Inspired by the first frost and a woodland walk with Pa
Jessica clambered out the tall white car and paused, her breath stolen from the crisp cold November air. Quickly she pulled her woollen scarf tightly round her face as unexpectedly a cloud of sparkling gold leaves drifted down from the shadows of twigs above as if snow were twirling and pirouetting from the skies. A smile escaped her lips and her scarf began to feel damp from condensation.
She hurried round through the blanket of littered oak leaves to the passenger door holding it ajar as her Papa clambered out making sure no patch of skin was left uncovered. They stood for a few moments. Jessica handed his stick as he caught his breath, his piercing blue eyes adjusted to the vivid low winter sunlight that cast shadows across the pathway. In the distance they caught view of ducks skating across the frozen lake, a heron stood proud and tall on an island in the shadows.
“Are you warm enough Papa?” she reached in the back for extra blankets and scarves but he waved her away before finding his footing and beginning to step. Each leaf crunched and creaked beneath his boots, the distinct tap of the stick as it hit the carpet of leaves.
Together they wandered gently along the frosted forest floor, not a sound escaped their lips or that of the woodland around them. Pure indulgent silence that shimmered in the white dusting that had smothered the landscape. In the distance sunlight pierced through the tree canopies, a striking gold hue that made the last leaves glisten and cast a gorgeous royal colour across the otherwise blue and cold view. Every now and then a flurry of leaves would dance from the skeletal trees though there felt no wind and the striking blue sky was streaked with jet streams; the flap of swans in the next pond was the only noise to break the silence.
“I never noticed the seasons that much as I aged, yet when I was a child it was all I ever saw. The rain in April, the hot unbearable school lessons in summer and that wealth of snowfall we’d have in the village. Even the beauty of frost and Winter. All these years as I grew they began to pass me by, caught up in life that the simple beauty of nature just… well… passed me by.” Papa had a tone of sadness in his voice as he softly ambled across the carpet of oak leaves.
“We all do that Papa, the little things get in the way when we grow old. Our innocence is gone and we become more concerned with trivial matters, but nature forgives. She’ll never leave because we stopped noticing…” Jessica paused as her Papa had done so, both enchanted by the golden crown of light that lit up a flourished red autumn tree. “No, nature will always give us light. We just have to pause to look at it.”
Her Papa smiled at her and placing his stick in front began to once again wander across the woodland path. The frozen lake beside glistened, the mural turned blue yet streaked with pink as the sun slowly set behind the framed forest sketch. Silence returned between them, just the tap, tap, tap of the stick as it hit the forest floor.
Jessica picked up a small wooden log and wandered down to the lake side pressing it against the panes of ice that wobbled in the clear blue water. Turning she saw her Papa, framed in gold as flutters of oak leaves fell like confetti. He was leant on his stick watching the sky, glancing to the trees and breathing in what was left of him. Her heart jumped, aching as she knew that loss may be not far behind. A tear escaped her eye and turned to an icicle as it ran down her cheek, she inhaled sharply quickly turning her back to Papa. This wasn’t the time for grief.
“I hope you remember in all your years ahead to take note of this beauty given to us so generously. Remember each speckle of colour, each sound of word and each scent of season. We are so blessed and so fortunate that this right here is given to us. Be wise, show your children this simple artistry and if you remember to let it in, you can have nothing short of happiness.” Her Papa nodded, paused and tapped his stick by his side. “But now the sun sets, the cold seeps in and my bones are too old to manage these Winters. Let’s hurry and I’ll treat us to hot cocoa.”
Jessica smiled to herself as she photographed every memory and every word in her mind. Quickly she wiped her eyes and stepped back to the path taking Papa’s arm, both dawdled back to the car. That generous silence fell between them again but her heart had never felt so full. Papa was right, the simple elegance of nature woven with his words was enough to bring tears of joy and memories for years to come. Although Winter would freeze her skin and present darkness from light, there would always be warmth in her heart for the time she spent with her sweet dear Papa.