At a thankful height, we began to emerge. We’d been quiet half an hour through the woods. The horse’s hooves sucked no sound on the brown soft track under the pines. But now, the land thinned and stretched before us. It must’ve took some daring so many years ago by Father to put the wooden house where it was, tucked below and so obviously subservient to the mighty pasture land that stretched out and up before us in its long patches of craggy stone mended together by strips of green.
The wagon slowed. I looked up to where sky settled upon rock.
History presented herself to me as she always had, but this time I was ready for her. The dead could take a final form, but the living remain unformed, like myself, still in the making and susceptible, if we aren’t careful, to shaping at the rough hands of the dead.
Up on the hill, descending, the single and intense image of Father, staff in hand. They called him The Shepherd of the Sorrento Plain. I heard his voice in time: “That’s where we’ve lacked sense; our Bibles have taught us that what sheep need is a shepherd.”
That very well may be, and I was never one to contradict Father, but suddenly I saw that a region of what I had thought gray stones was slowly moving as if the sun was making my eyesight unsteady. The wolves had arrived, a sea of fur and teeth and slink. I knew they’d never come closer.
Father, despite all his contradictions, had always stood clear. But Mother was a mystery. What drew her on? The main problem of history is how to approach a person of great importance who, having departed us too soon, left no telling. It expands. She expanded people into forms who could outlive her, expanded herself into the sleek creatures now bending my eyes. All ghosts are gray.
There was a kind of fold, she’d called it, up there in a sheltered spot high into the pasture land, and she’d slept up there in a shed she built herself for lambing time when the poor foolish creatures hurt themselves. That was what I wanted to see. It was still there, a little older and sagging, like all of us, but remained sturdy. I sat in it and thought about my parents, their bulk and mist, what they left to me, what I’d given them. There is no such thing as an equal exchange. I let the wolves surround me. I could smell them. They were all that was left, the wolves and the mind.
At last we were in the high wagon again. The old white horse had rested and soon we began to climb the long hill toward the hooded ridge. I held his hand. The road was new to me, as roads always are, going back.