Lick Creek

By Sarah Marty-Schlipf

November 6, 2017

Lick Creek

My niece Charli, eight years old, is crouched in the creek, peering into the sunlit shallows, her face and arms and loose gold curls spangled with light. Around her, the shaggy green woods are alive and trembling. Cardinals sail from branch to branch, singing. A breeze tousles the cottonwoods, sending down fine white seed tufts like snowfall in early summer. Minnows gather and part at her pink sneakers. Charli is still, hands cupped at the surface, waiting. 
I watch from my rock perch in the shade, my feet in deep water. Lately I’ve been making lists. Things growing in my garden—lilies, lettuce, peas… Things I’m grateful for today—sleep, toothpaste, bees… Things that comfort me—laundry on the line, the dog’s fur under my fingers, a palm full of berries still warm from the sun… The lists are a buffer, a little breathing room inside the clenched fist of depression that has gripped me for months. 
Aunt Sadie, she says later, help me move this rock. We turn it over and let it crash. Silt billows. A crawdad scoots out of the darkness. Charli shouts, delighted, and something loosens around my ribs, finally, and I gasp. An open window, a tent unzipped to daylight, a single-track trail leading out of the woods.

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