My girl took me away one day, out of the sputtering February air, and into a forest. Frosty faces peeked from hidden nooks, appearing only to flit away half a breath later as we navigated a maze of gnarled branches.
I had forgotten my gloves. Her hands, all the while, were cocooned in tacky pink yarn—Christmas gloves gifted by her eight-year-old niece. One of her fingers was curled loosely around mine as she led me through this labyrinthine place she seemed to know well.
“It’s here somewhere.” She glanced back at me, almost reassuringly. “We’re almost there.”
The snow was freshly fallen and undisturbed. I was so preoccupied with watching her footsteps that I didn’t notice it until she uncurled her finger and started running.
“This is where my Ma is buried,” she said when I caught up, gesturing to a tree with tattered white cloth clinging to the peeling bark.
A ways from the tree, a farmhouse sat in modest disrepair.
“Gran told me if a grave is dug under a tree, the tree retains the consciousness of whoever is buried there. And the cloth, well, it used to be Ma’s favourite dress,” she explained with a soft smile.
In that moment it was easy to picture her as she had been some twenty odd years ago, with lush foliage cushioning the property, the wood of the house slick in summer sunlight, and the freshness of death weighing the air with unspoken heaviness. Then there was her—harbouring a fragile innocence that lingered past youth—with her mother’s dress in hand, mustering the delicate love of a daughter to fit the garment to the tree. So absurd, yet so beautiful.
“It’s all childhood superstition, of course, the bit about the consciousness,” she dismissed the idea with a wave of her hand. “Or fantasy, I guess, because I half hoped it was true.”
I wanted to reach for her then, but she turned away and made for the farmhouse. As she wandered farther and farther, the tree trembled ever so slightly. My hands balled to make loose fists, and I noted with detachment the cold had turned my fingers numb. I stuck them deep into my pockets and followed after her.
Lena Yang is a graduating student at Wilfrid Laurier University who has recently completely her studies in English literature. In her spare time, she likes to draw and pet dogs.