A warm, summer breeze ruffled our hair, but the sun burned our skin. Since we were half-way up the side of a bluff, I reasoned that the sun was hotter than usual because we were closer to it than when on flat land. My daughter Tammie and I had reached the middle of the vineyard. I stopped and turned to look at the grand view. I could see bluffs on the other side of the Mississippi, but they were shrouded by a curtain of blue haze. Closer, to the left, front and right of us, I counted three other tall, tree-covered bluffs. The coulee below was connected to a network of other valleys that curved around the base of each bluff.
A short way below us, bunkered into the bluff side and surrounded by these beautiful rows of grapevines, was our vacation cottage. I could see the small lawn, the electric grill, red table and chairs arranged by the back door. Greg, the owner of the property, had told us that the grapevines on the fence near the cottage were table grapes. He suggested, “You’re welcome to pick and eat them.” Next to the fence was a chiminea with dry wood stacked inside, waiting to be used.
I smiled to myself, remembering a conversation that I’d had with someone before coming here. When I told her about this place, she’d exclaimed, “Where does a person find a place like this?” It made me realize that an unusual vacation spot was truly a treasure. My daughter and I had been very fortunate to come upon it while ‘mining’ the internet one night.
Overhead, we heard a bald eagle’s call. I looked up and saw a magnificent bird gliding on air currents around the bluff. Pointing, Tammie said, “Look! There’s another one!” The hunting partners circled and then glided out of sight.
I said, “What a treat to see them! I’d started out on this walk thinking that we’d see the sandhill cranes we’d heard while carrying our luggage into the cottage.”
“I’d like to see them, too.” my daughter said. “But if they aren’t here today, maybe we’ll see them tomorrow.”
“Did you know that sandhill cranes have wing spans of five to seven feet?” I asked. Before she could answer I continued, “I’ve been trying to think of a way to describe their call. I think it sounds like the protesting squeal that a wet, rubber-stopper would make as it was pushed across a blackboard.”
Tammie laughed at me. She commented, while taking pictures of the purple clusters of grapes, “Greg said these were Frontenac grapes.”
I admired them saying, “I’ll bet harvest time is soon. They look ripe. The grapes we had on the farm when I was a child had long-legged vines with much less fruit. Greg obviously knew what he was doing when he pruned these.”
Not liking how hot the sun was making my skin, I rubbed my arms and suggested, “Let’s go back to the cottage now. We can go for another walk when the sun starts to set.”
The sun wasn’t shining later in the afternoon when we decided to go for another walk in the vineyard. An ominous bank of deep blue clouds covered the late afternoon sun. Tammie and I climbed to above the very top row of vines. We heard a long, low rumble of thunder. I said, “I don’t think it’s a very good idea to be up here in a thunderstorm. Let’s walk to the end of this row and back down to a lower level.”
As we began walking, a dog-sized creature in the tall brush moved further away from us. Tammie asked, “What was that? A deer?”
I nervously said, hastening my steps, “I don’t think it was a deer. Luckily, it doesn’t seem to want our company any more than we want its!”
The sky grew darker and darker. When we reached the door of the cottage, we lingered at the entrance, reluctant to go in. I loved watching the storm advance on our crow’s nest vantage point. The wind picked up. There were flashes of lightning and loud bellows of thunder bouncing off all the surrounding crags. We retreated indoors when the rain began to pelt down.
As we sat to eat our evening meal, rain pounded on the roof. Having enjoyed the excitement of the breaking storm, I felt like a treasure hunter that had unearthed yet another diamond.