He wakes slowly, fluttering his eyes open. He sees sparkles in the dark. They’re high above and far away. He thinks he has seen them before, as in a dream. Closer. Or brighter. He finds himself sort of lost in a question. The stars twinkle; he blinks, blinks again. Rubbing his eyes, shaking his head, he turns, like a puppy chasing his tail, seeing a feather in his hat. Delighted, he pulls at the feather. It is a turkey feather, long and thick. He takes it out of his hat and pretends to write in the air with it. He has something to write and looks around for a place to write it. He bends down and scratches in cursive Whose woods these ar— before the moonlight shines off the snow, hurting his eyes a bit.
He has woken up in a clearing in a ravine, between two gigantic pines. They are heavy with snow. The wind blows, a large clump on top of the southerly tree falls, quickly dissipating into the wind. It’s a clear night, obviously the calm after a fresh heavy snowfall. Looking to the full moon, he lets out a wild howl, feeling alive and full of breath and light.
Looking around, briefly confused, he sees he is between the woods and a frozen lake. He breathes deep, he reaches down and swishes some snow into the wind, he giggles and twirls, and watches the heavy snow-laden trees sway with the wind. He knows he is home. With hands to hips, looking back up to the stars, he lets out a large, satisfied sigh, “Finally!”
Some of the snow from a tree drops onto his hat and nose. Now he shakes his head like a kitten. He hears a giggle. He turns around quickly, seeing a strange version of himself. He gasps, steps back. It takes him a moment before he steps forward a little, shuffles around the female, cocking his head sideways. As he takes off his hat, he realizes he needs yet to clean it off. He holds it at his chest.
“Thomas Hensen, ma’am.”
She giggles and extends her hand, “Jinny Firthbright.”
He smiles a shy, infatuated smile. A thought crosses Thom’s mind, There’s no other sound but the sweep of easy wind and downy flake.
“Ma’am, would you care for a walk?”
“You’re a funny duck. I told you, my name’s Jinny! And I’ll call you Thom,” Jinny laughs. She obviously takes delight in Thom’s strange ways.
“How long have you been here?” Thom asks.
“I woke up in the ravine last night. It’s not bad, but I’m glad I wasn’t alone for long! I like to run and race and explore, and those things aren’t as fun to do alone.”
Thom holds out his arm for her to take. They dance and twirl. Jinny takes her scarf in hand – they spin and laugh.
Later the new friends shuffle arm-in-arm exploring the woods. They come across fearless deer, a chipmunk, a river. Each is new and yet undaunting. They taste pinecones and crush winter berries to make a paste worth writing with. Thom again takes his plume and shows Jinny how to write with it, The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
Thom and Jinny talk about what they think color takes like. There are orange polka dots on her scarf. She thinks, if she could peel each one off, they would taste of morning time. Thom thinks this is the sweetest thing he’s ever heard. He says the deepest blue morning sky would taste of blueberry fudge. Jinny laughs at this so hard she rolls backwards.
They have made their way to the lake. It is first light. They sit on a large flat rock. Thom is able to see his reflection in the slow-moving water of the river joining the lake. The new friends are enraptured with the morning glow of light on their bodies – how it shimmers. They are tired now.
Thom whispers, I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.
There is a moment these friends lock eyes. Thom’s eyes sadden, brighten, seem to smile, and sadden again. Jinny reaches out, they lock fingers. The light fades from Thom’s eyes. They melt completely now. The water from their bodies melds together.
“Next year,” Jinny’s voice comes softly from the mist above the water.
*Inspired by this painting, and lines taken from Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”.