Tuesday, December 28, 2010

In The Snowy Woods

As John began mopping the soup from the bottom of the bowl, I squeezed his hands and smiled a silent farewell before standing up and gathering my winter items. Each item I put on brought me a little peace. Finally, there would be closure. Quietly, I slipped out the front door leaving only a small wave behind me. I could feel John watching me go..

Outside it was much colder than I had expected. The snap of the wind pulled me up hunched me over. Closed in upon myself, I picked up the box of things I had managed to find in the nooks and crannies of the basement and mudroom. It wasn't much, but most would consider it exceedingly generous for a stranger. Marching through the deep snow and into the wood, I tried to remember exactly how this charade had begun.

It was a story told by John a month or so ago. He'd gathered the children in front of the fire and told them a story about a magical stranger in the wood. "A round man, his skin glittering, and the cold kept at bay with the simple measure of a scarf. A man with eyes as black as the night sky and a smile, that is, when he isn't smoking a pipe. Oh, and did I mention he always a top hat?" The description had gone on and on. They were followed by his magical gifts to the woodland creatures. "Snow laying thick on the ground, he feeds the deer with fresh apples and the squirrels with nuts and the birds with seeds. Only wealthy humans eat as well in the winter."

As the memory slid back into the recess of my mind, I noticed the long thin branches towering above me. The wood had thickened considerably since I had first begun my marching only minutes ago. It would be only a few more minutes before I reached the slushy river. Hopefully, I would find animal prints not too far from the bridge. The box was growing heavy in my arms. I continued to march silently, the soft crunching of snow accompanying me.

I wondered where John had come up with such a being. He was a kind man, very intelligent when it came to carpentry and mechanical things, but story telling and creativity outside of designs had ever been his strong suit. Had he been captivated by the story from another telling and only passing on the bits he knew? Had he seen something that resembled this story and was just sharing what he had seen, like he told the children of the people who came into his shop?

Seeing tracks in the snow, I stopped. I didn't want to disturb the path formed by the natural residents of the wood. John, the children, and I were always very careful to enjoy and not harm the natural progression of the wood. This year had been more difficult to enjoy. Blight had killed most of the crops. Corn, apples, wheat, even small vegetable gardens had succumbed to it. It was tough on the community, food having to be transported from other areas was much more expensive. It was a practical death sentence to many of the animals. Crops and wild forest plants were the only alternative.

Having put down my box, I began to roll a ball across the ground. As it grew, my back and legs began to ache. It was harder work than I had imagined. It was also empowering. It would become something wonderful. I could sense the joy it would bring tot he children and the healing it would bring to the animals. Half an hour later, panting from the work and ready for a shower, I looked at the man in front of me. He was round and glittery. He wore a scarf and a top hat, his smile was broad and his eyes dark as the night sky. In his hands, on his hat, and at his feet were the offerings he always provided in John's stories: carrots, apples, seeds, nuts, raisins, etc.

I couldn't wait to return home, to rise with my husband and children, to eat a bowl of heavy oatmeal, and to make this same trek on our way to grandma's house for the Thanksgiving feast. I wondered which of the children would be the first to spot the stranger in the woods. I smiled at what the neighbors would think of it as they passed. I anticipated more stories from John about the stranger and what the townsfolk would say about it in his shop.

*** Daily Writing Practice ***

1 comment:

  1. Wonderfully mysterious throughout, and a warming conclusion. A very enjoyable read :)