Elgar was always surprised when, only a few feet away from the highway, there was nature. Trees, a river and deer. At least once a month, he drove up to this end of the island, parked and walked into what he considered a painting. A landscape. Here it was autumn and nature was doing her nature thing as always. This was the last visit he was to make in a long time. If ever. The next Saturday he was getting married, then they were moving out west to California. He would miss all this. It was his little secret. He hadn’t even told Louise. He wondered why that was. Was he hedging his bets? Didn’t he think the marriage would last. He hoped it would.
It was quiet on the lake. He looked out and watched a fish jump. The birds sang their last songs as they prepared to fly south for the winter. The trees unburdened themselves of their leaves. It was going to be a good day for a walk among the trees. He felt like Thoreau must have felt walking the Maine woods.
As he sauntered along, he pulled out his sketch book. He wasn’t much of a draftsman but he always made out what was on the paper. He had what must have been hundreds of these pads. He saw a bird peeping down through the leaves, watching him. He stood still, very still. Only his fingers moved with the pencil. The bird seemed to be saying his goodbye too. He felt sad for them both. His eyes did not take their focus off the bird. A long time ago he learned to let his hand draw what he was seeing while he watched the subject. He smiled, thinking about that.
When was he going to show Louise all his drawings and tell her of his nature walks? He felt guilty. It wasn’t that he hadn’t tried. Every time he went to tell her something else came up. Should couples have secrets from one another? He wasn’t thinking of adultery or anything like that. He was thinking of something like his nature walk.
The thing was that he spent most of his time in the rough and tumble world of business. Managing a store was a 24/7 job and he had bought into the bargain. If he had not had these occasional excursions he couldn’t have survived it. He thought about the move. It was to the company’s headquarters to take over a division. It would be quite a bit more money. Louise liked the idea of moving out west. She had wanted to live in California for a long time. And he was sure there were places like this one out there. Well, maybe not like this one but natural places.
Jack loved the city. Its hustle and bustle. The people. But this was where he came to refill his tank. There came a point when he just felt drained. He remembered reading a book about John Muir. How he spent much of his time in the wilderness. Theodore Roosevelt got away from his political life and went out to Wyoming. These were great men who did great things. Now all the great ones did was go play golf. That was no way to relax. When he played golf, he became very competitive.
He finished his drawing, saluted the bird, and moved on. He saw a large rock and went over to it and sat down. He reached into the canvas pack at his waist and pulled out a paper bag of sandwiches. They were peanut butter. He uncapped his canteen and drank a swig of water. Sitting there, his teeth tearing into a sandwich, he realized what a happy man he was. And how fortunate. He had a great job. He had Louise. He had his health. He had enough money to live on and raise a family. So why was he feeling such trepidation. Why?
He remembered the first time he saw Louise. A friend had invited him to her recital. Afterward he walked over, and in his own quiet way, he congratulated her on her playing and her choice of music. He thoroughly enjoyed it. Then she surprised him, “Would you like to get a cup of coffee sometime?” He surprised himself. “How about now. I mean, after you’re done here.” She thought about his offer. “Why not,” she answered. “I just have a few more people to see, then we can go.”
The crowd thinned out, she picked up her purse, and she walked over to him. “I’m ready.”
They spent a couple of hours with that coffee. They talked about the weather and the stock market. She was an analyst. They talked politics. She was a conservative. He was a liberal. Neither of them were very political. They voted but they didn’t attend rallies or campaign for a candidate.
After three, four dates, they had sex. It was good sex. Not great but good. They enjoyed each other’s company. They went to the opera. She was into the opera. They went to baseball games. He was into baseball. It had taken six months to date eight times. His schedule didn’t make it easy. Though he enjoyed his work, it left little time for a personal life. That was the reason for the move to California. When he was offered it, he called Louise and asked her what she thought.
“You would definitely have more us time,” she said. “I’d like that a lot.”
The next time they went out, he proposed marriage. He was surprised that she said yes, But she had.
A deer watched him from a distance behind some trees. He finished his sandwich and slipped his pad and pencil into his hand. Slowly he sketched, trying not to scare the deer. The deer seemed to understand that she was in no danger.