©2003 Elizabeth L. Clark
The trees sang as the wind caressed their winter bare limbs. An owl hooted softly as it glided through the moonlit night. A woman who had seen many such nights and hoped to see many more stood outside her modest cabin, moonlight making her long hair gleam like molten silver.
She once shared these times with her husband, a huge bear of a man with a deep voice and gentle hands. But he had been gone ten long years now, taken in his sleep. She missed him still, missed the sound of his voice, the feel of his solid body next to hers at night. They had been married nearly fifty years and had a love that had only grown, not diminished over time.
She had been just a girl when they married, but already wise in the ways of herbs and healing. He had been proud of her and made sure their home had plenty of places for her to hang and dry the herbs she grew and the ones she collected from the forest. She smiled as she remembered all the times he would sit and watch her work, keeping her company as she made poultices and ointments.
They had raised five children here, three sons and two daughters. Life had taken them all… leaving her utterly alone in her elder years. She sighed and went back inside, shivering as the wind picked up. she added more wood to the fire and settled into her chair to rock and remember.
She had met her husband while out collecting herbs for an infant that had come down with a cough. He was hunting nearby for deer when he caught his foot in a hole and badly sprained the ankle. She had heard him cry out and hurried to investigate. He was embarrassed that a tiny thing like her had to help him, but she had merely smiled and let him see she was stronger than she looked. She lived alone then as now, her parents having died in a winter storm the year before. He stayed with her for a week as his ankle healed and when he left, she went with him. He had commented that it was her fiery hair that had gotten his attention, flowing down her back like liquid fire. He was a blonde giant, with large hands and a ready smile. She smiled now as she felt once more his kisses, touches. He had taught her the ways of love with patience and gentleness, making the young girl into a contented woman.
She dozed now, the crackling of the fire and her memories lulling her to sleep. The fire died down and the chill in the room woke her and she slowly walked into their bedroom. She slipped under the heavy furs and woolen blankets, using his pillow as she had since his passing. Only at night did the loneliness get to her, lying alone in the massive bed. She missed him the most then. She followed a tradition they had started when they first wed. He would whisper to her as they settled in for sleep “I love you from dawn to dawn” and she would reply “I love you from dusk to dusk”. She whispered her part as her eyes closed, her heart aching that he was not there to hear it.
Morning came with a promise of snow in the air and she carefully prepared for it. Snowfalls here were heavy, often making it too dangerous to go out in it alone. She stocked up on fire wood, water and brought in a chunk of the meat stored in a shed behind the house. He had taught her to hunt and she was glad of it now. She had dried vegetables stored and even a small crock of honey for her tea. Flour she made from wheat bought from local farmers who valued her as a healer. They had watched over her after her man had died, bringing her items paid for with herbal medicines. She cleaned the cabin and made a pot of thick stew and several loaves of dark bread. She was knitting when she realized it was her birthday. Seventy-five years she had walked these woods. She felt tears sting her violet eyes as she thought of birthdays past when he would bring her flowers or a new fur to ward off the winter chill. She poured herself another cup of tea and wiped the tears away, he hated to see her weep.
The storm came on hard and swift, the sky turning black as the clouds filled it. The snow came on harsh winds, howling like wolves outside her door. It grew bitterly cold and she found herself having to brave the storm for more wood. She was breathless and panting. Her chest hurt and her heart was racing as she dumped the wood in the bin by the fire place. She ignored it as she made three more trips outside. Finally she got the fire burning hot and bright then sat in her chair, face pale and hands shaking. She had to sit for sometime before moving to make a mild tea of fox glove leaves. It eased the pain and made her heart beat normally. She was not afraid of death but nor would she help the reaper do his job.
She treated herself to honey on her bread at dinner that night, feeling as though she deserved it somehow. She still set a place for him at the table, it made her feel less alone. The pains returned shortly after her meal, making her gasp as she made the tea again. Something inside said her time was nearly done, soon she would be with him again. Sleep came to quickly and so did dreams.
She saw him, tall, strong, green eyes shining with laughter and love. He swept her up and kissed her soundly, smiling at her as she giggled and blushed. the dreams shifted and he was older now, standing by the bed and holding his hand out to her.
“It’s time sweetheart” He said softly. “Take my hand and come with me.” She didn’t hesitate. She slipped her small hand into his and let him pull her into his arms. she looked up and smiled as he lowered his head to kiss her gently. “I love you from dawn to dawn” He whispered. Her soul sang as she replied. “I love you from dusk to dusk”. They walked into the night hand in hand, leaving their home behind.