The Path (a story)

I was looking for the path the other day and I couldn’t find it. All I could see was forest: slender branches and tiny twigs in my way, snow billowing underfoot filling gaps between trees that stood so tall and so close together. Where was the path?

Not knowing anything about snow and how it behaves made it feel dangerous, even though it glinted in the sunlight and tempted me in. Would I slip? Would I sink down? What was under the surface? How deep would I fall? Everything was so new, so enticing yet impenetrable. I carefully took a few steps, marvelled at the sparkly crystals underfoot, captured the moment on camera, and turned back, equally excited and frustrated.

She wanted to play in the snow. Put on her mittens and scrape it, scoop it, taste it, mould it, throw it at her brother. She was amazed at how it packed down in between her hands, got harder and icier with each slap. Big clumsy mittens flapping around on tiny little hands. Four-year-old hands so small and smooth, encased in mittens with smiling faces on them. She would grow into them. A green plastic rain jacket with white buttons like giant peppermints. A beanie matched the mittens: red, green and white. Little leather ankle boots, tan with striped laces. The snow came unexpectedly and was gone just as fast.

With each step my foot lands and falls, lands and falls. Momentary stability gives way to the unknown then finds it again. I find the path easily. I realise that I didn’t know a path could be made of snow. Until now, in my mind, there was only one kind of path: dirt. As soon as my mind cleared I could see the path. A new path. A new way of seeing.

My spirit is awake and I feel no fear. My feet dance on ice as I cede control to nature. I work with it and around it. I giggle and grin at the sensations underfoot. My feet do too. My muscles stretch and tighten intuitively to keep me stable. I keep moving along the path as the snow deepens.

I find a patch of snow still deep enough to play in. It is spring and it is melting fast. With mittens I scrape. I make the snow white and clean and new. I scoop up snowballs and pat them into hardness, throwing them at trees and leaving my mark. I smell the snow and put it in my mouth. The glittery crystals mesmerise me. I make more snowballs, bigger ones, and build a little snowman with three of them. It’s new to me and surprisingly challenging. I scoop, mould and assemble. I make a nose from a twig and hair out of bits of plant. I have been playing and I made something.

I follow the path and find signs of life everywhere. Hoof prints, green leaves breaking through and out towards the sun. An ice cave made and furnished by humans with tiny candles and bark and leaves inside. Offerings and reflections are everywhere. The path goes on and eventually becomes impassable. Deep icy water stops me but I feel satisfied. I turn back and follow the path home.

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