I Don’t See the Water

In the Mindfulness Techniques class, the instructor started with asking students to see five things in the room, then hear four things, then feel three things on our bodies, then smell two things if we can, finally, taste one thing. That day, someone asked me about my favorite place that I have visited in Minnesota, and I tried to answer it using what I’ve learned from the mindfulness class:

I cannot identify the giant yellow leafed trees that stop me from having a full view of the sky. But I can identify the color of sky blue, surely. I am not given a moment to stop and ask about the giant trees and their yellow leaves; I am not given a moment to stop and ask anything. However, I maintain the faith that I will eventually have a moment to ask anything I want to know, to do anything I want to accomplish. I see the fresh dirt on your shoes and a yellow leaf stuck on the fresh dirt on your right shoe. The leaf remains in the same spot while you’re moving. It is just there to follow you and adjust to your hiking speed, like me. I see the path I’m stepping on, which has been formed either by nature or by humans. I don’t see the ending of our path; I don’t see the Mississippi River.

The sound of my boots interacting the earth and bothering the fallen leaves is solid. Solid sound always makes me feel safe. You have that solid sound, too. I hear species crossing between woods and leaves and anything in between. The sound is momentary and shadowy, and I’m afraid that it’s a snake. Or, it is just the sound that only exists in my mind when I’m trying to hear something. I try too hard, as I always do. Hurry up, I hear you say after you notice I slow down. You turn, then hold my hand.

I enjoy the warmth that comes from two hands’ grasping. I have been expecting that warmth since you pointed at the board that says Chippewa National Forest and informed me that was our adventure for today. We’ll eventually get to see the gorgeous Cass Lake where the Mississippi River flows through, but the inner side of my thighs hurt due to the hard and tight cloth. And continually moving fast doesn’t help. They aren’t the most comfortable jeans I’ve had. They aren’t the best choice for hiking, either. But if you informed me of the plan earlier, I might have put on the comfortable ones instead. When we come to a dead tree lying in front that blocks our way and we’re preparing to overcome it, the warmth disappears.

The scents of various plants, unique or universal species and earth are overwhelming. I can do nothing but mix them all together. I smell the lingering scent of laundry detergent on my sleeve while scratching my itchy nose.

I try to taste a kiss. The kiss that you left on my lips after you told me about the adventure would be fantastic and I would deeply fall in love with the lake, the water. I lick my lips: from the lower one to the upper one. All I taste is the sweetness from the Mountain Dew you exchanged with me for the Coke. You prefer Coke over Mountain Dew.

I prefer Coke over Mountain Dew as well.


Sarah(Qiuqi) Bovold, a nonfiction writer originally from Beijing, China, holds an MFA in Creative Nonfiction. Her work can be found or forthcoming at Words & Whispers, Drunk Monkeys, MASKS Literary Magazine, and elsewhere. Sarah loves traveling.