The Insider's Guide to
Crater Lake's Backyard
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by Watchwolf

There was a cool warmness to the afternoon breeze. Or was it a warm coolness? I can’t remember really.

A pool of sun splashed over the sidewalk in front of the door to the gallery. So I couldn’t help noticing as the wind blew the young lady into the sunshine on the other side of the glass. She swatted at gold hair that twirled in wisps around her glowing face with two hands and opened the door with her other.

Or so it seemed.

As the sunshine gave way to the stark fluorescence inside the room, the nebulous glow on her face resolved into an irritated scowl. What am I doing in this tiny gift shop in this bity town her face seemed to be saying in semaphore.

She was followed by her escort, one of whom it seemed obvious to me was her husband. I say escort because that’s how the obviously pregnant woman was playing it. Not that she was overbearing in any way. It’s just the way she continuously rubbed her swollen tummy and looked around. And the way most of the others quickly went their own ways… away from her.

“Hi!”I smiled my usual greeting. “Welcome to Two Rivers Village Arts. How’re you all doing?” She flashed me an instant sparkling star-like smile for one transcendent moment, then flipped back so abruptly I was left wondering if it really happened. Meanwhile her husband smiled a more lasting smile as he waved. “Hi! Great day! Isn’t it?”

“No. It’s not,” snapped the wife, who then turned her attention to whatever it was in front of her.

The six spread across the room like an oil spill. It was an eclectic bunch. They were on the way to Crater Lake National Park and had stopped in to Chiloquin just to see the gallery. I let my eye wander over the group, practicing the game I always enjoy when people come in. I like to watch and try to learn as much as I can just from watching. Which, now that I think about it, seems right for a Watchwolf to do. I watched them, each in turn, making eye contact whenever I could, offering a smile and a nod. Each showed various levels of interest, each in the way that made them all different from one another. They were fun to watch but my attention was continuously drawn toward the expectant mother.

Her light blonde hair was pulled back severely into a long thin ponytail. Her smoldering dark sapphire eyes highlighted a flawless complexion, light but not pale, with rosy cheeks that were another betrayal of her condition. She had that shine it seems all expectant mothers have. Something about the fuel-injection to their overall health which we seem to accept as perfectly normal despite the obvious oxymoron that carrying a growing child for nine months should in any way appear to improve one’s health.

She and her scowl drifted from display to display, delicately picking things up and carefully turning them over in her hands. Despite her outward presence she looked at everything with discerning interest until at last I began to notice a softening to her mood. Her husband slid in neatly beside her and stood close by her side, so close I would call it an armless embrace. After a few minutes she eased into it. With relief, it seemed to me.

Eventually she stood before my WolfWork, my Manzanita wood work arranged on the lower half of an island in the middle of the room. She made her way around, reaching out with lingering fingers, gently touching each item one by one. I grinned at the incongruence of her ungainly walk and her delicate touch. She continued to rub her tummy in what I now recognized as a nervous behavior. She was obviously tired and uncomfortable, which I was now convinced was the root of her mood when she came in.

She came to one pen set, glancing up at her husband. “I like this. It’s nice.” She stroked the soft wood gently.

They moved on to the hallway. From where I was seated at the desk I heard her exclaim “OH! I really like that. That’s beautiful.” She was in front of a certain remarkable quilt by one of the Chiloquilters, though I couldn’t say which. When I looked more closely it seemed to me as if she was looking beyond the quilt. I got up and quietly moved toward them.

Indeed, she was looking through the window into the classroom. At my Native American Flute Display.

I smiled. Cool.

“It’s Manzanita,” I said. “It’s one of my works.” I picked it up and brought it around to her in the hall, holding it out to her. She touched it in the same way she had touched everything else, as if she wanted more than to just feel it but rather connect with it. She stroked the fur and moved her finger down the hanging decoration, so gently as to not make it move at all.

She positively beamed as she told me quietly how much she loved it. I was moved in such a way that I almost blurted out that if she really liked it she could have it.

But I didn’t.

Instead I told her the wolf fur was real as was the deer antler root. I continued that I more often make them special order, as each flute is different and needs the right home. She nodded knowingly and told me she has six flutes.

You’d think it would have occurred to me to follow with the obvious question… Do you play? But I didn’t. I rather let my heart tell me the truth… of course she did. I listened as she talked about her flutes with the quiet love that I have come to know as my own.

Once again the urge swept forward to give it to her.

But I didn’t.

Here was a kindred spirit, of sorts. It’s hard to explain but there’s a feeling I get when I learn someone is a player, that we’re now friends. I can’t think of a better way to put it, although it’s much more than that. But I think you know exactly what I’m talking about.

She reluctantly withdrew from her connection and stepped back. I returned the flute holder to its place, then moved beside her again and offered to show her one of my brochures. I continued that I would be happy to make her a stand if she wanted, and that I was working on a couple of double flute displays. That made her smile. Which is to say something about the brilliance of that smile, that it shone so brightly against her glowing face.

I gave her the brochure and for a short time we talked about custom flute displays. She was completely intrigued, and said she would get back to me. The others seemed a little restless, ready to move on. She was fingering through the color pictures as she let herself be eased toward the door.

Yes, she will definitely call me when she wants a flute display.

* * * * *

It’s quiet again as I watch them get into the car and pull away. For some reason the saying, “For what it’s worth.” keeps running through my mind. I explore the idea as I realize I can’t help but smile, although it’s much more than a smile inside. This smile is not for the interest in my work and the prospect of a custom order. It’s more than that, I suddenly know.

She came in with a scowl and left with a smile.

And now I have that smile, waiting to give it to someone else.

That’s what it’s worth.

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