She stole the very beauty from the earth. He would try to continue to find it, but on the long drive through the canyon that morning, one that he never felt compelled to rush and instead enjoyed reveling in the less-touched pieces of land beyond the city, he could only speed, passing each car and feeling disgusted by the perfect trails of clouds, trails he would often look at as threads of heaven spun over the earth, feeling today that they looked instead like claw marks made by the hand of his own ache, raked across the face of God. The bright plumage of the Aspen forests and the rivers normally so blue as to inspire thirst had all appeared ashen in those first glinting hours of the day’s summer sunlight, and all the colors of the world, he knew, had departed with her, tucked into her rucksack like pieces of gear, the tools she would use to impart her own exquisiteness upon the peaks.

Her grace as her art, every poem ever scrawled by a man feeling diminished by the stars was brought with her to be hung tastefully like decorations, to adorn and alight the sky over whatever mountain it was she was summiting that season. She would do exactly that with his letters, he knew, translating feeling back into fire, knowing the uselessness of every word whispered without echo between sheets, breaking down his maudlin cries into the raw materials of constellations, something that could actually keep her warm and guide her way.

And so he would always write, always with pen in hand, at his desk like a chemist’s bench, toying with carbons in test tubes of vellum and cheap envelope beakers, chemical reactions of reverence and ink to be flown to her and used as fuel for the fires she would burn in the very night. No, then, he supposed – perhaps she did not steal the earth’s beauty, but perhaps it was gifted to her by the very sentiment of man, because all she was capable of doing with it was more than any meager poet was ever able. Words were never warm until kindling in her hands.

And the next day, when she must have been already across state lines, his alarm went off and the chill beyond his blanket as he reached to place a finger on its lips told him it was autumn.

Andrew Tristan Lenec grew up at the foot of one of the East Coast’s most popular climbing destinations, and has still never touched any rock there. He enrolled at the New School University in Manhattan to study Creative Writing before leaving the city and moving to Hawaii, where he eventually received a degree in Music and was discovered by climbing. After spending time in Australia and the Pacific, Andrew moved to Boulder to pursue the sport and in a futile attempt to sate his wanderlust. He is currently an Instructor at ABC Kids Climbing and, when not working with children, can usually be found in one of the city’s many parks with his nose as far in a Kindle as one’s nose can be, because actual printed books are unfortunately too heavy and cumbersome to travel around with constantly.