The Forest Floor…A Short Story

Her small tidy cottage was nestled under the majestic branches of the big old pine trees that arched high and formed a protective umbrella over her surroundings.  A small curl of smoke escaped from the stone chimney and disappeared into the pockets of sky through the snowy branches above.  An owl peeked through the big knotted hole in the massive oak tree and hooted good morning to her.

She was an old woman, with gnarly gloved hands and a wide cherub face, the type that made you happy like the images of Santa Claus with rosy cheeks and red lips.  She stood slightly tilted in her doorway, her cane leaning against the door.  She had very long silver hair which was pulled up into a messy array of braids wound around her head.  It was just the type of place a bird would like to perch and I think she must have known it.  Her skirts were long and layered mismatched fabrics and prints, with white petticoats peeking out just above her ankles, exposing her old black boots and thick socks that looked to be made of old sweaters and scarves.  

She opened her mouth and formed a perfect “o”, letting out that familiar sound, something between a cry and a soft, low howl.  A sound I had now become accustomed to as I have been here, hiding behind these thorny bushes and thick foliage many times, if only in my mind.  Little by little the soft forest floor began to fill with her many friends.  Red and gray squirrels with their perfectly curled tails waited patiently for the drop of a morsel.  A smart red fox, a white speckled fawn and a gnarly raccoon quietly pitter pattered into the fold followed close behind by chubby chirping chipmunks and songbirds of every kind and every color combination.  It was an arena of nature and harmony that she cherished and nurtured. The old woman reached deep into her old burlap sack and came up with a balled fist full of seed and scrap.  Slowly she spread open her small bent fingers and beckoned her faithful friends who had come to rejoice in her kindness and friendship.  They felt no fear as they approached her for they knew she respected them as they respected her.

I could just barely see inside her cottage as she took a few more steps out onto the forest floor.   She left her door slightly open as there was nothing to fear out here in the safety of her world. From what I could see, there stood a thick slab of wood sitting on tree stumps that served as her table.  It appeared the cottage was erected around the tree stumps.  Two chairs were made of woven branches with seats crafted of thick, soft green moss.  On the table a small white candle flickered.  A thick hard covered book lay open on the table. The thin ruffled pages lifted and fell with the gentle breeze.  Something was scattered on the table that looked to be weeds and thistle and acorns.   A low fire was burning in the fireplace and a big black kettle hung over the flame.  

When I woke, I looked out my window where a light snow was falling on my city streets.

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