A Walk in Good Company

Finding solace—and gratitude.

ILLUSTRATIONS BY THE AUTHOR

It is a bright and sunny morning here in Vermont. But it cannot erase the dark thoughts that kept me awake most of the night—and are now following me as I walk under an ancient maple tree at the edge of a country road. My mind is filled with yesterday’s news, and the images of children escaping the horror of a war…like I did so many years ago, when at 3:00 a.m. I clung to my mother’s hand as my parents and my five-year-old brother and I stumbled through a Russian-controlled forest in East Germany, heading for West Germany and a refugee camp. A close friend of my father, who worked at the same company as he, had come to our apartment in Dresden at 2:00 a.m. and told my father that because he had recently suffered a nervous breakdown, he was no longer trusted by the Russians to keep silent about the kind of work that was done at the company—and that my parents and my brother and I were going to be sent to Siberia.

I give thanks for the gifts around me, gifts I’d never seen without my parents’ determination.

I am surrounded by maple, birch, and aspen trees, not to mention the wild grapes that have spread over the wild cranberries like dust covers over stored furniture. The grapes are in bloom. Chickory and Queen Anne’s lace weave like a blue-and-white ribbon through buttercups in red clover. They are living entities I feel akin to, gentle healers of my spirit. I touch them as I would a friend.

I leave the trees behind and the sky opens like a gigantic blue eye. The road descends between meadows and fields of corn where butterflies dance above the swaying corn like tiny fairies. The wind causes patches of tall grass to dip and rise like keys of a player piano. I see the blossom-laden branches of a linden tree reaching out in a gesture of welcome, and I hear the buzzing of its bees, a sound that gets louder with each step I take. A giant of a tree, it has kept vigil over generations of black Angus calves nuzzling their mothers in the pasture where it stands. A meadowlark rises from the warm, sensuous grass and breaks into a jubilant song. Surrounded by my personal Mecca, I close my eyes and take a deep breath, my whole being energized.

Then, after giving thanks for the gifts around me, gifts I never would have seen if it had not been for my parent’s determination to survive, I walk home.


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