Winter…

The earth rose to greet her no matter the season. Today the air smelled of winter. It had that unmistakably clean tinge to it and was cold and crisp like an apple. It was almost as if though you could take a bite and it would crack like the skin of an apple, or a piece of ice. Frost was only a breath away.

Dreams clouded the sky–it was so heavy with them, she just about expected them to fall down and powder the earth with a fine layer of snow. Because in winter, people dreamed. Cooped up in their houses huddling by their fireplaces, they dreamed. They dreamed of long days and summer nights spent out in the wilderness catching fish, or kissing their latest lover, high on the essence of summer. And as people dreamed, the sky got clouded with their desires until they fell down like snow–sprinkling the earth with seeds that would blossom once summer arrived. At least if they were nurtured.

Snow. All she could think of was roses captured in Turkish delight. Smooth like ice. Cold. Dusted with powdered sugar, just as the earth would soon be dusted with snow.

People did not associate roses with winter, but today she felt sure roses were just what she needed and what should go on the menu tomorrow. Some light pink Turkish delight to match the soft grays of the clouded sky. And if combined with something made with mint, it would be cool, too.

Roses were soft and sweet and people needed that on days like these when the grayness of the world threatened to swallow them. Yet, there was an edge to all the gray. A sharpness–a bite in the air that turned your cheeks into roses in their own right. As much as your senses were dulled by the gray color scheme, they were awakened by the cold. It was impossible not to get a thrill when walking briskly in this weather.

So that’s what she did–Violette went for a brisk walk through the sleeping little town. The streets winded around sand colored houses. Walking along those streets, Violette felt comforted knowing that she knew every turn. Every step was familiar to her.

Then she stopped. In front of her was a red parcel. Neatly wrapped and sealed with wax, it stood on the pavement like a stop sign. A tag was attached to the parcel with a piece of twine and suddenly the tag moved with an unexpected gust of wind that seemed to have come out of nowhere. It was a still morning. The morning before frost. The morning before snow. The air was practically heavy with it. Heavy and still.

As the tag moved, Violette took a step closer. The tag was black and her name was written on it in purple. Purple paint. As she leaned down to take a closer look, the scent of violets greeted her nostrils. Spooked she took an involuntary step back. Her grandma had always done that–scented her gifts with violets–but she’d been gone for many years now. Violette ran her bakery. Lived in her house. Cared for her plants and her customers alike. So who was this parcel from and why was it standing in the middle of the pavement?

The sun had only just grazed the sky with that kind of bright yet muted yellow light that signifies a winter morning. It mixed together with the gray to create that perfect winter sky. The fact that it was a Sunday and the sun had just risen explained why no one else had found the package. This was peoples’ day off. A time to sleep and mend old socks and friendships, not a time for getting out of bed at the crack of dawn. Though, admittedly, many people did. They just didn’t set about walking through the village unless they had a very urgent errand. All shops were closed–even her bakery.

Violette felt a shiver move through her. She took a step closer toward the parcel again. This time, she touched it. It felt good. Warm somehow, even though it was cold to the touch.

She turned the tag around.

“My dear Violette, when you receive this I will be long gone, but your dreams will still be alive. Your heart beating in your chest, your keen eyes always studying and learning, and your mind stirring with questions and answers. You’re a seeker, yet someone who is content to stay mostly in one place. You love your home, but would like to see the world for short periods of time. I have no doubt you will undertake many short journeys. Maybe even a grand one, one day. However, in the meantime, I give you this gift. I told Xe to drop it off when passing through town next. He might come see you, he might not. He’s a curious fellow with a brilliant mind, not unlike yours. You’ll enjoy his company if he does pop by. I told him to leave you the gift where you’ll find it. Given it’s Xe, it might be at an unexpected place. I may not be able to hug you, but I will always love you, Gran.”

Violette stared at the tag, that, by now, felt burning hot on her skin. It was a note from her gran from beyond the grave. Tears rose to her eyes. On the darkest day of the year, her gran had given her a gift.

It was a miracle. Only, of course, it wasn’t. It was just her gran thinking ahead and planning a lovely surprise for her. But then miracles are often like that–small things that are exactly what we need.

As of late, Violette had felt restless. Like she had to go some place, only she didn’t know where yet. She was not so patiently waiting for it to reveal itself. The place she was meant to go, that is. And how she was meant to get there also needed to become clear. She knew the day would come when she’d know, but in the meantime, she’d taken to pacing her kitchen at night and drinking way too much lemon balm and mint tea to soothe her restless mind.

Violette scooped up the gift, and turned around to return to the bakery. She couldn’t wait to unwrap the gift and make her Turkish delight and mint…mint caramels, she decided. Some would be crushed and sprinkled over the Turkish delight. Soothing. They’d be soothing. She needed that now. Just as she needed to open the burning hot gift resting in her arms.

This week we’ve been celebrating the winter solstice here in the southernmost tip of Africa. I’ve been listening to First Frost (again), drunk mulled wine, baked apple pie, lit several fires and candles (a candle is currently burning bright next to me and a fire is blazing downstairs), baked french bread, eaten popcorn with chipotle sauce and butter, collected pine cones and chased shy rays of sunshine. As the weekend approached, this came to me. Well snippets of this came to me. Something about Turkish delight, the scent of winter rising from the earth, and dreams snowing from the sky. The rest I penned now. It’s part of my collection of short stories that will, possibly, add up to a book one day. A book, possibly, called The Jester. There’s a lot of possibly in there. You will find the other chapters/stories here.

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Filed under Magical Realism, Winter, Writing

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