She had grown up near a waterfall. A stream fed by perpetual springs and melting winter snows tumbled down bare granite. The water rushed toward a river that had pulled apart bridges in the heavy floods and had shrunk to a lithe, silver snake in drought.
When Evangel was a girl, no matter day or night, the falls flanked her every motion, every thought, every dream. When she traveled far enough to be free of them, still, the shhhhhhh and whaaaahh and grrrrrrrrrr ran through every channel of her senses like the blood pumped from her heart to her fingers and back again. When its thunderous flow was muted by a downpour, she fidgeted until she could hear the constant tumble of water once again. But when the fire came near and smoke entered the valley, she balked at the limits of its power. It did not render aid when destruction threatened. Did not possess the wherewithal to share its liquid solution. But there it was, in the aftermath, falling and falling and falling, its mist floating among the embers that sizzled where the village had been. She had hated it for that.
She learned the lesson of the waterfall eventually. It was simply being itself. And what did that mean for Evangel?
Now she was near other water, water that had carved continents and buoyed the ships that connected them. Evangel was nearer to her ending now than her beginning and looked back more amused than angry at the time she’d spent in worship of the waterfall when there was an ocean out there and a horizon not wide enough to contain it.
She pressed her head into the oldest cypress in the grove, a rooted mother who had lived through many thrashings of winter on the rocky point and had seen generations of young lovers on the bluff over the cove who wondered if they could possibly live long enough to profess their ever-swelling love.
Both her hands stretched over the gray bark trunk ridged by weather and time. Evangel whispered as in supplication, Tell me what I need to know. The surf below crashed into Saddle Point like a cymbal, sending a burst of tidal expression into the air. Goodness and strength and magic existed beyond anything she had lived or dreamed or imagined. This was the one truth that she knew in her bones.
She thought back over her life’s losses. She had abandoned the ancestral burial grounds, forsaken her homeland, and deserted her heart. But their were lesser losses, too. The garden, the forest, the friends. As hard as it was, she outsmarted Sprout and disappeared for good. For his sake and for hers, too. So many endings. Yet each loss held within it a glint of promise, a remainder of days left to reconstitute herself in time.
Her spirit brightened as she came upon the swing suspended from a high branch of a neighboring cypress. Through the ends of a smooth, broad wooden seat were threaded lengths of chains at least four horses long and dangling from a branch in the canopy above. Evangel climbed aboard as the sun faded and let herself be ten again. Just one more time. Swoosh. Swoosh. Swoosh. She sailed toward the ocean and then gravity returned her as she leaned backward to generate another flight toward the sea.
From her sleeping space, the sea murmured in lush sweeps, forward and backward like the swing. Breathe in, breathe out. Contact. Release. She dozed off under the deepening sky to the spreading light of a waxing moon in a landscape that reached beyond the horizon.