once the paper is read and the coffee pot is empty, she contemplates the list of tasks she must complete before another work week begins. there are clothes to sort (keep/toss/donate), dogs to bathe, dirt to move, bills to pay, floors to mop, grass to mow. he looks at her and suggests, "let's go on an adventure." she feels that edge of anxiety move in because, of course, there has been no planning, no research, no agenda prepared.
they drive toward the west and disappear in the blue ridge mountains, under a nearly violet sky. they pass fields of yellow wildflowers and stop to meet a family of goats. she likes the feel of the white bristly top of their heads and the emergent growth of horn, warriors in training. they are noisy and pushy and funny and obstinate. she thinks goats get a bad rap and loves them all the more for it.
they climb to the origin of a magnificent waterfall and she wonders how many more hikes will there be in my life? she asks this type of question a lot lately: how many more dances? how many more opportunities to learn something new? to write that book? how many more summers can i dream of barcelona and paris and london and prague and allow something to come up that thwarts my journeys? she is passed on the right by an elf of a woman easily in her seventies, cheerfully plowing through with her rainbow wood walking stick and dreads. she smiles in admiration.
later that afternoon, they picnic on a paisley quilt spread out over a small clearing of grass that overlooks the valley below. she lies back to let the sun work its magic with heavy warmth and blurry color spots she can see through her closed lids. she wonders why there are no birds here. the stillness overcomes her. she opens her eyes to the majestic live oak flanked by dogwoods in full bloom. and just when she thinks that the absolute silence of the clearing is the most beautiful sound she has ever heard, the man she loves begins to read steinbeck aloud and takes the prize.