Why do we make hope and love such a fragile thing? On the wings of the dawn so many new things open themselves to a possibility of being seen and known, the warmth of the sun seeping through dust and shadow, drawing back the curtain of night with the certainty of light. And the trees they stand, a silent witness to it all; fallen leaves on the ground, a testimony of life that the earth once gave.
We took a walk today where the old railway used to run through the Valley, stopping to warm ourselves in the places where the sun broke through the maple and alder trees, a distinctive smell of wood smoke and musk in the air. We came upon a gate that led off of the trail. An old gate with traces of faded ornateness still visible through the weathered iron. Beyond the gate we could see a clearing through the trees of a place where a house had once stood.
I started to sense this place through the gate, where people had once lived, shaped by the seasons and their dreams, and the sounds of the ravens as they called to each other through the trees. There is a way that the sun will cast sepia light that evokes a feeling of going back in time, as if through this amber light we can become time travelers but for a moment, experiencing a place exactly as someone did one hundred years ago.
Looking at this gate, standing like a lonely testament of forgotten dreams beneath the autumn sky, I felt like I was looking through an old photo album, flashes of faded pictures of lives lived in this very place. I saw glimpses of a woman on a porch of a small farmhouse painted white, sweeping the boards with a broom she had made, old high backed wooden chairs side by side on the left side of the front door. She was sweeping the dust and the dirt and her worries away in an endless attempt to bring comfort and stability into her family’s life.
There was a man sitting down on that porch at the end of the day, staring out at the setting sun, smoking tobacco in a pipe, reflecting on the day’s work and the work yet to be done tomorrow. There was a sense of vulnerability and survival and satisfaction pumping through his heart at this life. Knowing that with the coming of each dawn he would get up yet again to make a living with his hands and his perseverance, and with the setting sun he would sit on this porch and reflect on what was and what was yet to come and maybe, maybe dare to dream a little as he looked at the mountain in the distance.
I then saw the woman in her kitchen, peeling apples to make apple cider and apple sauce, an old wood stove emanating warmth that soaks right through to the bone, and a calico cat curled up in a corner, enjoying the warmth and the golden light of the early afternoon. There was a boy and a girl taking turns on a swing hanging from one of the trees outside the kitchen window, and she kept an eye on them as they played and jumped through the autumn leaves. I felt her sigh, a mixture of loneliness and contentment, hope and resignation, gratitude for her family and her home, and determination to prepare for the coming winter on this autumn day.
I am now back at the old gate in my mind, still standing in a lonesome invitation to the white farmhouse with the porch and the family that are long gone. The trees remain where they have stood for decades, their branches now almost leafless and bare.
We turn from the gate and continue walking down the trail, a blanket of leaves underneath our feet, covering the ground, waiting for the snow to come.
Deana Lafleur 2017