Sunday, August 9, 2015

A story inspired by a walk


Written June 25, 2015

I’ve been relishing morning walks with wonderful women this week. We’ve laughed a lot while pounding the paved path of our neighborhood, complaining about our thighs and tight clothes, telling stories of bunco and book club. I’ve forced my friends to stop so I can take pictures. Of purple wildflowers that line our walkway. Of a pristine lake in an adjacent neighborhood. Of a lone crow perched on a fencepost. 

They claim I am slowing them down. I now realize it’s part of my preparation.


          When I returned home from this morning’s walk, I started remembering a book my mom read to me and I, in turn, read to my kids. Frederick by Leo Lionni (1966) is about a field mouse who has a unique way of preparing for the dark days of winter. My mom passed the book on to me from her bookshelf when my son was old enough to enjoy it over a decade ago. The inside cover has my birth name written in my mother’s smooth cursive and the date she first read it to me. My crayon scribbles adorn the first few pages. 

         Something about the story reminds me of my ambling preparation to leave my home of 7 years in Virginia to return to Colorado.
 
The story begins in the waning days of autumn. The elder mice instruct Frederick and his community of mice to quickly gather supplies for winter - nuts and seeds for food, straw for warmth, anything that will help sustain them through the spare winter months underground. The mice scurry around their farm, productively packing away important supplies. 

Everyone except Frederick. He lays on the hill watching cotton ball clouds drift across the cerulean sky. He wanders through a field of tall grass inhaling the fragrance of moist soil and wild flowers. He watches ducks take flight from the surface of the farm pond.

The elders grow annoyed. Despite their pleas, Frederick continues on his course, intent on enjoying his beautiful surroundings. He has no tangible supplies.

           The first snow falls and the mice abandon the farm for their subterranean chamber. They are well stocked and spend their early days in happy, close quarters.  But eventually the days grow long.  Nuts and seeds run low. The mice become weary in the cramped, grey quarters. 

         At their lowest point, Frederick steps forward to share what he'd been gathering during those carefree autumn days on the farm.

 

He asks his family to close their eyes and open their hearts. He whispers and they listen intently. Frederick tells tales of golden corn swaying in the breeze and white puffy clouds whisking across the bright skies. He conjures the sites and smells of carefree days in the green meadow chasing shadows and napping in the golden brush. He describes the sounds of laughter and friendship as they played games in the sunshine.

His family thought he was gathering nothing as the seasons changed. But, Frederick was storing what he thought would make him and his family feel happy and bright during the coming season.

            I understand Frederick’s intent. I find myself doing the same. I am filling my mind with a picture book of beautiful Virginia and treasured friendships. On a morning walk, I am etching in my mind the gentle curve of emerald fields and a copper, farmhouse roof reflecting an early sun. At one last bunco, I am listening to jokes, laughs and giggles streaming throughout the house. 

Preparing for my move from Virginia back to Colorado, I’ve spent a lot of time figuring out what to get rid of, what to keep, and what to hold onto dearly. And I desperately want to hold onto the connection I have with these women. Each in her own way, she’s helped me raise my kids with confidence and sanity.  They’ve given me and each other the gift of acceptance.  They’ve inspired me to do better and be better all the while not taking it all so seriously.  I will miss the ways our lives are twisted and wound together.  

 When those many moments come when I miss them terribly, I will hopefully have a warehouse of memories to soothe me. 

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