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The White Goose

Saturday: Jurmala, Latvia. I have just been to the sea. Pavement gave way to gravel roads gave way to moss gave way to packed sand and then sea. Pileated woodpeckers stripped the bark from the branches of the pines above my head, rat-a-tatting their way up the coast. In one of the houses set back from the gray Baltic someone burned leaves and the smoke rose and filled the thin strip of maples and pines; I swam through it, pressing my feet into the yellowing moss, letting the smoke fill my hair, thinking this is so autumn this is so how it should be. On my way back, the sun cut through the clouds and as I reached the gate I heard a cry and looked up and there was something that would be the perfect metaphor if I had anything for it to be a metaphor for: a single white goose.

Moss. Pines. Sea. Words: these are hard things to wrap around the everyday here. This land is built on fairytale images: houses built by elves with rounded mushroom tops, little diamond shaped windows in towers from which maidens might dangle their hair. Mysterious holes in the forest that lead nowhere but in those tales we heard as children must certainly lead somewhere. The plaster walls painted mint green and yellow and pale rose, as if chosen by cooped-up old witches hoping to entice children into their homes. (The way they've been feeding me here! The rabbit, the liver, the cooked carrots, the bread, the butter, the dill, and the mushroom sauce! I've been sticking out a mouse bone when people ask to shake my hand.)

My head is full of words to describe these things, in two languages, but none of them fit. "I'm losing my words," I keep saying, as if that excuses my silence. I only write now because I haven't written my own words in so long and I need to stretch the synapses that form the bridge between experience and words. As you can see they are creaky: warped and cobwebbed from disuse.

But even if my words were fully exercised, in tip-top shape from stretching and lunging and leaping, I'm still not sure they'd be sufficient enough to describe here, this white goose of a country. This mushroom house, the smoke in the forest, the otherworldly shadows as they fall on these brightly painted walls. If you could only see it, you might believe me.

© Zan McQuade. All rights reserved.

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