Literary Journal – Fall 2016

Be Still and Listen

By Jennifer Klepsch

I have looked out of this window of my parent’s house so many times. The green landscape is breathtaking with the enduring trees that didn’t succumb to the previous harsh winter ice. Their hardwood is masked by the summer’s full bloom of distinctive green and red foliage. The smell of pine has lingered with me through the years. These landmarks still shelter us and the deer family that I often see over by the pine trees. They have to be from this side of the tracks, or should I say this side of the huge highway that now divides us from a once quiet road and angelic landscape. From here, it still looks the same as I stood by the window.

Maisy the dog had to go, and I mean go do what dogs do outside. I quickly took her to her spot. When I was standing still I could hear the chatting of birds and a few critter sounds. There is a cloaked background noise I don’t care for. Trying to hear the best I could, I managed to unmask and recognize it. It’s the cars shooting down the “phenomenal” new highway that was built. Ignoring it wasn’t so hard, so I did.

The warmth of the sun was on my skin and I could feel the wind in my hair. The scent of lily flowers was in the air as they waved and frolicked with the wind. There was a peaceful wave in me. About two minutes later we walked not even 15 feet away, close to the neighbor’s house.”Oh, my,” It sounded like a freight train zipping by. The peacefulness I felt left my irritated soul. I was alive to an intensified feeling of sadness for the family next door; “Watch, there will be another house for sale soon.”

Now I got curious and walked Maisy with me to the bridge around the corner. Proof of the banging and clanking was eating away at me as I walked to a jagged spot on the bridge and looked down. Vehicles, especially trucks were whizzing by. Instead of one lane there are four. A truck passed over highway bumps reflecting the sound of every part of it, which perked up more noise.

I was unhappy, angry and tried not to exhibit my feelings of betrayal. A man in his car drove by us and shortly lingered. He looked at Maisy and me as I held this cherished pet tightly with her leash so she wouldn’t see what was going on fifty feet below us. The driver’s attention shifted to this ruckus. He seemed to have a remorseful look on his face. People in this community fought against the destruction of the peaceful surroundings to no avail. I regretted not being a part of the fight, though I don’t live here anymore, but my family has residence here. Scuffing along I walked Maisy a few steps to keep her occupied, but I stopped again to notice the traffic. It looked like a city.

My steaming contemplation was heightened again as I notice the large chunks of land missing in back of all the homes, including my family’s. Behind each home’s backyard is a steep drop replacing the once stunning hillside that rose there.

That glorious landscape was corrupted and the good earth was savagely cut and carved to make room for the “so wanted” highway. I turned my head away from that vicious act of carnage and Maisy and I walked back to the house.

Thoughts ripped through my head; “You know it’s only one long hillside affecting only a small group of homes. If it happens on one side of town it can happen on another.”

The disregard for the peoples living next to or above the butchery is ludicrous and callous. As I passed my Mom’s next door neighbor’s house, I cringed, knowing that their backyard would never be serene again. If we wanted to live in a city we would still be there, now we have the busyness in our backyards. Whose house will be up for sale next? What happens in the winter when the trees can’t even muzzle some of the noise?

Maisy walked close to me as if she felt my sadness. Funny how animals can sense when something is wrong. As we step up toward the house I decide to sit on the bench by the oak tree. The teeming branches appeared defined and stretched out as if they were telling a story. It was September and the acorns were there for the taking. The squirrels could be seen stuffing their mouths full of them. Again I heard the faded background noise of vehicles. I glanced down to check on Maisy. I felt a lump in my throat but managed to speak, “Thanks for being such a good dog.”

I tied her leash to the iron bench and tossed her favorite salmon dog treat to her. When I slouched back I saw a rabbit running across the yard. It’s just a bunny, only one. It made me think of the animal population dislodged by all these changes. What happened to the animals that lived or roamed where the land is now missing; the pheasants, quail and other bird populations, foxes, deer, squirrels, rabbits, chipmunks, moles, raccoons, possums, frogs, salamanders, lizards, snakes, spiders, ants, flowers for bees, even the unpopular rats and mice, including other creatures that called it home. No one could be sure where they went. During the night we could see shadows in the far distance at the end of Mom’s yard. I often wondered if they could be the lost souls of the animal population grieving over their loss.

As Maisy and I walked toward the patio door a sweet short song stuck in my head. I used to sing it to my kids as we were around the corner from my parent’s house.

“Over the hill, not far away to Grand mom’s house we go.”

As I open the door, my Mom remarks, “I thought you both got lost out there.”

Indeed we did.

Jennifer Klepsch has several indigenous backgrounds. She has skills in teaching and office administration. Jennifer loves the art of storytelling. “Why don’t you just write it?” was often spoken to her, so she began her writing career. Presently working on a children’s book series and a young adult futurism novel.