Caroline McHardy January 19, 2019
Animals, Mystery
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Tall ancient pine trees bowed to me as I began my journey, diamond dust of partially frozen snow falling onto my pale cold skin. The sky seeming alive with raining crystals, the rein of my sled digging into my hands yearning to be tugged. My small house and the billowing smoke from the old stone chimney in distant view, the flickering gold warmth of the light in the window barely visible as I continued my journey. My reindeer gazed back at me, winter holding his exhaled breath and turning it into ice sculptures. I tugged for the reindeer to continue, his hooves crunching under the soft smooth snow. My village and culture of the Sami people accustomed to the Winter’s caress of cold and its tears of snow, to when it sleeps lulling darkness into a premature slumber. The sled moved slowly, the small jingle of the bells echoing through the woods, the trees like ancient kings. Soon a small flowing stream could be heard, free from the prison of the ice yet ice blue in its hue. Stepping down from my sled I cupped my hands and took a sip of the water, the taste of purity remnant on the edges of my lips. In the distance a brown bear stood on the path. It’s brown fur reminiscent of childhood memories of the smell and comfort of a warm winter coat. I think it is a she-bear, small yet her ears rounded with tufts, eyes as brown as the timber cut from the trees by my house. Her fur is splashed with gold tinges along her back. It was as if she was covered in stardust from the constellations above me, which are scattered across the expanse of cerulean sapphire night sky.
She watched me as I walked over to my reindeer, sniffing the air taking in my scent. The Finland wildlife here have a Kingdom, she is their Queen, she walks closer and then goes back into the shadows and comfort of the woods. Her knights the golden eagles circled above, their silhouetted wings appearing to touch the ancient face of the moon. The air lifts them up higher, their cry echoing and their strength evident in their wingspan as the soared over the tops of the pines, following in the path of their Queen, the she-bear, her tracks still visible in the snow. I continued on my journey, as well as my reindeer my cat Emma is my companion in the bitter choking grip of the cold. She was snuggled up in my warm crimson coloured crinkled blanket, her sulphur eyes as if jewels looking up at me. The feel of her black silk fluffy fur a welcome touch as she nuzzled beside my feet soon asleep with the orchestra of the wood. We travelled further along the path, my reindeer picking up pace his hooves imprinting on the white snow. Wolves were soon heard in the distance their howls a sign of their army, as if soldiers announcing their defying battle cry. I hope I will be one of their undiscovered trespassers.
The snow falls faster, different shaped flakes on my navy-blue gloves and reindeer fur shoes. Wisps of clouds slither past the moon, it’s white winter glow still visible. A river soon appeared along the path, partially frozen with cracked sheet ice as if glass around the edges of the river, the reflections of over bending trees on its surface. I heard small footsteps ahead, small crunching of the snow as a beaver came into view his tail sweeping the newly fallen snow as he peered at me with his jet-black eyes. They are known as the crafters of the forest, using the glistening silver birch trunks to build their homes and change the course of the river. I have seen them before swimming in the river a pair of them, each catching a fat fish for supper and then heading back to the safety of their longstanding dam. It has a mosaic of the last of the autumn leaves taken just before Winter arrived, and different textured branches woven into the structure. The beaver walks up to my sled with one of the last fallen leaves in his teeth as he places it carefully into the sled. A welcome gift for my journey into their kingdom, which is untainted by man I think Emma would have preferred a fish. I thank the beaver and he then disappear into the abyss of the moonlit blue water to reunite with his mate. Continuing further the hoot of a Great Grey Owl surrounded the wood with eeriness, it is perched on one of the pine tree’s branches, it turns its head to stare at me with it’s large piercing yellow eyes. The Great Grey Owl has a large circular face with dappled varying grey shaded feathers. The owl focused on the ground below swivelling its head as it flew down with its majestic powerful wings and sharp knife bladed talons stretched out. Yet the mouse escaped its small brown hazel head popping out of the snow as he scurried under a nearby bush. A lucky escape from the watcher and hunter of the forest.
