I look up, the sunlight peaking through the far-flung branches of the sparse old trees. The air is crisp and clean, the scent of spring floating on a soft breeze. A chill dances across the skin of my bare arms, sharpening the excitement evoked by the relative solitude. My bare feet step onto the cold, damp soil exposed by the worn path made by the frequent tread of small children.
Usually when I make this journey through the trees, I am chased by the loud and excited voices of younger children. My siblings, who would bound ahead of me through the dead leaves of former years, the noise made much larger than their miniscule bodies. Often I would watch them run ahead of me, wondering that I had ever been so small. Other days I would race them up the hill, reveling in the advantage my longer legs gave me. Or rare, precious days like today, they chose to stay inside and I had the woods all to myself.
A blanket of quiet settles over me, comforting, not smothering like it is in school. The stillness broken by the snap of branches as my clumsy footsteps fall in the wrong places and the scamper of chipmunks and small birds fleeing from my miniature destruction. The occasional whine of large trucks echoes from the highway far below.
The incline is subtle, at first. It grows steeper with each stride, challenging my thin child legs to prove the presence of lean muscle underneath. Boulders are strewn haphazardly across the slope, posing challenges long since conquered. Long ago I asked my mother where they came from and how they got here. She told me they were dropped here when the big glaciers that carved out the mountains melted. Now they seem tame and familiar, dangerous only to those who don’t know every crevice and slick moss co...
... middle of paper ...
...ell emanating from the kitchen window calls my sudden hunger to the forefront. Mom waits at the door, my four-year-old sister clutching at her legs.
“Were you having fun in the woods?” She asks, curly hair bouncing in its ponytail.
My sister glowers at me from behind mom’s leg, grey eyes stormy.
I nod. Emphatically.
She smiles larger, “I called you three times. Your brother almost went out to find you.”
Sure enough, my five year old brother sits inside the door, lacing up his muddy sneakers.
“I’m hungry!” I exclaim, rubbing circles over my torso that are most certainly larger than my stomach.
My mother turns and enters the house. I follow, the last one through the door. Before I shut it, I take one more deep breath of magic air. I am reluctant to leave it, but I know it will be there for me again tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after.
I close the door.
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