There was once a time when humans were few and far between. It made for a peacefully quiet existence. Overnight mankind expanded, destroying my ability to stretch in the wilderness. They destroyed my chosen basin for bedtime. My favorite forest for serene snoozing. At least I had my preferred pond to pass the time away. The pond where I was born into existence from the earth itself. I would share any other place but my pond.
For centuries, I kept the humans away from my peaceful pond. They tried their best to stake a claim on the woods surrounding my home. As a daughter of the wind and the rain, I had it in my power to make the natural elements inhospitable. Many thought they had a right to own this area. I caused enough misfortune that the humans would pack up and sell.
It was late winter. I had nodded off weeks ago for a midwinter’s nap. The sound of idle chatter, the patter of feet, and heavy breathing were enough to pull me out of my deep slumber. I was perturbed about being disturbed.
“How much farther Papa,” a young voice whined. The voice was tired and in need of a nap. It was something I could sympathize with.
“Come now, Walter. We’re almost there,” the boy’s Papa encouraged him. I slid from under the canopy of snow that had formed on the trees. Their trail of footprints made it easy to find them. The boy and his Papa were a long way from home.
It was at least 5 miles from the nearest road. Although, I’m not sure you could call it a road. Over the years, the humans did their best to make a path from the road deep into the woods. I never made it easy for them to clear it.
“We’ve been walking all day. When can we stop?” Walter grumbled. The boy’s boots sank beneath the snow as he dredged slowly through it after his Papa.
“Soon, Walter, soon. I'm just looking for a place where the snow’s not too deep,” he told the boy. A clearing with little snow in late winter… this man wasn’t very bright. If he wasn’t careful, his son would pay the price for this recklessness.
I released a sigh. I am not completely heartless. At my command, the wind swept away the snow from where I had been sleeping. The winds nudged father and son toward the trees. Thankfully I had chosen a spot that kept my pond out of their view.
“This spot right here is perfect,” the father shouted in triumph. Of course, it was perfect.
“And Thomas Miller said this place was bad luck,” his Papa placed his fists on his hips, surveying the snowy wood in awed disbelief.
“Thomas Miller is just a crumb. This place is all aces,” Walter eagerly threw down his sack into the snow before bouncing to the side of his Papa.
“That it is my boy.” His father affectionately rubbed the top of Walter’s head, causing his wool hat to fall into the snow. They laughed and joked whole-heartedly while setting up their camp. At least they brought the necessary supplies for camping in the snowy woods. As long as they stayed here and stayed away from my pond, I’d leave them be.
They were quiet and kept to themselves. It lulled me into thinking they wouldn’t be a problem. For a day, they were not. I had barely found a new spot when the father’s shouting ruined my chance of returning to sleep. The sooner they left the sooner I would get to relax.
“Walter! Son! Where are you?” his father yelled frantically. His kid was missing. Fresh snow was falling, covering up any tracks Walter was making. I didn’t have to venture far from my woody enclave to find him. He was walking across my frozen pond. I released an angry growl that caused the snow to fly around faster.
“I wouldn’t be walking on that,” I barked into the wind. Walter stopped moving, hesitation on his face. It was as if he sensed the danger. A crackling sound whipped through the air and Walter dropped down beneath the ice. His Papa was too far away and in the opposite direction.
“Don’t get involved Sierra. It’s the circle of life. This will teach them not to come to my pond” I told myself. It was not my place to get involved.
“But the last thing I need is for that child’s spirit to cling here in the afterlife,” I muttered. Tragedy has a knack for doing that sort of thing.
The wind carried me to the opening of the frozen pond. The child was nowhere to be seen. I dipped my hand into the watery hole and willed the currents to bring Walter to me. I didn’t have to wait long before I was hauling Walter out of the water.
He was completely soaked. A shoe and his wool hat were missing. His face was blue. My powers are elemental-based. I didn’t have the power to restore life, but I had to do something. I put my hand on his heart, closed my eyes, and willed the water away from his lungs and his clothes. I commanded the air currents around him to vibrate fast, creating friction to bring up his body heat. I hummed a gentle song into the wind to draw Walter's consciousness into the light and to calm his frantic Papa.
