There was a special place at the end of the orchard, a small clearing with a clump of young trees, that hovered just above the creek.
The child loved to come here. She loved the joy she felt when she saw the sun filtering through the wattle trees, the green mosses in the grass, and the bitter scent from eucalyptus. She’d run her hands across the heath bushes, absorbing the texture and taking in the perfection of the tiny flowers.
The scene was one she loved beyond her level of comprehension, or her power of description.
Her affinity to the clearing was such that she wanted to be part of it, to eat it, to take it all inside her so she could own it.
Some mornings she’d run to it, taking great care not to dirty her polished shoes, she wanted just a glance before school. At weekends, when she’d finished her chores, she could stay longer.
Some days, the early frost lay white on the moss, steam rising from the tips of the leaves as the sun warmed them. The child would look on in wonder.
Afternoons in spring were a source of amazement to her. The wattle was a glorious yellow. She watched as the sun caught the color’s refractive glow where it shone on the new spring flowers.
Other times, in the summer, she’d lean against a tree in the clearing, peeling off the outer bark carefully, crisp in her small palm yet yielding to her touch.
The bright pink wild fuchsia which grew all along the creek bank, caught the sun’s rays as it filtered through the canopy of the higher trees. An abundance of watercress waited to be picked by eager little hands.
In the dead of winter, the child braved a walk to her clearing in rain boots, squishing her way through the mud and deep undulations left by the tread of tractor tires. It was hard going. The sleet beat against her small body, plastering her hair on her head, the wind chilling her to the bone.
The rain and wind played havoc with the trees, bending them over, their branches whipping her, as she scurried underneath for protection. The roar of the creek was loud, the waters high and dangerous. Once she saw a dead calf caught up in the debris. She felt disgust, pity and fear at the sight of it.
When the weather at the clearing was fierce, she drew strength and understood the relentlessness of the seasons. She admired the bravery of her clearing as it stood firm.
In spring, her breath stood still in her throat, at her first glimpse of her trees, cloaked in a mist, that was as damp as the tears in her eyes. Shivering, she touched the leaves, at times licking their moisture. The quietness surrounded her, blanketed her, bringing a feeling of peace she seldom knew.
She loved the times when she lay still on the moss on the ground. Birds landed on branches, oblivious to her. She became one with the clearing. The bird’s chatter pleased her; sometimes she’d stifle a giggle at her daring. She’d watch as they rubbed beaks on her branches, enjoying her hospitality. She was privy to their preening and exchange of banter. Their feathers made a perfect contrast to the infinite shades of green that surrounded them.
The child would think about her clearing at night in bed. A huge surge of comfort would fill her mind and body. In a thought she was there, free and safe.
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