The night sky has become clearer and the constellations appear once more. Leo the lion prowls the night sky, to Ursa Major meaning ‘greater she-bear’ leading her tiny bear cub Ursa Minor meaning ‘little bear’ into their home of endless stars. There is a wealth of stories and tales in the night sky, just like earth the constellations are alive constantly moving. To the stars themselves, each a soul whom had ceased living only for their soul to be carried up by the hands of other souls in the night sky so they can join them, becoming watchers for eternity. A lynx crosses the path in front of us, her dappled coat as if dapples from a paintbrush, her fur the colour of autumn golden sun yet her eyes pure sunflower yellow. Her two kittens followed in her pawprints, both still getting used to their huge velvet soot grey paws. Emma peered over the sled, curious of her wild cousins, her ancestors would have walked the woods just like the lynx’s, her tail twitched in excitement and nervousness. Mother lynx let out a cry for her kittens to follow her but they sat in the path, trying to catch the falling snow like catching butterflies. A second call signalled for them to move on they took a glance at Emma and I, then vanished into the thick of the forest.
We have almost reached my destination the trees becoming thinner, I came to a place where there was a round shaped clearing the borders surrounded by trees. Gathering long branches and placing them as I was taught, I built my shelter throwing a thick reindeer fur blanket over the top. I lit a small fire as the orange embers began to burn the warmth penetrating my frozen bones. Emma took advantage of the shelter as I picked her up and placed her on the red blanket her whiskers trembling from the cold and her slow deep rumbling purr. Untying my reindeer from the sled, I tied him up to a wooden pole feeding him some grass, filling up a small silver bowl with fresh water. He shook his antlers and fur to free the remnants of snow as he settled down for the remaining hours of the night. We heard the cries of moose in the distance as if an otherworldly creature it’s long deep rumbling noise echoing the borders of the woods. Foxes that had bright red fur as if fire sparks came closer to the tent making crying sounds that sounded as if people screaming, a dark terrifying sound that shivered the soul.
I waited by the fire rubbing my hands together to encourage the fire’s warmth into my shivering body as Emma slept, the reindeer watching the many indistinguishable shadows along the border of the wood. The trees almost appeared to have surrounded us in this circle, their great height and ancient origins making them appear as if formidable giants. Yet they bowed to the great powerful sky something that has power over all living things. I am waiting for the Northern Lights; my people believe they are the souls of the dead lighting up the night sky dancing amongst the stars and celebrating in the light of the moon. The sky suddenly has slithers of Veridian blue-green dancing amongst the clouds as if long green snakes slithering across the sapphire blanket of the night sky. Streaks of bright vibrant green, to sparkling dazzling pink that looked like huge strands of ribbon, and varying shades of blue all came into view. They intertwined, each colour twisting and weaving in and out. The whole sky was illuminated as if a painter had spilt his paints the colours spreading out. I noticed shadows of people amongst the lights disappearing into the web of colours then surfacing as if to watch me below.
The spirits stood on the edge of the lights as I noticed they were the artists of the Aurora, colours streaming out of their spirit bodies. There were so many stood together, then vanishing back into the universe until one was left. A woman whose white hair appeared to be a constellation itself, as she stretched out her hands emitting one last brilliance of colour. Ribbons of greens, blues and pinks unravelling from her ghost palms, she must the constellation Goddess, the leader of the night sky spirits and souls. Animals emerged from the forest bowing to her apparition, the moose bowing her head to the fox’s ears pricked upwards as they watched the Goddess emit the Northern Lights. All of the animals I had seen on my journey came to the edge of the forest to watch, bowing to the Goddess of constellations as I stood watching. The woman stood waiting, the constellations coming to life. Aquila the eagle constellation spreading its wings to swoop onto her arm, it was as if there was another forest above me. Small fish appearing as if shooting stars jumping below her feet as if the night sky was a huge lake.
A whale cry sounded as a giant tale of a whale diving came into view its body made up of tiny shimmering stars, to the howl of the constellation of the wolf as it cried into the expanse of the sky. Leo the lion emerged taking his place by the Goddess letting out a loud deafening roar at his prowess and power, a tiny fox appearing alongside him shaking his tail to emit the final shimmering colours of the Northern Lights. A huge Pegasus appeared, the Goddess climbed up onto his back as it reared up on his legs, neighing at the excitement to ride past the moon. The animals followed as the Goddess of the Constellations took her ribbons of the Northern Lights, the Pegasus began to fly as she rose above us taking one last look down below to her subjects of the earth. As the Pegasus flapped his wings shimmering diamonds floated down towards the animals and I, remnants of star dust. Her silhouette on the Pegasus flew past the moon, as did the other animals as they vanished into the sapphire abyss. The night sky truly is alive with the souls of our loves ones who have passed, and the constellations breathing life into our star formations.

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