It was not yet cold enough for a hard freeze; but the grass stood solemnly silent against her footsteps, all-the-same. The ground felt hallowed; and she wondered at how such beauty had grown in a place so full of pain.
The tall pines to the North still bore scars from the fire. Naked near the soil, they wore lush crowns of needles near their tops — a defiant statement against the wounds of years long past.
She took a hesitant step towards the wreckage of the house — longing to run frosty fingertips against the brick of the fireplace hearth, irrationally thinking that there might still be warmth within them — but could not pass the invisible barrier where the door to his office once stood.
Image © Jeanne @ Wabi-Sabi
Author’s Note: A generous thank you goes out to Ms. Jeanne at Wabi-Sabi for the inspiring image she provided as a backdrop to this piece. It is posted here, with her permission.
How many hours had she spent drawing at his drafting table? How many times had he told her that she would never be an artist if she couldn’t “Stop drawing mountains that look[ed] like tits!” He was a vulgar man to begin with; so nobody gave additional thought to such comments being made towards a young child. Maybe if they had… No. She refused to give in to fanciful notions of changing that which cannot be changed.
She turned her back on the chimney — the ghostly, sole survivor of futures lost to literal, and metaphorical, flame.
Wringing her mittens into knots, she looked absently up. The soft flakes of snow fell delicately across her face. She closed her eyes, relishing in the frosty baptism — imagined it soothing the searing heat within her heart. Roasted as it was, she could not bring herself to hate him… nor her.
He had done terrible things, and the other within had longed only to burn away the memory of such sins. She could not have known that he lie crippled within a home they had all abandoned; and she herself was not convinced that he hadn’t earned his fate.
She slowly reached for the frozen branches of her beloved lilac bush, with shaking hands. The shrub had been large and looming, in its glory days. Big enough to hide children in a brightly-colored fort of sweet-smelling flowers. These were the memories she had come to reclaim: dusty summer evenings, kissed with deep purple hues, scored with the laughter of their younger selves.
She took a deep, gasping breath of winter. The chill of the inhalation, coupled with the dazzling spark of that joyous memory, gave her the strength to turn back round. She now faced the somehow-lesser wreckage; seeing it clearly, all-at-once.
It was a place of anguish no longer. Stained with it, perhaps; but not made of it. There had once been warmth across this stretch of land — and winter’s icy grasp would not have a hold on it forever.
Beauty would return. Rain would playfully run in thick rivulets across the landscape, washing away the memory of what had been; and the trees would stand in lasting memory — wounded, but standing proudly, with emerald tiaras on their wooden pates*.
*Pate – (Archaic) Noun, meaning “a person’s head”