This time last year I was waking up in Monterey California to blue skies and a quiet sea. Now I’m questioning why WordPress thinks “Monterey” is spelled wrong. Ah, well. Onward!
Four vignettes of the seasons, placed in chronological (although not seasonal) order. All centered around the same home and it’s family over the course of hundreds of years. At about two hundred words each, they’re glimpses at ghosts and that first line of dawn, just over the horizon. Happy New Year to you and yours, may we find joy in the next.
He followed the tracks through the snow, the footprints were light, barely visible, with constellations of blood blooming across the path. The woods lay silent, mist-laden, the air the color of blue steel. He could see the light of The House through the dark tangle of oak and ash, lit like foil and leaf amidst the strangling frost. The trail led him up the hillside, to stand before the closed chapel. Hushed song carried through the great doors, it spoke to him like a memory of a promise, a whisper to a reverent past. He stared up towards the dark steeple, it’s spire lost among low clouds. He could not see his breath upon the cold air, his gloveless hands did not tremble; the winter had become a part of him, running through his veins in place of blood. He closed his eyes and in the lingering echo of redemption he asked for an end to The Hunt. The tracks did not fade, however, the blood did not seep and spread through the ice till it was as distant as the warmth of a old hearth, and an old song, sung in bright days.
The summer years had ended, he hunted now in shadow and snow.
How easy it would be, to slip away into the orchard boughs, limbs flower laden, air heavy with the low pulse of the industrious bee. She would gather fallen blossoms (plum and apple, apricot and cherry), and tangle them in her hair, cast aside her slippers and stockings to feel the new grass and the cool earth beneath. The stream would be cold and clear, racing riverward, overflowing with melted mountain snow. She could hear the birds through the open window (sparrow and lark, wren and robin), alive with tales of mornings yet to come. They begged her to set aside her work; books and pens were made for candlelight. They told her to let her hair come unbound and to dance barefoot with them through the warm sunshine and laughing breeze.
With gentle reverence she closed the pages before her and pulled the tie loose from her hair. She could hear others in the house, distant and grey sounding against the call of shifting seasons. She left her shoes and stockings below the table and slipped like a wraith of winter out into the welcome land of spring.
The bed was empty, the house was empty, her bare feet cold against the smooth wood and stone. She kindled a fire in the old stove, not feeling it’s heat as she stood half asleep before it’s flickering light. A draft chased its way from the front hall and into the dark living room, carrying with it the scent of oak and pine and old ghosts. Rousing her from her summer slumber with the promise of fall.
She stepped out into the grey light of predawn, wrapped in a blanket that once covered them both. She could smell the wood smoke, see it curling blue and wraith-like over the valley, feel the creeping damp in the low clouds and dark earth. Night came swift now, and stayed over-long, to reveal in the morn a world reborn in the bright shades of fire. She dug her toes into the frost-kissed grass, listening to the quiet talk of robins that had returned for the winter, clustered in the gold-tinged hawthorn. She knew that with their settled flight, her waiting would soon be over, and for a few precious, fleeting months she would be awake, alive, and not alone.
He stood alone in the field, sun-scorched wind chasing the tall grasses in eddies of green and gold. He had worked a long time for this, this azure sky and flourishing earth. Sweat beaded at the nape of his neck, sliding down dark skin to streak his pale shirt. Redemption was a quiet rode, paved with dust and dirt and gravel, and time was a steady thing, coaxing the ice to melt, the earth to thaw, and the growth to begin.
He moved back to the house four summers before, found it darker then he remembered, shuttered and slumbering. He pried of the boards, let the clean light cut through the shadows of the past. The walls were whitewashed, the floors polished, the hinges oiled. Now it shown like a jewel amidst the maple and sycamore, the windows sunlit beacons in the westerly turn of the day.
He would fill this house with sunshine, with laughter, with the bright shades of summer. This land was his now, claimed from ghosts and memory, moved from decaying history to the promise of the present. He would find himself again, here amidst the narrow halls and twisted orchard boughs. He would turn this place into a home for others who wanted to feel the sun on their skin, the soil on their palms, the summer in their hearts.