I saw a little girl, about my age carrying a basket by the house. Inside the basket were several very large, round, brown onions. I skipped along beside her for a while and she didn’t notice me. I didn’t mind. I ran barefoot back to the house through the new snow. The frozen twigs on the trees on the sides of the house stung my cheeks. I rounded the corner to the porch – the side of the house in the sun – and there was very little snow.
I climbed up the steps to the door. The last step was missing and I studied the door, partially open. The paint was peeling off in big flakes – yellow green on the outside and darker green on the underside. Beneath the green layer was brown and grey. It looked a bit like leaves on a tree in early autumn. I climbed inside to the kitchen.
I said, “Mama, look! I can see right through the floor in places.”
She said, “I don’t reckon you’ll fall through before Pa gets back,” but she didn’t look at me when she said it. She was looking at her broom.
The house had been alone too long. Not alone, exactly, but without people. The animals liked the holes in the floor and walls. Little Man was living there when we arrived and he adopted us. A giant of a dog, fiercely protective of us, but afraid to drink from a water bowl. Mama said he was crazy.
Pa carved things out of fallen trees and branches and he had a hand cart that he filled with them and pushed away to somewhere. If we were lucky when he came back, he had flour and salt, clothes, and stuff Mama needed. Today we were hoping for a blanket.
“Don’t put good carvin’ wood in the stove,” said Mama as I was thinking about doing just that. Not that it made a lot of difference with all the holes in the house, but it sure would have been nice to warm my wet feet.
When Pa got back it was near dark. He had lots of treasures including three blankets! One was just for me. As I was going to sleep I heard Mama say something about us maybe getting squatting rights, but I wasn’t sure what that meant. She was crying. I wished she would just stop.
Time was funny then. It seemed by morning the house was healed a bit. There weren’t holes in the floor anymore, though it still sloped. And the door was different. The big leafy flakes had been smoothed off, but it was ok. I could still see bits of all the colors. They were just blended smoothly now.
I figured out how to shimmy up the tall tree by the pond. I’d sort of reach around it, like I was hugging it up as high as I could, pull myself up, then sort of grab with my feet up high as I could and kept pulling and pushing myself up that way until I reached the only fork in the tree. I don’t know what sort of tree this was. He was tall, only about eight inches across, and only the one fork and it was far up. I guess it had to grow like that, sort of squeezing in among the shadows of bigger trees so as to get its share of sunlight. Clever tree.
I loved shimmying up that tree for three reasons. One, I figured out how to do it all by myself, which is usually the way I figured things out, but this was the best one. Two, when I was up there no one saw me. It wasn’t because they couldn’t see me, it’s just that people – most people – forget to look up. I reckon most people go around seeing only a little part of what’s there because they forget to look up and they forget to get right down on the ground and look down. Little Man and I are the exceptions. We both look up so often we trip over things and then we end up looking at the ground real close up. Ha! I could hear all sorts of conversations that weren’t meant for me when I was up there. Not just Mama and Pa, but birds and squirrels, too. And three, I just loved the trust we had, that tree and me. Once I got to the fork, I’d sort of weave myself with the two branches, and then I could just be still. The wind would move the tree slowly back and forth like I think most Mamas rock their babies. The tree’s smooth bark covered such hard wood. It was a strong, gentle tree and it held me quietly and safely and Little Man took naps at his base. I was so safe.
Oh, and there’s a number four, too. From up the tree I could see very far away. I could see houses that weren’t there when I was on the ground. Sometimes I could see people that went with the houses, not that far from us, I could hear them sometimes, too, but I couldn’t make out what they were saying. Just pieces of voices the wind brought. And I wondered about why I couldn’t see them or hear them when I was on the ground. But somehow, when I got back to the ground I clean forgot about that.
I loved the trees. Especially that one. But I loved the smooth rocks, too. There was one by the pond and even when it was still cold, it would let the sun warm it up and I could feel the sunshine if I put my cheek against it.
Like I said, time was funny there once when I was soaking up bits of winter sunshine from the rock, I opened my eyes and relized that it was spring and it was warm. I could see right down into the pond. Lily pads floated on the top and reflected down and up again and when I just let my eyes go and do what they wanted I couldn’t tell how many lily pads I was looking at. And way down, down in the water was something shiny. Like metal. I couldn’t tell how deep the pond was because of all the reflecting going on.
The tree became two trees, maybe more. One growing out of the ground I stood on and a sort of wavy one growing out of the ground on the bottom of the pond. The sky was upside down in the pond. I even checked that out from way up the tree, and I could see another me way down, down the pond. Down in the upside down wavy tree.
I wanted to go check that out. It was fine just playing with the trees and the rocks and Little Man, but what fun it would be to have another me to play with. And there was nothing but I was going to find out what that shiny thing was. So I just shimmied down the tree. I took off my clothes and my shoes and I left them right at the base of my tree and I told Little Man not to go running off with them, but I reckon he did.
I went down, down into the water. I had to remind myself to open my eyes because I wanted to see this other wavy world. I kept going down and I was holding my breath, so I reminded myself to breathe. I gasped in a huge breath of wavy world air. At first it was hard to breathe it, but then got the hang of it, just like shimmying up the tree. And I sort of broke through something like the very thinnest plate of ice, so thin I hardly noticed it, but I knew I’d broken through because things were no longer wavy. I looked up and saw the wavy world was now where I’d just come from. Funny, huh?
I say, I reckon Little Man took my dress up to the house and gave it to Mama, cause I saw her up there holding my dress and crying hard. And Little Man was all wet and barking and splashing in and out of the water. But he wasn’t barking loud. I could barely hear him. I really wish she’d stop crying.
And then time seemed to skip around again like it does there. I’d shimmied all the way to the fork in the tree and watched them. The blanket that was just for me was all wrapped around the wavy me in the world that used to be the not wavy place. But I didn’t mind. And Little Man was sort of crying, too, the way crazy ol’ hound dogs cry, and Pa had dug a big hole right at the base of the wavy tree.
I really do wish they’d stop crying. They need to remember to look up and look down. Then they’d know it’s all perfect. Then maybe they’d see the shiny thing, too.