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The burning sensation is fierce—the leaves and flowers of what I thought were Box Elders and Skunkbush caress against my exposed ankles before I even realized. Tingling spreads up my calves, the ivy cold and numbing. I stood at the edge of the small stream of running water. Unremarkable. The water, more of a trickle than a stream, winds through patchwork of pebbles and occasional boulders.

Parallel to the dirt path. I am a visitor to Shaganappi Park. It is 3 kilometers to where I’m siting right now. With each passing minute, the pain grows. My breathing grows shallow. The gully is an ancient mirror, a reflection disturbed by the flutter of a Magpie’s wing or the dropping of a dead autumn leaf. There have been Blackfoot and Stoney Nakoda here—too long ago to be important, now. Every body of water, I pause to think, no matter how minor.

There is a painful translucence. An invisibility, the only thing you’re really seeing is the light reflecting, like a hollow mimicry of a personality, a person clinging onto anything nearby.

My vision blurs momentarily, the poison seeping, testing me and my resolve. Around the waters, the land speaks in muted tones, greens turned blonde, the rotten brown of flora carcasses, tall grasses bending.

Across the road, in the recovery garden of a school, there is a large medicine wheel made of stone. Manufactured by settlers in construction outfits with equipment too heavy to look at. Workers who live in neighbourhoods where the annoying missionary going door-to-door, selling leather umbrellas called Bibles. The four quadrants of the wheel: The yellow, the red, the white, the black. Turning a more vivid shade during rainfall.

White knuckles clutch my chest, the burning a deep-seated fire, every heartbeat an uneven drum, an uncertain rhythm. Here and there, the sun’s rays pierce the water’s surface, revealing the depths beneath: a complex ecosystem of tiny organisms, desperate bacteria, darting insects, and the glint of a submerged coin’s surface.

Our bodies, just like the earth, are composed mostly of fluid. Spit and blood, phlem and marrow, the nourishing. As the rash continues to climb, becoming a relentless prick, I wonder if the water in my body is reacting, trying to dilute the poison, attempting to keep me balanced, alive. Murky and muddy, floating and drifting, churning.

All there is now, though is a lukewarm dry, a thirst. A throat of barbed-wire, joints aching and radiating, politely asking me to give up. The weight of my water-laden body anchors me to the earth, and yet, ready to evaporate into the gaping maw called sky above.

The water of the stream stands, both still and alive, a mirror. The Maple Leaf Convenience Store is nearby, maybe with First Aid, maybe with a cashier waiting to fall in love. I know my spirit will one day drift, becoming one with the gentle ripples and whispers of the stream. In this wet cradle, I find rebirth in eternal rest, only moving to dance with water’s ebb and flow silently.