I kept craving sunset walks, in all this pink gold light and the last of the leaves, in their heart-stopping death-colors. We went out with friends on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, to take a river walk. Four children and three adults made for an ambling, erratic pace. Stop/shuffle/throw leaves/screech/run madly ahead. But we made it to the river and the river slid under a deep indigo sky shot with gold, and didn’t care about us a bit. I listened to it shushing, rippling, as we crossed the pedestrian bridge. I joked that my favorite time over the water is when no one else is there, as we slow-motion dodged among our fellow amblers. On the far side we kept walking, knowing any minute we would turn back. The sunset silently, wildly dark purple and copper behind the trees’ black filigree kept pulling our faces round to the west. Ahead, though, a rope swing with children dangling from it. Our own children, electric, surged ahead and paused. Not a rope – a vine. A vine hung from 30 feet up, and a little line of children waited to take a couple of swings out over the path and back to the steep hillside to which the trees’ roots clung. The perfect, slow glide of that vine kept us all spellbound – the children waiting in line, the parents watching from the path as each one clung, let go, and sailed like the clapper of a huge bell but soundless. Each flight held a magic no one would interrupt. Each child helped the next with the vine. “Will it break?” Parents waited motionless. One more. The purple sky. One more. It’s almost dark. One more. Our daughters, our sons, strangers’ children, each gliding through the dusk. One more. Their faces, concentrated in the bliss of the swing. More children arrive. One more. A half-moon, and the train whistle beckons us. One more. “It hasn’t broken yet.” We turn back to the bridge.
Lea Marshall is a poet and freelance writer, and is Associate Chair of VCU's Department of Dance + Choreography in Richmond. She feels lucky to live near the river.