage." William chuckles, sliding forward off the stool. He gives her waist a gentle squeeze before breaking away from her, striding over to the side of the cabin closest to the porch. Leaning down, he begins to rummage through an old wooden chest on the floor.
"But you know," William says, pulling out a small guitar and setting it on a shelf that lines the windows to the outside porch, "We don't necessarily have to hike at all…"
A light meow announces an arrival of a sleek tabby cat at the window from the porch. Cindy named him Sagat the first day she met him, and he's come by every day since then, climbing across from the boughs of one of the neighbouring trees.
Sagat slips in through the window and crosses the windows' shelf over to Cindy, jumping up into her arms and nuzzling her chin. "So how do we go then? Cross over through the trees like Sagat?"
William smiles and straightens up from the chest. He is holding a flute in his hand, made of silver and inlaid with fine carvings of leaves. He offers the flute to Cindy.
Cindy takes the flute with an uncertain expression on her face. "Thank you..?" Sagat paws lightly at the flute. William picks up the guitar and makes his way to the porch door.
"Come on," He calls back to her, pushing open the screen door and stepping out onto the porch. She looks at the flute in her hand and then crosses over to the door, setting Sagat down in the window sill before following William out onto the porch.
The porch side of the cabin faces the ocean, casting a shimmering blue green across the horizon, before meeting the shore a few miles away from their position. Here the porch is in shade from the rising sun across the other side of the cabin, made all the more darker by the bamboo roof covering its' length. Technically that makes it a veranda, Cindy had mentioned when she first got here. But porch was easier.
Cindy crosses over to the railing and looks down. Meandering tree branches twist and curve below them into patches of lush foliage, and between those patches the tree's trunks descend even further down into the mist. Countless more trees sprawl out in all directions from their own giant oak, forming the canopy of the forest above which sits their cabin. Further off she can see the fog enshrouded valley reaching out to the sea. It still astonishes her to realize just how high up they are in this place; well over a thousand feet from the ground below.
Cindy looks over at William, who is tuning his guitar while leaning against the opposite corner of the porch. If he'd asked her to come live with him in his treehouse in the sky, she might not even be here at all. And where would she be now, otherwise?
William finishes tuning and looks up at her. "Ready?"
Cindy gapes at him in disbelief, then looks quizzically at the flute in her hands. "I've never played a flute in my life." She stares at the instrument, as though willing it to explain to her what's going on. Across the porch, William shrugs his shoulders nonchalantly and starts to press his fingers against the fretboard of his guitar.
She turns her eyes up to him and suppresses a nervous giggle. "William, what is it that we're doing here?"
He smiles warmly back at her. "Don't worry about it. That's a special flute." He motions to the instrument in her hands. "It teaches you how to play it."
"Oh really?" And now Cindy does let out a quick giggle, and William joins in, laughing lightly along with her.
"Yep. Really." He settles himself and gets ready to play, casting an encouraging expression across to her. "Look, I'll get us started. And once you feel comfortable, you just go ahead and join in."
And with that, William starts to play. The chords ring out across the porch, simple at first, a fairly basic structure. But already the melody is speaking to Cindy, and she can feel herself loosening up to the song. She turns her head to look over to Sagat, who is lounging comfortably in the windowsill, peering sagely out at her.
And now the music is developing further, William's playing growing into different patterns, then progressing to overlay each other into a more complex movement. And Cindy can feel it pulling at her, a sound filled with a rising joy, yet tinged with a sort of sadness… She raises the flute to her lips.
Her first few notes are awkward, a little off time and out of tune, but with a patient nod from William she presses forward. And after a few more seconds, Cindy finds to her amazement that she is playing along quite effectively; the flute is dancing against her lips and across her hands, signalling her fingers to press the notes at the proper times and pulling her breath back and forth throughout the melody.
As they continue to play, eyes locked on each other, Cindy's thoughts reflect back on the time that she'd spent here. Because while she doesn't quite understand what happens to be the purpose of their playing this song, she knows one thing for certain: this is a magical place, up here amongst the clouds and the birds, and this beautiful treehouse is the most magic part of it all.
