The trees had lost all of their leaves and winter was growing in the air. I walked beside the bending river, listening to the water moving and the hidden birds singing. It was too cold to stop today as I would normally have done, to admire the landscape and the sounds of nature. My heart badly wanted to though.
At a rough wooden bench, huddling in my long coat, I sit down. It was mid-afternoon, too late for lunchtime dog walkers and schools would be out soon, so there wasn’t anyone walking this corner of the countryside. That’s the way I like it, nobody asking if I’m okay, saying it would pass and get better. It was just me and the river with it’s calming flow.
It felt like I could fall asleep and dream safely here. The insomnia and the nightmares couldn’t get me, I could be at peace. I sighed and looked up at the sky. The clouds were drifting lazy, I wish I was up there with them, no worries.
It was getting too cold, I had to go. I got up and walked slowly, trying to delay my return home. Back there all the anxiety and depression was waiting for me. Out here though, I was free.
The conservatory was cold, so Maddie turned up the heating. Then created a nest for herself out of large cushions and soft fluffy blankets, on the large over stuffed leather chair. Snuggling down and hugging the warm mug of tea, Maddie took a few deep breaths.
Minutes before, Maddie had been in the middle of an anxiety attack. All her senses had been overwhelmed, every little sound made her nervous and her mind a hurricane of worrying thoughts. She hadn’t been able to slow down and the pain in her stomach had crippled her. Maddie had felt like the whole world was crushing her.
She had shut her eyes, rubbed her stomach in circles and thought about the sound of the rain on the windows and the wind rattling outside. That had helped ease things, Maddie had got up, made a hot drink and gone into the almost glass room at the back of the house.
Now, she could hear the rain and wind surrounding her, washing over and helping to make her feel much better. Safe in the nest, she sipped the peppermint tea and thought only of all the warmth. She was safe from everything here.
Roxy was dead and drifting through a stark landscape. Below her were bare white trees, branches reaching into an endless grey-white clouded, dark blue sky. Yellowed grass upon rolling hills created a sea for her to look down upon.
She didn’t know where this was. A countryside? A moor? Hell, perhaps and over that hill there’d be lava pools, towers of fires and demons chanting. She flew over, there was nothing. Heaven then? But it seemed too bleak and deserted for that.
Roxy was unable to stop moving but she didn’t feel anything, she was beyond that now. From time to time, she thought she saw white shapes in the distance, she couldn’t make out what they were and never got close enough to see.
On and on she flew, the landscape repeating itself. She tried hard to remember small details; the certain shapes of tree branches or clouds. However, her mind wasn’t working as it once did and she couldn’t keep hold of the memories for long.
An idea came to her, Limbo. That would explain it. So, she was trapped here until what? Roxy couldn’t recall. In fact, she was having a hard time thinking now. She slipped into the drifting motion and let it carry her away, forgetting everything.
Everything was set. The pumpkins with their scary faces were outside the doors or in the windows, the glow of candles bring them to life. Fake cobwebs in white, black, green and orange draped over everything, making real spiders jealous. Plastic skeletons, bats and ghosts hung from walls and ledges.
In front gardens were mock graveyards with zombie and skeleton hands and skulls poking out. Lights in so many shapes glowed along fences, gates and windows. The smell of smoke and rotting leaves clogged the coming night air which was also promised a fresh rainfall.
Voices rose and fell, laughter and delighted screams echoed. Children and adults dressed traditional or not, in a range of colours and fabrics toured the streets. Door knocks and bells sounded chimed with the chant of trick or treat!
Even now, in the middle of nowhere, in the the heart of darkness and grip of the coming winter, did people still keep the candles burning in the old tiny chapel.
If by chance you came across someone and asked them why, they would reply, ‘to keep the evil spirits away. Pray there to be kept safe before continuing your journey.’
You would go and do that. Enter the tiny white building with lots of light spilling out of the door and single window. Take off your snowflake covered hat and kneel before the baby alter. Pray for safe passage through the Nomad Mountains and ask God to protect you from evil spirits, Amen. Then you leave and make it safely back home.
Or perhaps, that response would amuse you because you don’t believe in such things. You carry on, not going inside the chapel but merely glancing at the light pouring out of the tiny building. You walk into the mountains, where you hear crying and screaming. Darkness rolls over you, consuming you and you never make it home.
