Bedtime. My hair is brushed, my jammies are soft and warm under the sheet, the pillows plump behind my back. The breeze wafting through the porch screens is cool-warm, with the scent of rain after a too-hot day, and the tea cup is hot in my hands. Fragrant mint and steam tickle my senses. My fingers smell of bruised mint leaves, picked from the herb garden beside the stoop not twenty minutes ago.
The trick with fresh mint tea is to pour boiled water, slightly cooled, over the leaves and remove them immediately. Mmmm. I luxuriate in the delicate aroma. I can feel my pores opening as I hold the steaming cup close. The sweet taste of honey and mint almost tingles on the back of my tongue as the warm liquid slides down my throat, warming me to my toes, which curl with pleasure.
Near the open porch windows, Cheyenne sits yogi fashion on a cushion, pursing her lips as she does when absorbed in her work. She is weaving a pine-needle basket.
“The kitchen sorting baskets are limp and shabby,” she said earlier. “I’ll make new ones this week.”
She’s working on a sturdy potato basket, using grasses and pine needles she has collected from the woods, hills and river banks. I love this pattern, a simple one, handed down to her from her grandmother, who got it from her grandmother.
Perhaps Cheyenne will teach the pattern to Balboa and Packer’s child one day. Balboa says they hope to conceive soon.
Which, of course, brings me back to the wedding and Balboa’s news that they hope to begin a family right away.
“Lucky Beryl and Ronnie!” I say to Cheyenne, dropping my pen and laughing out loud at my envy, “to live in the same village with the children and grandchildren.”
“Guess we’ll have to get used to taking more trips,” Cheyenne says. “You enjoyed the flights, didn’t you? You were like a little kid, watching the patterns of the earth change below us.”
“I do like to watch the earth from the vantage point of the clouds,” I smile, remembering the stark brown hills as far as I could see for miles and miles through the tiny airplane window.
“Despite the barrenness of the desert, it amazes me how many tiny lakes there are, all across the land, so late in the year! There must have been a huge snow pack last winter to leave so many puddles in that withered landscape.”
“Yes and the people who choose to live so far away from other villages,” Cheyenne says. “Do you remember how, wherever there was the thinnest trickle of a stream greening the clefts between the hills, you could just make out a tiny farm–a house, one or two outbuildings, and a long, lonely stretch of track leading up to it across the plateaus and through the valleys.”
“Aye. The loneliness!” I pick up my tea cup, inhaling a long breath of mint and wild honey before I sip another satisfying slurp. It slides down my throat, a hot ribbon.
“But imagine the stillness. The quiet must be profound, with only the wind and a wild animal or bird call to break the silence.”
“And the drone of a pesky airplane overhead,” Cheyenne smiles and winks, setting aside her reeds and tools.
“I’m tired,” she yawns, covering her mouth with her broad, blunt fingers.
I had intended to write about the wedding, once and for all, but I am distracted as Cheyenne slips into bed. Her hair is fragrant with my favorite scent, lavender, and her fingers smell of pine needles.
I switch off the light and set the notebook aside.
I give gratitude for this peaceful day, for the soft hint of light staining the evening sky behind and through the maple tree, for the friendship and love of this dear woman, so soft beside me.