Yesterday they picked carrots and squash, that grew in a wild garden across the interlocking arms of two massive redwoods, about a half mile south from here. To get to that location they'd had to climb down the massive ladder into the main of the forest, since the treehouse was in fact the highest spot around, and below the tree line there were rope bridges leading to wide flat branches covered in moss and grass, over which they could traverse. It was surprising just how easily Cindy was able to get over her fear of heights, soon able to pick her way across from tree to tree.
The song rises and falls between the two of them, sharing energy back and forth across the porch. This is a new way for them to express their now familiar bond, and Cindy finds herself feeling even closer to William through this odd musical mystery, the latest of many wonders that carried them through their life together in this place.
They have all that they need up here; the forest provides for everything. Some of the trees are so huge that they even hold ponds and streams that feed into waterfalls, and the water from these streams is the freshest that Cindy has ever tasted. Every conceivable species of bird seems to populate the upper regions of the forest, between gulls careening inland from the sea, to hawks and eagles gliding far overhead… Toucans and parrots appear amongst the leaves, and sparrows and finch. Every few days pelicans alight on the porch's railing, bearing fish in their ample beaks, to trade with William in exchange for flagrant purple flowers that he places in their beaks before they fly off, cawing into the high air.
Everything they needed; the whole world theirs for the taking… Cindy wonders to herself how she managed to live the way she did before. In fact as time goes on she finds it harder to even recall her life before coming up here, seeming to have been like a haze, a lifetime spent wandering through a fog.
She does remember her first day arriving at this place, when William had led her to the base of the great tree. She'd stared at the rope ladder leading up into the branches and laughed self consciously. There's no way I'm gonna be able to climb that!
You'll be surprised what you can do. He'd reached out to the ladder and pulled it towards her, placing it in her hands. She looked around, hoping for a distraction and noticed the pile of leather covering sitting off to the side of the tree.
He looked over at the pile. Oh, that's my balloon.
She laughed again. Your balloon? So why don't we take it up instead?
That's not what it's for. We use the balloon later.
The music expands in patterns of vibration, increasing intensity back and forth between the two players. Cindy can feel her feet tingling as they both continue together, and the sensation rises up her legs and across her belly, through her heart and up out of the top of her head. It is like warm electricity enveloping her entire being. We use the balloon later… she thinks, and a sudden realization brings her to look once again over the side of the porch.
The balloon emerges from between the leaves of the canopy, rising steadily towards them. Its leather covering has expanded into a multi coloured patchwork in the form of an oval shape with small wings on either side, the surface lightly speckled with morning dew and seeming to breath like a great bellows in time with the melody that they are playing. Which of course makes perfect sense. This is how you raise the balloon; you fill it with music and up it goes.
A scattering of small birds heralds the dirigible's arrival up next to the music making veranda. As it ascends to a position slightly higher than the railing their song comes to a perfectly timed conclusion, with Sagat meowing a feline greeting from his place at the window. Cindy and William both lower their instruments and gaze at the aircraft. Below the balloon hangs a small cabin of bamboo, complete with a door and windows, affixed to the balloon with thick ropes of vine that are strapped over the bulk of the apparatus. The entire vehicle hovers in the air about a foot or two from the railing, patiently awaiting them like some junk sky chariot.
William steps forward, winding his guitar around his back, and picks up a pole hook that leans against the wall of the porch. He approaches the balloon and uses the hook to undo a rope ladder from the base of the door. The ladder unwinds and settles onto the top of the railing, and William ties both sides off around the railing posts. He then sets the hook aside and steps up onto the railing and then the rope ladder.
William looks back to Cindy and reaches out his hand. She feels her heart rising in her chest for a moment. Fear and joy mix into one strange and indescribable emotion; she knows she has to go. It's time to go.
Cindy doesn't leave the flute behind, but instead fastens it to the belt of her dress. She steps forward and takes William's hand, and he lifts her up onto the railing. The canopy looms silently below them both as they clamber up the rope ladder and into the tiny bamboo cabin of their strange balloon. Once they're both inside, William takes another hook and reaches it through the doorway, to unfasten the rope ladder from the railing.
