Winter Sky

She took out her drawing pad and dusted off the top of the board she used to prop against her knees. Hammered into the sides of the wood were staples to hold a woven, knotted handle. The staples were now rusted and the brittle, dry handle torn beyond repair. Swift surgery and a pair of pliers removed the useless appendage and a scrap of sandpaper finished the wood like new. Off she went into the woods, simple tools to create a view of the winter sky.

The air was cooler now, the coldest not yet here and a few good days left to sit in the sun and draw. She always gained some exercise jaunting off to find the perfect spot, barely aware of her steps over smooth, worn roots since her gaze was upwards towards the trees and canopy tall. Most of the insects were gone with a few mornings frost, as were the wildflowers that hadn't kept the ground warmth, one desperately needing the other for pollination, her missing only the pretty, varied flowers.

She was looking for a perfectly formed tree, a dogwood or birch that could hang its branches and silhouette the crisp blue sky and say something to her about the approach of winter. The fewer leaves the better, if still stuck by stubborn stems, she wanted to see the shape of the branches naked and exposed and gauge the distance between the earth and heavens. Her perfect spot would also contain a nice sitting place in the sun, and a backrest of another tree.

Small animals like mice and moles scampered across her path, she knew she wasn't alone in the woods, ever. The clattering and shaking of the treetops told her the squirrels were very busy building their nests, the fruitful debris of the buckeyes and walnuts blasted here and there said they would be well fed this winter. The squirrels gathered huge clumps of leaves fastened between tall tops looking like old fashioned ladies hats, but housing one family member. The chipmunks burrowed beneath the earth, with housing holes popping up at strategic places on the foot walk. The dung of the deer were evidence of a healthy herd and tiny rabbit pellets could be found like beads of purified dirt along her path.

What beautiful music was made with the branches screeching occasionally in some pinch of nature, a long distance owl once disturbed, a bit of brook trickling quietly and only her footsteps in a rhythmic human pattern, all else being nature, fine and free. Her thoughts rambled in her head, an endless story without beginning or end, no subject line, mostly adjectives and adverbs, obscure connections and no meaning, running as swiftly as the mice and disappearing just as quickly.

The wind picked up suddenly in the taller branches, not seriously, but noticeably for a moment. The weather could turn quickly and she was pretty far back in the woods, but she kept going as if drawn by the deeper meaning the further she went. The woods held a secret to those that didn't listen, but for her it gave all it was known to have anytime she just watched and waited and walked quietly and sure.

Some of the paths she walked on were worn smooth by people, some by the deer, roughed out by turkeys and neighboring dogs on a hunt. When she was younger and in her imagination, native Indians made all the paths. There were possibilities of colonials or Spanish explorers with bazaar fur trappings and gold jewelry. Unfortunately, she never found any gold doubloons or lost cache from a ship, but she could have seen it there, in treasure trunks of trappings if it were to be found. She once learned the entire valley had been a repository for the end of an ice era, a moraine of rocks and debris carried along over time eternal. She could see for herself the fossils in the creeks were of marine animals and wondered where the lost ocean was.

The breeze grew quieter now and so were her thoughts, the sun filtered down through the branches and she could see the most amazing orange red glow from the West, a beautiful sunset just beginning to happen. She would have to hurry and perhaps walk out of the woods on that side toward the furthest field, then walk around at dark by the road for safety to reach home again. She had been in the woods at night by herself before, but preferred full moonlight, not on a new moon, so she quickened her pace.

There she found it, the setting sun, the mature branches tapering slenderly into wisps and fully shaping the robust glow of the deeper purple hues toward the horizon. A tree that had fallen near another to sit upon instead of the damp evening ground, in full view of a gently sloping landscape dropping off into a deeper thicket of low brush with berries and small birds feeding well.

The twilight light was still good enough to see her page, a swift hand to capture the scene and her thoughts focused and peaceful. She warmed her hands and set the board upon her knees, her pad opened to a fresh page, the pencils sharp and pressing on the creation as if set in motion by God himself, subtle lines, so perfectly laid with a relaxed and careful hand. Clearing the composition in her mind, moving fast against the time that was left, her artistry was driven by her need to create and keep this perfect scene for her own. 

A personal moment, rendering in gesture movements the tree and flaming sky as it kissed the earth, a lacy network of branches, black as a deep cavern in the foreground. Her pencil drawing contained no color as she saw it then, but with the softness of leads, she could discern the colors to a degree. She knew once she saw her drawing in artificial light she would have a third scene unveiling yet. There was the scene itself, the creation of her drawing in dim light and that likeness she would walk out of the woods for keeping and admiration later.

The owl she had heard earlier started to screech and in a magical, wonderful flash she saw him silently swoop low across her page to feather a mouse for supper. His wings only tipping a little left for deadeye accuracy before the kill, she saw in an instant all she needed for the object in her drawing.

Moving quickly, she finished the plump creature intertwined with the glow and the spindly branches. The soft, mellow wings spread with finite detail, grand gleaming twilight and rough, textured bark coming together and framing the page solidly. 

Closing her sketch pad, gathering her pencils, her board and trotting off, fast down the slope to the road, her feet were swift, carried by the same wind in the wings of the creatures she loves so much. Her heart lifted by her observances, her hand peaceful and calmed by nature, and her mind grateful for all God's creature's great and small. 


More by :  Mary E. Borra

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