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Rain Will Fall and Take It Away

on the river banks, below the streets, under the trees

Mike Paulus, illustrated by Serena Wagner

You could call it a waterfall in that it’s literally falling water. But I told my kids to stay out of it all the same, especially the hole at the bottom where the water had collected into a milky puddle. The water looked pretty, trickling bit by bit down the face of a massive block of sandstone, four stories high. But I knew where that water came from. And I figured it was better appreciated via our eyeballs and not our fingers and faces.

...

The path was pretty narrow in parts. It made me nervous watching my kids navigate the trail because those narrow parts usually overlooked a pretty steep drop down into the Eau Claire River, past craggy rocks and crooked roots. But I was nervous for myself, too. I’ll admit that. I’m not all that surefooted and heights make me dizzy. And big things make me dizzy. This trail has both heights and big things.

...

My wife was there, leading the way in more ways than one. She set a good example for our son and our daughter and also for me. The kids saw her moving forward, up, over, and around the trail. And I saw how she wasn’t saying “be careful now” every few feet. We should all be more like her.

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There is graffiti on the sandstone, and I wish it wasn’t there. But it reminds me that this isn’t a private place. It’s a shared space but it doesn’t belong to any of us. And I know this graffiti, like the stone itself, because of the stone itself, will be gone soon enough. Moss will creep up and take it away. Rain will fall and take it away. It’ll crumble and slide down towards the water. Cottonwood fluff will come flying down the river, and the breeze will take the dust away and we’ll never see that graffiti again. The person who sprayed it onto the little cliffside has already forgotten it’s there.

...

We saw a tall skinny bird on the other side of the river. If it saw us it didn’t seem to care. It knew we couldn’t fly. It knew we’d never splash across the water to ruin its day. It just stood there, being a bird.

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My daughter did so well. She climbed over the big rocks and she kept her footing even when the path all but disappeared into a dirt groove no wider than a pine snake. She did this her own way, shifting her balance in ways I didn’t really understand, but it worked somehow. She really didn’t need my advice, though I offered it. Generously.

...

My son hardly stopped moving. He wanted to climb into every little crevice, climb as high as we’d let him. But here and there he paused because his heart grabbed hold and told him to look, just look at this thing for a second. See how that tree’s roots are just hanging out off the cliff like arms hugging the sky? Just look.

...

The river moved slow and brown. There were little islands of grass and a brave little tree, at home all by itself out in the current. In a few weeks, after the spring rains and after day after day of dark cloudy skies, the whole tree would be gone. Swallowed up by the hungry waters.

...

We had walked through a grassy field to get to this trail, and that field was hot. Dusty rays of sunshine on our backs. But the trees and the sandstone and the water kept us cool as we slipped into an alien atmosphere. We’d stepped into a different world, this place hiding along the river, down below the houses and the sidewalks and the cars parked up on the street. Below the drainpipes collecting water from the gutters only to send it trickling down the side of a sheer sandstone cliff, four stories high.

So we could watch it for a while. And be somewhere else.

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