The Basin

The big Basin can make you swoon.  Here in the valley, Midnight tugs at tender grass near the banks.  Hear him grazing?  The corn is high.  The air is thick and season, lush.  It is an awful hush down here — a holy silence.  A breeze goes wraithing through the corn.  Upon such a breath of summer, the silks are borne.

When she was a child, Eidelheid would go places with corn in her pockets.  She was always wanting to plant corn at some new place besides their family garden.  One day she was walking across the basin.  And realized later that she had dropped a few kernels by accident, for along her eccentric path had sprung giants of corn stalks.  This was accidental corn, yet fertile earth embraced the seeds and they leapt skyward.  There was no need for pink and white beads of fertilizer from Daddy’s coffee can.  They were growing vigorously without help.

Many long summer days Eidelheid and her Shetland stallion would spend in the Basin.  By the River.  The beautiful, the beautiful River.  He carried her down into Eden on a sleek, bare back.

All day they feasted on blackberries, mulberries, briar leaves, cresses and wild cherries.   Sometimes they found blueberries and dewberries.  Midnight relished his grass.  Eidelheid watched him graze.  He made it look so good she often wondered why people didn’t eat it.   She was at home in this rich, fragrant valley.  The River was her Nile.

The only things amiss were the hippo and the crocodile.  This suited Midnight and Eidelheid because they liked their swimming.  Instead they enjoyed the company of purple bells that crowded along the banks.  There were lavenders and violets, keen purples and all marriages in between.  The perfume was intoxicating and in the moss Eidelheid lay looking up at the boughs.  She watched birds in this way for spells.  Eidelheid lost track of time in the basin.  It seemed to exist outside of time. 

Black walnut trees, ages old, with fat branches, dipped over the river in a sling.  Often they cradled the little girl as she stared into the water.  One of the most beautiful denizens of this river was a certain rainbow trout.  She would sometimes catch a glimpse of him finning slowly by in his iridescent splendour.  Regally he swam.  Sun-skewered clear water was his realm and he moved his long body through it with a matchless grace.

Eidelheid watched the fish in awe as her pony stood in the shallows, sinking his black velvet muzzle into the cool, tumbling crystalline.  In Midnight’s eyes was the vivid satisfaction that comes to a thirsty drinker.  As the pony drank, he did so with not a single slurp.  Such dainty drinkers are ponies.  The time they spent in the basin is suspended in Eidelheid’s memory.  This was her Elysium and for Midnight, it was pony heaven.

Eidelheid’s childhood in this place gave her necessary communion with the land.  She would have suffered deprivation had she not spent time in the company of her pony and his green world.  There is much to be said for the corn, the pony, the pristine river and its banks, the fertile earth, and sweet-tasting water that came crashing down in cataracts onto slate platforms — glistening black stone surrounded by emerald verdure and trilling birdsong.

Here was the stuff of dreams.  It was a place where a person could plant a garden and live off the land wanting for little else.  The indigenous knew what to do in those woods and did so in harmony with their environs.  As a child, Eidelheid was learning about it herself.

She could make her way through the slate creek hollows with little slippage of foot.  Sometimes putting her sure foot inside the large, three-toed print of some prehistoric dinosaur that decided to take a walk down the same creek bed so long ago.  Perhaps it wasn’t even a creek back then.  In her childish mind she figured all this out.  She knew it was a big old dinosaur.  Sometimes kids are smarter than people think.  She would mirror his footprints down the creek, placing her feet in each one of his enormous prints.  Thunk, thunk, thunk – they were under a foot of water, but it was crystal clear.

Eidelheid became a backwoods somebody.  The copperheads left her alone.  She could pick up a snake, have him coil around her forearm and look her dead in the eye.  They regarded each other for long spells in this fashion.  “Beautiful eyes, Mr. Copperhead,” she would say.  Eidelheid never had a problem with snakes.  The hollow belonged to them too.

Reptilian symmetry is perfect.  They marveled at most of their finds, though terrapins rather bored Midnight and Eidelheid.  After being picked up, the terrapin would hide in his yellow and brown box.  They would find them all the time and Eidelheid just couldn’t let one pass by without inspection.   She would put them down gently after turning them over and over in her hands and they would mosey about their camouflage ways.  Eidelheid was honoured to be a frequent guest of these cool-feeling critters.

Sometimes Midnight and Eidelheid would go to this favorite spot where the river slowed into a deep, still bend.  The water would gradually get shallow as it approached the banks.  It was a pretty pebble bottom that became a small pebble beach.  In the evening sun they would watch a school of minnows.  The tiny fish appeared to dance.  This became their “dancing-minner place.”  The fish would flip onto their sides in unison and catch the sun on their scales.  It seemed as though it was for the school’s amusement more than the on-lookers.  They were tiny graceful swimmers, glistening, mesmerizing, hypnotic in the amber evening glow.  The water was full of silver shimmers.  Midnight and Eidelheid would be transfixed by it.  The pony’s velvet muzzle would rest on Eidelheid’s shoulder as she sat in the pebbles.  His nostrils were near her ear and she could hear and feel his warm exhalations.  His lungs must have been mighty.

Midnight and Eidelheid sometimes would float around the river together.  He would wade into the deep water with her on his back and suddenly become a buoyant pony.  She realized he was swimming around with her.  Suddenly they would find themselves among the same flashy minnows.  Eidelheid would say “hey Midnight, it’s our little dancers.”  They nibbled at her legs and toes.  On occasion, a colorful, curious brim would surface to inspect the odd land creatures.  What was disturbing his placid river depths had to be investigated!  Eidelheid was amazed how bold these fish would sometimes get.  They would swim right up to her and stare.  “Swimming Midnight” was one of Eidelheid’s keenest fun things to do.  It was right up there with having him sail over fallen trees.

A few years later, Eidelheid taught her younger sisters how to swim in the river.  Her freckled sister, she threw in one day.  The sister was mad as a wet hen but discovered she had swimming skills.  The freckled spitfire was an excellent swimmer ever after that day.

The basin no longer exists as Eidelheid knew it back then.  They built a dam to generate electricity and the rising water covered everything. It’s a big lake now.  The basin is gone.

What hurt Eidelheid most was when they cut down all the black walnut trees that grew along the banks.  Those trees liked to sink their roots into the river.  Some of them were centuries old.  Eidelheid would sit by the water, cracking walnuts with two stones.  It was wonderfully primitive.  She pretended she was a hermit and walnuts were her only food.  They were encased in thick, black hulls.  Tough and tempered.  She had to use a big stone to crack them.  Gone are the black walnut days.

Cherish the land.  Be nice to ponies.  And give thanks to The Chief who made them both.

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