The ballon begins to descend. "You have to keep playing!" William calls out, still busy with the rope ladder. Cindy hesitates, momentarily confused at the sight of the porch rising outside the window. William whips a look back at her. "Play!"
She pulls the flute from her waistband and starts to play a panicked trill of rapid notes. The balloon rises suddenly, too much, jerking sharply as the rope ladder snaps taut. William grabs a hold of the side of the door, barely keeping himself from falling out of the cabin. "Whoa! Slow down, slow it down!"
Cindy takes a quick breath and lets out a long, slow note on her flute. The balloon descends slightly and settles into a stable position.
"Okay, good…" William finishes unfastening the ladder and pulls the hook in, turning to face her with a relieved smile. "Okay, take her up."
Cindy pulls the flute away from her lips, ready to apologize for almost getting him killed, but William raises a hand and shakes his head, then points upwards, an impish expression on his face. "Up…"
She continues to play, long continuous notes slowly rising, and as she plays the balloon climbs higher into the sky. The sun peeks out from over the roof of the treehouse as they make their way up, momentarily blinding her view before she is able to see the porch for one final moment, Sagat in the window watching them as they go. And then they are above the treehouse and on their way.
Bathed in sunlight, the balloon makes its way silently above the forest canopy, headed inland for the distant mountains. As it moves along, various birds circle and cast along with it, and in the trees small animals gaze out from their homes to watch the balloon as it passes by. The forest gathers in farewell to the pair of lovers in the sky.
William has joined Cindy in her song, strumming his guitar gently. The song they play is slow and steady, an easy song to play. She looks over at him and smiles periodically, and then they both turn to watch the approaching mountains.
Now that they're up here, now that they've gone this far, William can feel the first stirrings of trepidation starting to well up from within his heart. Up until now it's been like a fun vacation, but at this moment he knows that they've taken a larger step, a much larger step indeed. He wonders if she really understands just want he's gotten her into…
He'd been alone for so long. And he'd been searching, always searching… Until he came to see that what he was seeking couldn't be found that way. He had to become himself first, and then she would find him. And she did.
So did he deceive her? Well, not openly, no. But there was much about himself and this place where he had brought her, that had remained untold. And the truth be told, it would have taken a lifetime… And he had to remember that she had chosen him; she was no prisoner.
The white capped mountains slowly grow larger before them, looming and dangerously beautiful. The mountains would know, whether he had done the right thing in bringing her to them. The mountains would decide. There was a sort of comfort in that. And there was certainly no turning back, now.
To say to someone, I love you, is in many ways, the same as saying, We'll die together.
He stops playing. The balloon continues on, making awkward creaks and groans between Cindy's notes. After a few moments she stops playing and regards him.
They stand that way for a moment, staring gently at each other, as the wind rushes and falls around them. Then he offers his guitar to her. When you lead someone this far, there comes a time when the reason for doing so is made to be known. It is to share the lead.
She takes the guitar from his hands, softly cradling it against her waist. As she begins to play, William leans back and basks in the morning sun. The warmth bathes over his face and neck, but from the mountains comes a lowering chill breeze. That's okay, in fact that is how it should be. They will face that cold wisdom together, throw themselves into its frozen embrace and thrive through it all as one.
Back at the treehouse, Sagat has crossed over to a window on the sunny side of the cabin, to watch the balloon as it leaves in the distance, as well as to warm up in the sun's golden rays. While passing through the kitchen area he'd noticed that Cindy had laid out a bowl of milk for him again. This is appreciated by the creature, and watching the aircraft floating along towards its destination, he knows that he will miss both her and William. Soon, once he has sufficiently warmed himself up, he will drop down from this windowsill and help himself to one last bowl of milk, in memory of the young woman's kindness. Then he will leave this place, to live amongst the boughs and the branches and the birds, and to await the time when a new couple arrives here again. And then he will return, and assist them in their preparations for their own journey to the mountains distant.
The writing, image and music are all by the author of this post. To view more of my work please visit http://www.fireawaymarmot.com