[32] The Natural World, Anthony Lawrence

I wanted you to see the silent, lofty miracle of how eucalypts surrender their essential oils to blue the air, but you’d already passed on from where you’d come to lean against, then climb over the safety rail. Between mountain spectacle and the arc lights of a rescue team’s descent and retrieval, the crowns of trees blooming with huge shadows, you emerged, your arms and legs strapped into an orange gurney as if to keep you from sitting up to witness the work of rope and winch, respectful handling from summit to waiting ambulance, its lights on low. Next day the paramedic that attended to you told me how she’d wiped leaves and ash from your face, which was peaceful enough, she said, despite your flight through fire-blackened branches, and that as they slowed in the hospital drive, lightning stuttered then came over like a thrown sheet to change your expression from surprise to delight, your eyes and mouth like stop-gap animation. Later, at the police station, giving details, a young constable told me that many drive to the mountains, park, walk to the lookout and step over the edge. When I asked if he’d ever seen the way eucalyptus trees infuse the sky with a wash of blue oil, he took notes and looked at me, leaning in as though trying to understand what death had to do with the natural world.

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