“Pa…Papa,” Walter was barely able to speak. I whisked away my veil, allowing his eyes to focus on me.
“Who…” he tried to speak. I could feel his heart beating rapidly beneath my hand.
“Close your eyes and dream child,” I kept the warm air flowing around him soothing his waterlogged mind.
“My name is Sierra,” I whispered into his ear. Walter and his Papa made it back to their automobile on the makeshift road with my use of wind currents and my will to not have them in the woods. Their transportation wasn't exactly graceful.
Once again, I was able to relax in the splendors of nature. For the next 20 years, the woods surrounding my pond remained free of humans. Until they showed back up with their loud axes, big machines, and more people than I wanted in my little area. I sent storm after storm. Destroying their camps along with whatever they were attempting to build. One evening, just as the sun was setting a young man showed up to the pond with flowers and a basket of fruit.
“Hello! I don’t know if anyone is out here… this is nuts… It’s been so long… I barely remember what happened here. I know it wasn’t a dream, no matter what they tell me.” The young man was rambling. Bored and tired of the intrusion, I blasted him with wet air from the pond.
“Sierra,” the man called. It caught me off guard. The man noticed the hesitation in the wind and kept talking.
“You may not recognize me. But once, you saved me. I am here because I’m trying to save you. They want to build a highway here. I’m trying to stop them. My father and I still own the property. I have a plan. I just need you to trust me. I promise you won’t regret it,” Walter pleaded with me.
I could have stopped the highway from being built but I wanted to see what he would do. So, I allowed my storms to calm. I became irritated when he built two cabins, but I allowed it. Better two cabins than a nasty highway. One cabin was built deep in the woods. The other was built next to my pond. The one closest to my pond had my name on it. He never allowed any of his human relations to stay there.
Once in a while he would sit on the porch with a basket of fruit and tell me his plans. His plans to turn the surrounding woods into a conservancy. His plans to marry the love of his life. He told me of all of his life plans. I never spoke back. I listened, enjoyed the fruit, and sent him away. Sometimes with my blessing.
I watched Walter and his family for years. Despite their growth in numbers, not once did they destroy the peacefulness of the pond and the surrounding woods. Not once did his family try to stop his fruit bearing visits or called him crazy.
Eventually, his visits stopped. For a year his family came without him. His granddaughter was the one to bring me fruit and a drawing. One day his wife, his children, and granddaughter held a solemn procession to the pond. Their tears flowed into the water as they released his ashes. An energized wind whirled around them. It only stopped when I called out his name. The image of the young man, who returned telling me to trust him, flickered into being.
“You! It’s you!” He smiles wide with recognition in his eyes.
“It is,” I responded calmly. No need to let him know that I was happy to see him.
“Did you ever regret it? Saving me?” He asked with hesitation.
“Not once,” I told him. I may have gotten annoyed but I never regretted it. The movement of his family catches his eyes.
“I am going to miss them… this place.” He whispered.
“You don’t have to leave this place,” I told him.
“You’ve built a strong connection here… and this place could use a new guardian. How about it?’’ I asked him. He looked at me with confusion, not understanding what I was offering him.
“Why? This place is your home,” he said with disbelief.
“All of nature is my home. Although I am fond of this particular pond, there are other majestic wilds that need my love. So long as you promise to protect this space, it will belong to your family for generations to come.” Walter had earned the right to be the guardian of the pond.
I was ready to stretch my legs. I also had the feeling he would be a very talkative neighbor and I like my solitude. This pond wasn’t built for two full-time spirits. Not like I had much choice of him being here.
“Will I ever see you again?” he asked me.
“Of course,” After all this is my preferred pond for napping.
About the author
There’s a world inside my head. A world begging for existence. A world willing to break free from abstract thought and exist in the constructs of the written word.
That world is going to have to be patient.