Dry leaves crunch softly underfoot in the crisp autumn air. I walk pulling my damp woolen sweater closely about me. Though the path is so familiar, I stumble in the dawn twilight, fresh tears clinging to my face. I walk the path that we walked so many times before, my hand in yours as you pointed out the morels in spring for me to gather in the apron you lent me. We walked this path gathering woods sorrel leaves, as well as the roots. Here you showed me where to find the wild blueberry, and the difference between the poisonous and non poisonous plants as you gathered herbs. Early each summers day I would run this path to your house, so I could work along side you in the garden, or sometimes sit and sip lemonade in the shade of your porch and listen to your rocking chair creek back and forth.
When I inquired about your death, I was told you had no family, no one to claim your ashes, and so they sat in a back room, next to your old pickling jar; the one you used to save pennies in for a rainy day. Still a few small coins with in. My college had been your rainy day, I confess it had been a few years since I last visited. I was off in the world making better choices than my parents had, just like you always wanted me to, just as you always told me I could. And now you were gone. Had I expected you to live forever? No, just expected to always call your cottage home, a place where I was loved despite of who I was or where I’d come from.
You had spent the last ten years in the old folks home,the one for the poor and destitute. Funny, I had never thought of you as poor. You were rich in love and overflowing with kindness. My one love, my adopted grandmother. I stopped by your place on the way into town, but the garden had long since been over grown, nothing to distinguish it from the unkempt yard. And the cottage, what was left of it might fall to a passing storm. Without you it was just another empty place.
I hurry along the path carrying your ashes, heading toward the clearing, the path becoming clearer as the fog slowly lifts and the sun creeps over the ridge. Coming into the meadow just as the sky begins to turn pink. I greet the morning sun and offer up a prayer for you. Then I set you free to dance once more upon these meadows, to mingle with the wild flowers in the spring free to kiss the summer sky and soar with the white sulfa and the checkerspot. Free to see the leaves in autumn and rest with a blanket of snow in winter. I set you free, as you set me free so many years before, by opening possibilities through love and acceptance.I wipe away my tears and gather your jar to save for another rainy day.