The old carpenter led the village children to the edge of the woods and showed them what he had been building in secret during the spring months.
The little wooden house stood proudly and a bit crooked amongst spindly trees. Inside wooden furniture and soft finishing the carpenter’s wife had made give the place a homely feel. And for a few minutes you could imagine a family of small people living there.
The children laughed, they thanked the old carpenter, ‘danke, danke!’ and rushed off to play.
The carpenter watched them for awhile, sadness growing in his heart then he turned and went home.
His wife was dozing by the fire, a shirt she had been mending sliding off her knees. The carpenter sat down opposite her and she awoke with a start.
‘The kinder like the house,’ he said.
‘Good, I’m glad,’ his wife replied.
A heavy silence fell between them, disturbed only by the fire crackling away. They were each lost in their own thoughts, imagining the children they had never had.
Amber light streamed down from the arched windows, splattering the altar and their upturned faces. The congregation, choir, organist and vicar all remained seated as the earthquake rocked the church.
The stone floor, walls, pillars and the stained glass in the windows shook. Candle stands toppled and the people closest reached out to grip the still burning candles. Vases of flowers tipped too and people moved out of the way. The vicar and members of the choir collected the Holy Communion things off the altar. The church bell began ringing by itself.
The choir master started up a hymn. Other voices joined in, mingling with those who were saying prayers aloud. The vicar joined in the song, his voice drowning out everyone else, until the organist began playing the hundred year old organ and those booming notes covered everything but the rumbling of the earthquake.
Dust fell from the high wooden beams and stone roof. The sound of things falling echoed then the vibrations stopped and the rumbling faded. People opened their eyes and looked around. The church was still intact, they had survived.
Out here there was nothing but peace. There were no stresses because nature had nothing to worry about. She just got on with things, like She had for centuries. I envied that.
Hiking had become my only escape, everything else -books, TV, therapy -had stopped working. I worried though, that soon enough I’d loss this too and that was heavy on my mind.
Trekking up the hill to the noisy waterfall, I let all that go. A drizzle rain was falling, making the rocks and plants slick. I had to watch my footing and not look around as much. The chilly air was causing my lungs to burn. I took that feeling and forced it to push everything else away as I climbed.
I reached the blockage of tumbled rocks that marked the foot of the waterfall and stop. The loudness of the rushing water was enough to block close by bird song. Finding a place to stand in-between the mossy, wet stones, I reached out into the waterfall and cupped water. It was a cold shock! I drink from my hands, feeling like ice was traveling inside me.
Summer has gone so fast like a whirlwind of sun, heat and fun. For the last few days, it has been feeling autumnal; strong winds, rain, a chill to the air and the nights have been closing in quicker.
For me though, this season is the best and I’m so happy for it to start. Some of my friends are already complaining; it’s colder, it’s darker, I’ve to switch my clothes around! I don’t see the problem though, I can finally wear jumpers and be all cosy!
Then there’s listening to the rain and wind outside whilst the fire is crackling away and I’ve a good book to read and hot chocolate to sip. What more could anyone want? Maybe a cat or dog or another person to snug with…
Well, I’ll get one or the other, maybe even two or all, one day! For now, I’m happy still without the responsibility to a pet or relationship.
It’s starting to rain outside now but it’s that summer drizzle stuff and not the autumn down pour. It’s dark out there too and I can see the neighbour’s garden light on.
The morning sun shone through the hole of the bending tree. The wood cutter looked up, shielding his eyes from the glare. He could see the rays of light exploding against the tree’s trunk. It’s a blessing, he thought, shifting his hand on the handle of his axe as he said his thanks to the sun god and the goddess of nature.
The wood cutter continued his walk into the forest, feeling like today was going to be good. He approached the first tree he planned to cut down in the small clearing. He begin chopping, the sounds of his axe startling birds into the sky and echoing in the other trees.
He was about halfway through the trunk when he heard the crying. He was about to swing again but the noise paused his movement. He listened and realised it was a baby. Lowering his axe, he followed the sound to the other side of the clearing and spotted a wicker basket poking out from under a bush.
Putting his axe down, he pulled the basket it towards himself and and saw in the wrapped in a blanket, a baby boy.
‘I was right!’ the wood cutter cried, ‘today is a blessed day.’