September 11, 2013


Every year I come back here, to the riverside. We are deep, deep into the mountains, surrounded by granite rocks. I dip my toes into the cold stream and giggle. Everytime I am here, time seems to stop, and I forget any care I have. A tiny watersnake swims lazily around my ankle like a slick black ribbon. Iridescent dragonflies dance everywhere, their wings like a stained glass : translucent until the end, where they turn black. The movement of the wings is like a woman fluttering her eyelashes. I watch the sun rise and set on the water, and the noise of the river changes every hour. It is soft and caressing in the morning, when the light barely shows over the pink edges of the cliffs ; it is rythmic and loud, when night comes and the tree-eating cattle gathers in the woods, tingling their heavy tin bells. The riverside transforms every year with the flood, but the water stays and the rocks stays, billions of years old rocks broken into grey sand and smooth pebbles that I throw in the stream to make them sing.

I remember the day I was brought here for the first time : fourteen years old, fierce and lightheaded. When the time to go back arrived, after ten days of dreaming and laughing and dancing, I cried like a little girl.  Many years have passed and now I am the one leading children there. They come and they go, luggages fill and empty, and the water still flows. They sleep in huge white tents and create beautiful chaos everywhere. We spend all day in  our hiding place under the trees and draw the huts and cabins we want to build. Before their arrival, we crossed the river to get more wood, and as we did, the sun burnt my shoulders brown. Everyday I wake up before the sun is up. My muscles are aching from the hard ground I slept on, but then I hear the sound of laughing children melting with the swash of the river, and I forget the discomfort, and I get dressed, kneeling in my tiny tent. When I open the canvas the morning dew tickles my cheeks. We eat breakfast outside, under the trees. The huge brown tables are soon covered in honey and breadcrumbs. We play hide and seek to keep warm, until the late sun finally show over the cliffs. In the afternoon, we teach them how to handle a knife, how to carve patterns on small twigs, how to make knots to support the structure of their hut. When it gets too hot, we come down to the glistening river. These kids are all joy. Their laugh echoes high, bouncing on the cliffs and the trees whose roots plunge into the water. At dusk, we sat by the bonfire and share stories and songs. We paint their faces with coal and clay and they howl at the moon like beasts, bursting in laughter in fear of their own voice.

As soon as they are in bed, we gather around a cup of herbal tea or a bowl of cereal and we talk late into the night, enjoying the calm. Moths crawl on the tables and try to climb our arms. Sometimes one of our children wakes up and calls for us, frightened by the dark, so we go back to the tents and sing lullabies until he's asleep again. All day there is so much noise, but at night the silence rises from the dark, and as I am walking blindly towards my tent, I listen to the owls and the crickets. In just a few days we will be heading for the cliffs, to sleep under the stars, away from the river, from everything.

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