Friday, December 7, 2012

Holly Hoarding

I awoke early on Wednesday to snow, or at least that's what they call it here.  Where I come from, we'd laugh at this.  "Just wait 'til winter comes and the snow's so high you can't open the front door.  You've got to shovel yourself out, sometimes more than once in a day.  That's snow.  This?  This is nothing." That's what my people would say, but here there was pandemonium.  Our room was cold.  I got up to feed the cat and put on the heater and then went back to bed.

When it came time to rise, the snow had stopped and frost clung to the grass, holding fast against the warming rays of the sun that intermittently came through the clouds.  Bits of snow still lay clumped and wet in beds of frozen leaves, but mostly it was gone.  I pulled on my boots, tied a red scarf around my neck, and shrugged on a green wool coat.  I packed a canvas bag with my camera and a pair of kitchen scissors and began my walk to the wood.

The path was muddy and slick with decaying leaves which forced me to plan each step carefully.  Where I was going was the small wood near the park.  To enter, one must walk through a field which is quiet except on warm days when the sound of children playing nearby is carried by the wind. Before stepping into the wood, I looked to make sure I was alone.  A woman was walking with her dog at the other side of the field, whistling for him to stay close, her breath escaping in a white cloud.  Truth be told, I wasn't sure if what I was planning to do was legal, per se, and I was feeling the need for secrecy.  I felt a surge of adrenaline as I walked between the naked trees and found the thing I sought: a thicket of wild holly.

The air was still.  I could hear the woman with the dog coming closer as I took the scissors from my bag and carefully reached through the barbed leaves to cut sprigs that I found pleasing.  I paused as she and the dog walked along the edge of the wood.  Her boots broke small twigs with a soft snap and water dripped from the trees and bushes with a sound like spring.  The woman passed; I continued cutting.

When I'd finished, my bag was full of holly. I came into the clearing and saw that I was alone.  Walking carefully up the muddy path toward home, I passed a man hauling large branches toward the edge of the wood.  I assumed he must be employed by the city to tend to the common land and surely he would know what I'd done when he saw my bag.  I said hello and walked quickly away, half expecting him to call after me and make me confess my crime.  A sprig of holly poked through my leggings, making my skin itch and burn.  The man did not call after me.

Along the sidewalk grew more holly.  A different species, perhaps, with smaller, darker leaves and bright red berries.  I slowed my walk and when the road was free of cars, I again extracted my scissors, my heart beating excitedly as I whistled a tune.  Fa la la la la, la la la la.

With the help of my (maybe) illegal holly gathering as well as my favorite shade of red lipstick, I'm feeling a little more festive now than I was at the beginning of the week.  Cox Quarters could use a little more decorating before it truly exudes the spirit of the season and I'm thinking about doing some kind of birch display instead of a tree.  Another trip to the wood is in order, but this time I might need a bigger bag...

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