Chila Woychik ~ Waterfields

Riffles in the dis­tance. The sound of won­der breaks along the shore. Rivers that twist and curl. Lakes toss­ing fish toward heav­en, then pulling them back again. Waters coax­ing thirsty wildlife near. The streams and ponds, small­er ver­sions flash­ing to impress the passers­by. Oceans, fierce and tangy. But there’s no ocean here in the heart­land, no moon-yanked waves caress­ing cliff­side rocks, yet limbs and branch­es and fall­en trees wash along the rivers’ banks, land­ed debris I call tidewrack (to my family’s laugh­able cha­grin) in a futile attempt to bring the feel of breadth to this sin­gu­lar­ly claus­tro­pho­bic inte­ri­or. I sup­pose I’m feel­ing a lit­tle trapped.

A close lake

Five min­utes from home lies a lake. An after-storm wind crin­kles the four hun­dred acres of water, south to north, south to north, steady. These waves aren’t pound­ing or splash­ing as I’ve seen them do, but they’re crimped and com­pressed like dress clothes left too long in a dry­er, then final­ly lift­ed out, shak­en, and tak­en to the iron­ing board. An expanse of blue run­ning puckers.

The peren­ni­al Canada geese are notice­ably absent, and a pro­fu­sion of but­ter­flies have tak­en their place. They rise and dive on the water’s edge, their yel­lows and oranges coör­di­nat­ing with the first hints of autumn turn­ing. Each hill and trail gush­es with gold­en­rod and the gen­tle laven­der blos­soms of the prick­ly Cirsium Vulgare, the bull this­tle. Fields of wild car­rot have gone to seed, their lacy white caps stowed away for the sea­son, their black seeds scat­tered and usable as a con­tra­cep­tive for those folksy enough to col­lect them. A long-legged frog hops halfway across the road, fear­ful of vehi­cle tires, and, no doubt, flour, hot grease, and fry­ing pans for those mus­cu­lar appendages.

Eight miles of trails encir­cle this inland reser­voir. I’ve hiked half of them. “The hilli­er, the bet­ter,” has always been my mot­to, that is, until first one hip start­ed scream­ing and then the oth­er. Seems to be all the rage among aging hik­ers: scream­ing joints. But when each joint is lubed with cor­ti­sone, I can man­age flat-ter­rain rea­son­ably well, but no more hills for me until I yield to the per­sis­tent call of the tita­ni­um hips. Iowa will have its own ver­sion of the bion­ic woman.

A far­ther pond

Sasquatch. It’s a big top­ic. Hiking a park about an hour from home, I found a strange foot­print a mile off-trail near a pond. I took pho­tos and showed them around. The con­sen­sus was the same: “Could be.” “That’s weird.” “Why not?” “Who knows?” So I Googled. One site told of a group of campers who heard grow­ly screams com­ing from those same woods one night, and a large, impos­ing and, unfor­tu­nate­ly, shad­owy fig­ure across the riv­er. Had the campers been drink­ing? Had they heard the loud belch­ing of a fel­low with too many beers in him, using the woods as his port-a-pot­ty? But there are oth­er sto­ries. Iowa is sup­pos­ed­ly one of many hot spots for lurk­ing hairy giants. We even have our own Bigfoot research group head­ed by a PhD of some dis­ci­pline or anoth­er. According to that group, the colos­sal hir­sute is both entire­ly elu­sive and some­what ubiq­ui­tous, rang­ing across near­ly every con­ti­nent on the plan­et, yet not a crumb or morsel of actu­al bod­i­ly remains has been found and proven to belong to that sus­pect species. But then there are those darn foot­prints and ques­tion­able sight­ings. What’s a Smallfoot to believe? I ask myself that when­ev­er I hear a growl in the woods, and then I growl back. Each of us needs to find our own sense of closure.

Ocean off Delaware

The water, so cold and blue, rag­ing and sway­ing, the sand warm enough to tramp around shoe­less. This was Rehoboth Beach, their board­walk invit­ing with all man­ner of food, drink, and fun, and rang­ing dogs on leash­es, pet-able, a dog lover’s paradise.

I vis­it­ed there two years ago to meet a sis­ter I had just found out about a few months ear­li­er. (Oh those med­dling DNA kits, but I’ll spare you the minu­ti­ae.) She sug­gest­ed we make a trip to the coast, two hours away, not uncom­fort­able hours of dri­ving but not as chat­ty as I thought they’d be either. In came the in-per­son explo­ration of per­son­al­i­ties in that new­found rela­tion­ship. It was an “every­thing changes” and a “look at my future” jour­ney toward water.

And at the end of the day and the end of the vis­it, I told myself (and am still telling myself), we’ll find a way through; every­thing will rise on the wings of each moment; let it be; let it happen.

Feeling ark-ish

Summer has been first hot then cold then hot again. We’re mid-September and it’s still in the upper 80’s, though today the antic­i­pat­ed high is only 70. Yesterday a rag­ing storm dis­com­bob­u­lat­ed me on my return from town. My low slung vehi­cle hydroplaned as the wipers flipped back and forth at super­son­ic speed try­ing to keep up with the blind­ing del­uge. I felt like Noah’s wife swim­ming for shore. I could have sworn I saw two geese wad­dling along the road’s shoul­der, and a pair of ele­phants in my rearview mir­ror. I’m pret­ty sure I heard faint ham­mer­ing in the distance.

Out of water

On days when the out­doors is sim­ply too out­doorsy, I plop myself in front of a com­put­er and try to tell the truth. Some truths are hard­er to tell than oth­ers. And though I’ve nev­er been one to abide a sched­ule, I attempt to plop there near­ly every day. It takes the plop­ping to get to the keys with which to ham­mer out the words which hope­ful­ly reveal a tiny bit of world from my purview, strange as that purview hap­pens to be at the moment. “From a strange mind,” as my son would say. He’s con­vinced his rea­son­ing is sound. But it also takes prayer. I tell God that if she lets me win that con­test I sub­mit­ted to, I’ll take out the one bad word I put in, the real­ly nasty one, if the edi­tor insists, maybe, prob­a­bly. I tell her I hope that if in her above-all throne room in the sky she’s feel­ing the least bit piteous for this rel­a­tive­ly unknown woman plop­ping in front of a com­put­er day after day, an occa­sion­al del­uge out­side her win­dows, hope­ful­ly, prayer­ful­ly, she’ll let her win some­thing one more time. By God. But it’s a wash. I nev­er quite know if I’ve con­vinced her until the email arrives.

Water. This way of life is not easy. So I put on shorts, step into the wild world out­side my doors, and Jackson Pollock the whole damn thing one more time.


Chila Woychik is orig­i­nal­ly from the beau­ti­ful land of Bavaria, and is of German/French descent. She recent­ly dis­cov­ered that if you don’t want to learn pre­vi­ous­ly hid­den (and often earth-shat­ter­ing) truths about your her­itage, don’t spit into a DNA kit test tube. But on a brighter note, she’s been pub­lished in Cimarron, Passages North, Portland Review, Stonecoast, and many oth­er jour­nals, and has a 2020 essay col­lec­tion to her cred­it: Singing the Land: A Rural Chronology, pub­lished by Shanti Arts of Brunswick, Maine. She won Storm Cellar’s 2019 Flash Majeure Contest and Emry’s 2016 Linda Julian Creative Nonfiction Award. These days she writes, tends sheep, chick­ens, and two aging barn cats, and roams the Iowan out­back to find the most pic­turesque of views. She also edits the Eastern Iowa Review. Her first in a series of mys­tery novel­las is called The Query and is avail­able for pur­chase online. You can vis­it her web­site at