Joining again with Elephant's Child and Words for Wednesday. Only this week, no words, just images from which to feed our imagination.
She stayed in bed for a little longer, not wanting to brave the cold just yet. She could see the silhouettes of the silk flowers and toy bear he had bought her when she got sick with the cancer. They had thought she would be the first to go, but instead, she had rallied, and it was him who had gone first. He had taken ill after falling through the ice while fishing one morning. He shrugged off his cold until it had become pneumonia in both lungs that caught both of them by surprise. That had been nearly five years ago. Why she didn't leave after that, she didn't know. Well, she knew. This had been their dream home, a little off the grid cabin in the woods with a lake and a two hundred acres to hunt on. For almost twenty years they had been happy there. She didn't really have anywhere else to go.
There had been an old school house in the middle of one of the acres. They probably would never have found it if he hadn't been tracking a buck through the woods to fill the freezer. It sat in the middle of an open field surrounded by woods in all directions as if it and the field had dropped from the sky. No roads or trails were leading to it; it was as if it had just been waiting for her to find it. She had him clear a trail to it, and their weekends that fall were spent exploring the school house and field. He told her she wasn't to go there alone since they didn't know how old the building was or how sturdy. They could see signs that various animals had inhabited it over the years, maybe even a century or more since it had been abandoned.
It became her healing project, and together they had fortified the walls, roof, and floor from the elements. After the first winter, they decided to add shutters to the upper windows that they could close in the winter, but they left the bell tower open for the birds and bats to come and go. They added covered porches to the front and rear of the schoolhouse help keep snow and rain from getting in and to give shelter to any animal not wanting to brave the inside. During the winters, they shuttered all but a front and rear door so that any animal finding shelter from the storms would never feel trapped. Old wooden feed troughs found at a farm estate sale were put both inside and out and he would occasionally haul hay for the deer when the winters were expected to be especially harsh.
When he had died, it became her healing project again. Each season, she had planted perennials and bulbs for the spring, and apple and cherry trees until there was almost no longer a field but an orchard. She had spent too many winter nights filling pine cones with peanut butter and rolling them in birdseed to take to the schoolhouse when the snow began to melt. She had watched countless fawns, fox kits, mice and chipmunks that had been born in the schoolhouse grow up and come back to raise their own young. Baby birds taking their first flying lessons and return again each spring to nest in the eaves. Gradually they had all gotten used to her presence and so when she sat in the shade of the porch, or in the doorway watching the rain, she would often feel a nudge at her side of someone looking for an apple or a treat.
She opened her eyes again. She must have fallen asleep in the silence. The room was much colder now, creeping under the covers with her. She should have gotten up the first time she woke and started the fire. Now she would be sore as her arthritis wouldn't like leaving the warm comfort of the bed. She sat with her woolen socked feet swinging off the edge of the bed, and pulled the robe she'd worn to bed closer around her.
She knew by the calendar that spring would be coming soon, and she felt in her bones that it would be her last. The thought made her both grateful and sad. She'd been dreaming about him more often lately, hearing his voice call to her, and she did miss him so much. She just hoped that she could make it out to the schoolhouse one last time.