Along the Woods
by Aleyamma Jacob
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One July night I walked down my seaside village street to visit a friend of mine who was very sick. It was a full-moon night.The world lay bathed in silvery moonlight. Every bush and stone was highlighted by the glare of the moon. The silent breeze carried marshy odours all over. My friend was also aware of the serene beauty of the night. As we sat together, a bird began to sing melodiously. The moonlight and the hale fragrances and the wild song of the bird all combined to bring solace to the serene beauty of the forest.
All of a sudden the moonlight disappeared and the rain poured down into howling darkness. The thunder and lightning were appalling. My friend John & I were terrified by the loud thunder which we never expected at that time. We were all alone in the profound fury of the wind. Usually I do not pray long prayers, but at that particular moment, I asked God to protect us from the raging thunder and lightning. The next day John & I decided to go out on the lake before sunrise, rowing through the mist that rose from the water. I loved lakes and seas and I like rowing and swimmimg. We rowed until the sun rose from behind the hills that rim this long thin lake. From this lake we could see the deep star-filled sky. All this quiet beauty calmed John's mind and gave him strength and peace.
I walked to the hill north of the house where there was a huge tree under which Lucy & I used to sit for hours during hot summer days. The spot still remind me of her. I often go there to pray and to refresh my old memories. Lucy, my dear wife had passed away five years ago. I could not get over the grief and pain of her loss. It had shattered my whole life. Every moment that we spent together was precious. We were a very happy couple. She left me with a son aged three and a daughter aged six. The children had a good baby-sitter during the daytime. The night was not a problem since we all slept early. The past memories haunted me. Lucy used to make delicious berry tarts and apple pies. I remember how we had picked up potatoes from the farm. I drove the old tractor that pulled the harvesting machine whose oblique blade churned up the damp moist clay, throwing up the light coloured tubers onto the surface. Our good neighbours always volunteered to help us. They walked behind, their rubber boots heavy with clay and gathered the potatoes into birch-strip baskets. Later we put them into a deep earthen cellar to await the coming winter.
I live with my two children in the city. My former home in the country has become the place where I spend my vacation with children. The enthusiasm I had when Lucy was alive has been replaced by a need to relax between busy spells of work. I am longing for autumn to come so that I could walk, mushroom pail in hand, along the muddy field path leading to the forest near my country house. I remember those days when Lucy and I used to sit in perfect peace on a big stone and pluck and eat tangy-flavoured berries.
A few years ago, I remarried. My wife and I sometimes take a private night walk in my country house. This gives us a chance to catch up with our future plans and activities that lay ahead. My son is a chatter box, and whenever I take him for a walk, he loves the opportunity to have me to himself. He tells me all about his school and the new bicycle I bought for him, and describes the design of his dream house.
As the children have grown older, they enjoy hearing stories about my life at their age. They got along very well with their stepmother, which was a great blessing. I praise God for my second wife Kathy. She is very understanding and loving. She was the type of girl I had always dreamed of since Lucy's death. Kathy was a good painter. She loved painting and she loved nature. All her past time she spent on painting. She painted a woman sewing a gown. The painting she loved most was that of her aging mother serenely sitting in a chair, her arms folded in front of her. I encouraged her in all the ways I could to promote the God-given talent she had. Kathy had an unquenchable appetite for games and all-night costume parties on the beach.
Painting was such a deep pleasure for Kathy that she never thought of stopping it. Our old friend John visited us after a very long time, and he was very happy to see all Kathy's paintings. He decided to organise an exhibition for Kathy's paintings. It was a huge success. People flocked in to buy her paintings. She made a fortune out of it. With the money we got from the paintings, we decided to buy an old farm house, built in the 19th century. It had several out buildings, a keeper's lodge, a barn and several hectares of park land. The house was in a very ruined condition. Everywhere was covered with black cobwebs and birds nesting in the spaces when chandeliers used to hang, most of the doors without handles and broken windows everywhere. I vowed to myself that we both will work hard and make this place into a beautiful farm where we can spend our remaining days in peace. Our children were very happy with the new arrangements. They loved animals and farms. We bought all types of birds and we made a beautiful fish tank to modify the farm.
My wife's death taught me that I had strength I was unaware of. As a widower, I had explored an inner self which I had never found out before. I have done more with my life than I otherwise might have, because change and growth were thrust upon me. I have learnt, though it took a few years, that pain is a natural part of living. Kathy always tells me that we must never be too busy for the wonder and awe of life. Be reverent before each dawning day. Embrace each hour. Seize each golden minute. Our lives are finite, but our deeds on earth weave a timeless pattern. The beauty that we fashion cannot be dimmed by death. Our flesh may perish, our hands may wither away, but goodness and truth live on for all time to come.
(C) ALEYAMMA JACOB
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