Copyright is held by the author.
WE ARE the early risers, my granddaughter, who is three years old, and me. At first light, we are both reckless with the desire to face the day and not waste a moment.
I hear her slippers slapping with slow heart-stopping rhythms that fill me with trepidation. She might stumble, unmindful of hidden dangers on smooth wooden stairs. But I restrain myself from rushing to take her hand, and see her safely across morning’s dim halls and kitchen floor, as we sneak silently down the back stairs and out to the garden.
How fragrant and fresh the air is there, and how raucous the early morning bird song. Flowers coming into bloom stand in attendance, as I watch my grandchild surrounded by the beauty there. I cannot stop myself from visually tracing her steps, as she flies on short legs to the distant back fence to examine loose soil and the plants there that struggle to survive where a short garden hose cannot reach.
She brings back blossoming weeds, tattered brown leaves, and dry twigs that snap in her pudgy fingers. And I find not far from where I stand in the filtered light a dead sparrow. It perhaps had fallen from one of the tall trees standing guard on the left side of the garden. The bird’s head is turned to one side, and its beak is tightly closed. Its sweet song had ended. My granddaughter stares in trembling wonder, wanting to lightly touch the stiff grey-brown feathers and, in her innocence, to coax the bird’s revival.
Together we plant its remains inside a circled rockery of blooms. But my granddaughter wants to remove the newly laid earth to again see the bird whose heart had long flown out of our reach. I divert her attention by furrowing the soil and scattering flax seeds that in time will burst above the soil to become stalwart seedlings. I watch in silence as granddaughter seeks out black-eyed Susan blooms, and tightly squeezes one or two between her thumb and fingers. I smile as I watch the yellow halo of the blooms in the rising sun reflect gold on her skin.
When she hides herself amongst drifts of pink cone flowers, she is invisible, as I pretend that I cannot find her. With trowel in hand she digs small holes among columbines and the hosta, and I can hardly dare to move or breathe, lest the moment might shatter and fragment, before its memory is framed.