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Beside the River This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

I am sitting on a worn, wooden bench on the side of the trail. The sun is setting, but I can only see glimpses of the sky through the spaces between the trees. To my right, the gravel trail seems to disappear around a bend, the place from which my family and I came. To my left, the trail widens and slopes upward towards a bridge over the river. I sit here in the shadow of a magnificent boulevard of trees so tall they seem to converse with cloud and star. I am in the middle, between where I was and where I will go, just beyond the playful bend in the trail, still far from the bridge ahead.

The crickets have begun their trilling evening song and tonight the wind has decided to join in, rustling the leafy tree boughs in accompaniment. I hear the steady rhythm of footsteps on the crunching gravel as others continue to walk by. The pounding footsteps of runners add a sense of urgency where before there was steady persistence. An occasional, whirring bicycle flies by, carrying its rider swiftly along. The sound of the river flowing in the background is soothing. If you don’t stop to listen, it seems like it’s not there. But I am listening.

Where I sit, the gravel path is covered in a carpet of well-trodden brown leaves. The crunch of footsteps is muffled here.

In this moment, the world seems to have taken a more intense color scheme. The trees before me have become dark, arching columns, silhouetted against a sunset sky. It seems as if color has been drained from the earth and smeared across the sky instead.
The leaves are now whispering silkily, cloaked in shadow. I sit and feel a calm presence of all that is natural. Before it gets dark, I will continue on my way through the boulevard of trees, across the bridge, and go beyond. But for now, I think I’ll sit here just a bit longer.





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