The rough-hewn and splintering wood would stand another century, she was sure of that. It had stood a century before so another hence seemed reasonable. Requiring no maintenance the perfect arch, designed by nothing more than a keen eye to the horizon, connected one field to the next as it had done when her grandfather purchased the farm. The intervening stream was her plaything, a path to the wonderment that so easily germinates in a child’s brain and a source of incalculable numbers of fish that kept her body alive for these eighty-seven years.
She stood at the sink where her grandmother and mother had stood looking out the window framed by the wood from trees felled in decades past. The glass, original, had to have lost molecular layers at the hands of fervent scrubbers relentlessly removing residue from the thousands of meals prepared on the wood-burning stove.
Though there was a time when her practical mind worked constantly to calculate strategies and solve problems, these days most of her thinking was in metaphor. The bridge a perfect example, suggesting connections, transcendence through time, the toughness and resilience of life, hers, her ancestors, the plants and animals, everything.
During her service in the Peace Corps she had stifled many a tear but now she let them flow, the penance for withholding as a young woman who could not let emotion stymie necessary actions. Her nine fingers were a testament to her dedication. One finger a small sacrifice for saving the life of a tiny being too filled with the natural enthusiasm and joy of youth to see a half-buried landmine. Joseph had lived, she had lived, albeit one finger reduced. He was now fifty-years old, still in his African homeland with his wife, six children and two grandchildren. Her own descendent pedigree was a dead end, experiencing motherhood only vicariously through Joseph, who kept in constant touch with letters and email, and the hundreds of other children that had passed through her hands during her service to humanity.
Bridges were such simple, powerful metaphors. Connections, passage over treacherous chasms that human beings so readily created, absent any thought to the future or lessons from the past.
She gazed out the window, only half conscious of the scenery outside as she allowed her mind to wander until she was pulled into the present by a young boy approaching the bridge from the south and with little hesitation running across, then back, then across again. She had run this path in exactly the same way at his age and the vision instilled in her a moment of profound memory. The boy had no idea that his feet pounded the earth above the resting place of her parents and grandparents. They had been interred at the foot of the south side of the bridge through no formal action demanded by a legal document. The last will and testament in her family was tradition. The family was returned to the ground that gave life to them, buried side by side adjacent to the bridge. She would soon be joining them and was content knowing that her bones would turn to soil that bolstered the footings of the bridge connecting her to the earth, the fields, and the cosmos.