The signs were abundant.
Still, he held on. Not tightly, not fiercely, not desperately, like a man trying to convince himself. But softly, tiredly, almost indifferently as in resignation.
If she were still here, he might have joined—even led—the chaotic, swirling evolution. In days past he had been the clearer of new ground, the bloodthirsty slasher of all wild vine, the shiny-eyed visionary who cut the earth with the alacrity of a conqueror.
But not now, no. The routine had replaced her; things familiar buried the dreams. Neighbors shook their heads and wondered about his stubbornness, why he would willingly choose hand and back over steel and steam.
But it was comfort he was after, not productivity. The comfort of worn, contoured handles with the feel of gloves. The comfort of trodden paths, the tracks of memory running deep, repeated scenes through predictable seasons.
It was the luminescent blue eyes that sliced through his reverie. Mesmerized, he seemed to enter the eyes into a bygone world where muscles were tight, the sky was shimmering blue, the future was pregnant with hope, laughter tickled his ears and tightened his throat, and children ran to him across gleaming black fields.
He never rode to his fields again after that day.