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  • Writer's picturePenny Harter


Updated: Sep 22, 2020

This morning’s poem comes from memories of childhood summers. I wish I could go on a vacation this summer, but it’s not a good idea right now. So I went on this one instead. Counting Game On the way to summer vacations, after my father had loaded the car up, my sister and I climbed into the back seat of our old Buick wagon and began the trip to Barnegat Light on Long Beach Island, NJ. To make the time pass, we played the animal counting game, she staring out her window and I out mine: so many points per horse or cow, flock of sheep or chickens—even dogs or cats. These days when my daily drive out of isolation feels the much the same, no “Are we there yet?” drags my minutes, but I need a purpose as I go, need to witness other lives beyond my own. Yesterday’s tally included eight horses, a field of sheep—too many to accurately count—and one chipmunk scurrying across the road. I looked for the usual deer, but it was too hot for them. When a child, I used to pretend I could talk with any animal, and it would answer. Those days I believed in magic, often fell asleep dreaming of a tree-trunk doorway into an undiscovered country. I imagined touching the hidden pattern only I could find in the rough bark of an old oak, and when its door opened, I’d step over the sill into a radiant fairyland where kindly magic folk greeted me. As I scan for deer on my frequent rides down roads that run between patches of dense woods, I’m still playing the counting game—and I sometimes hope my oak is really out there, waiting to welcome us all. © 2020 Penny Harter

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