She went back a second time, taking the car keys as he slept that afternoon. He’d have warned her off it: “The light will be too flat. You won’t get anything good.” But she wanted to be there alone, and mid-day she thought she might have a chance.
She used the elaborate gazetteer he always carried in the car. Page by page of topographic maps but more importantly all the little roads. And there were signs out to Steptoe.
She passed no one once she moved into the park. No cars in the lower lot, no hikers on the road, and no one at the summit. Just as she’d hoped. The wind was warm and strong. She unzipped her jacket and left it in the car.
The clouds were thin and high, not gray, not white. The sky was quiet behind them. The land, the Palouse, spread out all around her. From this height, not quite a patchwork as he claimed. More of an abstract. In the light haze, the sharp edges of the fields blurred and smudged, the striations of the tilled but unplanted soil appearing as shadows, not lines.
The civilized marks were blurred too. The barn a brush stroke of red, the lone grain elevator a square of white. She took it all in and then settled on the one bench, where she had sat and watched the sunrise while he set up the tripod and the mega-lens.
She closed her eyes. She hadn’t come back to see it again. She’d come back to hear it again. The viewpoint was bordered in several places by sturdy metal posts. They were rounded and hollow and they had holes in each side, perhaps for bars or a chain or a rope. The holes aligned and the wind, finding a place to play, sang through them. The tone was sweet rather than ghostly. Perhaps the angle of the wind, the size of the holes. She knew none of the harmonics, only knew she wanted to bathe in that sound.