As I Slept

Dune Grasses on the Great Beach - Point Reyes © David Coyote
Dune Grasses on the Great Beach - Point Reyes
© David Coyote

As I slept the sea called to me and I was there, running on a flat endless beach, its blanketed sands holding hands with all the colors and patterns of oriental rugs, soft under foot, each stride I took let me fly with Achilles’ grace as though freed from laws of time and space, before I saw the old man wearing faded trunks sitting on the sand, looking out to sea, and then at me as I passed. “Do you want to go with me?” I asked. “Let’s run ~ we’ll have fun and laugh and remember the best things of youth ~ they’re in you if you’d tell me their story.” “No,” he said, “I can’t go as fast as you,” so I stopped, lifted him onto my shoulders. He held my hair as warm tropical air caressed my face while I ran, my feet leaving no trace in the sand of my passing. Before me, a mercurial sea, sleeping, a serene child in its earthly bed, so quiet not a saline ripple licked the glassy shore, and in my hand appeared a guitar whose music awaited only my fingers on its strings. Tall grasses, waist high, covered dunes nearby. People appeared, families, mothers and happy children, voices a singing chorus of joy and celebration, and with some not-understood-by-me magic, men joined them, carrying two pianos and enough instruments to make a small orchestra. I ran to them in the golden grasses and asked if I might play and sing with them ~ but I couldn’t remember words, each flew from my mouth, forgotten birds whose music couldn’t be heard over the noise of my silence. As we ran, the people asked me to sing, but tears painted my cheeks with something lovely I’d lost. I walked into the transparent water, so clear that I saw the bottom even when the sea’s warm waters were chest high. On my shoulders, the old man stirred, his fingers wound in my hair told me to stop. “Do you want to swim?” I asked him. He tested the crystal ocean with a toe. “No,” he said, “It’s best I rest on the sands.” In that magic time between the fall of burning sun into darkened sea and dusk I set the old man down on the shore. “I’ll come back for you,” I said. “I won’t forget. Let me swim and you hold my guitar. I won’t go so far out that you can’t see me.” The birds found my tongue and the song returned to my lips, just as I’d promised the old man that I’d come back for him. “I remember,” I called out to the embracing night, and lay back into the gentle hands of that sunset sea and floated until stars filled the apple-green sky overhead. “I remember,” I said, again and again, “please don’t let me forget.”


david coyote

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