The wind flows off the eastern slopes of the Presidential Range like a presence, skimming the pinpoints of the distant spruce forest, relentlessly streaming toward you as it rips the broad blue-black surface of Mooselook and leaves a trail of sudden wakes like a wide prow of an unseen ship that blows past the islands, swirls in the narrow eddies, drawing closer, gathering like a gyre for the assault on the western edge of Height of Land, where it rises like an unseen hand and without notice shakes your body, flowing more through you than around you as it takes the voice from your mouth and draws water to your eyes.
You flinch as you step near the edge of the cliff when the wind grabs your hair from the collar of your sweater that you hugged around your body; you smile and say, It is a beautiful spot.
This is the place I told you about, I say.
It is not the highest spot in the world, not even the most isolated, but it is a spot of permanence. The mountain rises like a knife blade between the two great lakes to be carved and shaped by ice and rain and wind, sharpened, then smoothed, a place both cursed and holy; a place that greets the first rays of morning as they crawl over the eastern ranges, then darkens as the western clouds swallow the sunlight, leaving the lake below like a fearful void.
A place of beginnings and ends.
This is the most important place I know, I say. The world dips away and leaves just the sky, the lake and the wind. It is a place that lightens the soul and brings me closer to those things that are free.
Your hair is lighter than blonde in the sharp sunlight. I use both hands to gather it as it blows wildly. I fashion a soft braid and tuck it back inside your sweater and you lean your head back against my shoulder.
We stand silently in the wind together.
I have been here before alone.
The wind crashed from a mad, dark sky, shaking the world below. When it climbed the hillside and rushed at me, I flinched as it grabbed the treetops and flung them side to side just before it stabbed through me like fear, leaving me shaken and afraid.
I thought that was how Benedict Arnold must have felt when after his army had dragged themselves wet and starving up the western slopes, thinking the crest might mean freedom from the swamps and the hope of favorable travel only to stare into miles of dense, dark forests, swampy landscapes to feel at that moment the pain of glory.
It is easy to see just darkness here; easy to see darkness when alone.
You turn and fold yourself into an embrace and I feel the pressure of your arms around me. You tip your head back and I gaze into those soft eyes I have seen from across a crowded room filled with light, yet even when bright with feeling, seem worried or sad as the indecision lingered.
Thank you, you said, for bringing me here. Now I understand. This is the place that explains your soul to me, both its solitude and freedom.
You smiled and reached your face up to kiss me.
Your lips were warm in the cold wind, soft. Your moist tongue probed, drawing me in. For all the world around us there was just that touch, that exchange.
In that moment you took me, drew me from those silent places to the joyous noise of your life, from all that I had run from, to all that you have offered.
In that moment.
From me to you.
From all the places we had been, from all the lives we had encountered, the joys and sadness delivered, the emptiness and fullness exchanged.
In that moment.