It was hot and blue, and we walked to the hospital hand in hand to birth a baby who leapt into the world with little help. On that day, fifty years before, hot and blue and full of terror, children were sent to their deaths for no reason other than to ingratiate the authorities with the occupier. We walked in the sun and crossed the river, free as gulls, a future building one new face at a time. In the ripples of river water, silver ghosts whispered of love and sun and lost happiness. On each stone where the light fell, a smile, a cheek streaked with tears, a hand reaching out from a distant past, said, remember, and be happy, for we who were not.
For the dverse Haibun Monday, I have worked the haiku I wrote earlier today into a piece of prose, again based on Hugh’s birth on a very snowy Easter night.
I watch the light die on this spring evening so unlike the night you were born. The wisteria hangs immobile, filling the air with such heady scent, and the birds settle into silence. Moon soars, pale against the blue, in a sky without cloud, and vine leaves open in dark green clusters. Hard to believe that on this night twenty years ago, there was no light. All was shadow, densely clustered, and snow fell thick and heavy. I put on boots to tramp to the maternity hospital arm in arm with your father, ploughing through the white and stopping to let the contractions pass. It was dark and cold and white flakes blurred our vision, and we feared for the next hours.
Wisteria hangs and I bask in the golden scent. Sun has set and the sky is dark. Roses are in bud and the pansies turn their opulent faces to anyone who will look at them. The shadows fall soft and scented now; there is no fear hiding in their depths. You are all that your birth promised, big and strong and fair, and snow has never fallen at Easter since then.
The snow had gone, even from the deepest shade of the hazel copse, from the dampest shadows by the little brook, when I found the hedgehog. It was lying on its back, ribs spiking to the sky, opened like a tin can. Something hungry had found it in the dark depths of winter, and the spiny remains had lain hidden beneath the snow until now. No blood stained the earth around it, no gore and signs of mortal struggle. The little animal was long dead, but still I felt a sorrow that rose in my throat and made my eyes sting.
Suddenly the sound of birds trilling in the trees sounded callous; the pale spring shadows were menacing. I imagined a ferocious weasel, or a rat perhaps, taking a fierce pleasure in uncurling the poor, Beatrix Potter creature and torturing it to death. I imagined the snow, blood-specked, crows watching, settled like vultures on the overhanging branches. I hated the cruelty, cried for the picture book, Disney nature that would never allow such a messy death. Even in the joyous bustle of spring, death was never far away.
That night, the image of the dying hedgehog, the sharp pangs of its pain kept me from sleep. The moon was full. It filled the garden with silver magic, drawing me to the window with the sighing of the breeze in the thinly-leaved branches—the sighing breeze and the eerie bark of a night animal. The lawn was pale as a sandy beach. In the middle, a group of animals were playing, parents and four cubs. Foxes. One parent watched, mounting the guard by the top of the steps. The other rolled and chased the cubs across the silvery grass.
The pieces fell into place. The wary parents playing with their cubs, the playground beneath the moon, and the dark, winter famine months. Everything was necessary. A hedgehog’s life so a vixen could give birth to her cubs. I saw the answer to the puzzle, bathed in moonlight—in winter death, spring life is never far away.
Watching him leave at dawn,
A star fading in the morning light,
She longs to become a curled bud,
To follow him as perfume in his hair.
She knows, as surely as she feels
The curled bud in her belly stretching,
As she feels the birth pangs beginning,
That darkness will claim her before he returns.
How, she does not know,
But she wraps his scent around her,
Wraps her arms about her swollen belly,
And tears fill her eyes, soft as any doe’s.