This Great Society - Issue 6 - The Future

Thoughts and Analysis

Veronica Collins

Companions of Youth by Veronica Collins
Veronica Collins

“When I have fears that I may cease to be..." ‐ John Keats

Do you remember? The hayfields bright and crackling beneath that big sky sun? The way our skirts caught, snagged on the burnt‐out rosebushes of June, the spit beetles’ stickiness smearing our bare legs? How the horizon line lay so low to the overwhelming sky?

At the sinking before the hills was the gully where you met the black bear. Typical you, to turn around and walk slowly back up the knotted dirt road – steady, steady – never running till you saw the farm buildings two miles away finally come into view.

I always wanted to be like you. Calm like the dugout before a rainstorm. The same blue‐grey mirrors in your eyes.

We used to go to the creek after haying or harvesting: hot and sticky, with scrapes tingling on our skin and dirt under our nails. You always dove right in – icy water, leeches lurking in the mud, oil floating in iridescent circular rainbows under the wooden trestle bridge.

Do you remember the way your Dad would organize campfires down by the creek? In the northern summer evenings, doing battle with mosquitoes while carving out the perfect roasting stick with his Swiss Army knife, his Texan drawl melting into the late evening sun. Deceptive warmth and light: it seemed we were all in the south, with catfish trolling above the leeches.

You had such great stories about the south.

On rainy days we used to sit by that thin window that looked out across the entire green‐drenched landscape and pour over books of wildlife paintings. You could create the perfect jeweled hummingbird on the sketchpad page, no bigger than a thumbnail, all ruffled breast in soft dark pencil. And fawns out of charcoal. Delicate lady’s slippers from a finely‐sharpened point. We could only find the flowers' drooping heads deep in the woods, in clearings which we visited secretively from time to time.

Sometimes we had to hang the clothes inside on spring days like those; fire up the woodstove to sauna temperatures and beat back damp wisps of hair while carrying aprons full of clothes pegs, sliding heavy baskets of wet garments across the warped wood floor. You had a small girl’s voice that was capable of reaching epic heights in that echoing space. A four‐foot‐ten diva doing laundry in the wilderness.

Do you remember the story club? The innocent pages spread out on the bedroom floor? The notebook with its listing of collaborations?

Or the way we would steal the hammer from the toolbox to pound pansies into the sawed‐off ends of the log cabins, creating imprints of flowers in the wood?

That portrait of Her Majesty over those outdated encyclopedias in the school foyer.

The butter churn’s habit of dancing across the linoleum as its motor ka‐chunked and whirred.

The way they called the cows in the mornings.

The meaning of hoarfrost.

The water barrels underneath the eaves and the beetles swimming in them.


I remember the grace of a rainbow over the forest. The heartache at the afternoon darkness in January.


But the way you laughed in the kitchen…

…it still reverberates now.


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