The Ghosts of Ryan Creek by gina below
For my Mother~
She felt the cool dampness of the familiar soil as she dug into it to find her hidden bulbs; she knew she would not find them all but it was alright. She would leave some behind as a gift for the new owners; maybe they would enjoy them as much as she had over the last half century. This piece of earth had taken good care or her and her family all these years and she would miss it, but it was time to move on. She pulled herself up from her sitting position and carefully straightened out her stiff knee, and made sure it would hold her before she put her weight on it. Age had its price and sometimes it cost more than a bum knee. She would miss this place and its comfortable ways, but fate and circumstance had insisted on a new adventure in the twilight of her life. She never thought to leave here, but sometimes one must recognize divine intervention when one sees it. She dusted herself off and looked out across the hillside, not that long ago there would have been a house there to block her view into the sloping woods. Her house, the one they had built themselves, the one she had raised her children in, the one she had lived in, the one she had loved in, cried in, lost in, grieved in, mourned in, and healed in. She would miss its familiar smells and sounds, and sometimes she could still smell that sweet scent of home.
The house would just be another one of the many ghost of this hillside. She didn’t have to close her eyes to remember their first house, all four small rooms of it. Or how long it had taken to build the new house, funny how they still referred to it as the new house even though it had been nearly forty-two years old when the tornado took it. She let the sun warm her and she welcomed the memories that ghosted up the hillside and across the fields, out of the woods and up from the creeks. She kept her grief in check; it would do no good to pull that out of the dark sack she kept it in deep inside her heart. If she pulled it out to count the things she had lost she knew she would be overwhelmed and she had come too far, fought too hard to not go down with her grief. She knew the feel of the sharp daggers of grief and there were far worse things than losing one’s house, she had seen that up close and personal. She preferred to count the things she had gained.
She looked out across the field to the east, formally the sweet potato field and as she let her mind go back in time she could see her beloved aunt and uncle out there working. She could see them raise a hand in greeting and continue on in their labor. She could hear her children’s laughter and see them run past her in their play. She could almost hear the school bus lumber up the hill and go around the bend. Somewhere in her distant memory the soft low moo of the milk cow called and she could smell the dusty barn smells. She thought of all those trees she had planted on this barren hill side, the old Mimosa, and the oaks, they had thanked her for her hard work by not falling on her during that terrible storm. Those little saplings had become great mighty oaks but not one had landed on her and her broken house. A life had been lived here; a life had been loved here. But everything changes, sometimes by the slow erosion of time and sometime in an instant on a ferocious wind.
She had always been protected on her back flanks by water and she always felt like she could hold off most invaders here. The ones she could not fend off were the ones that had slipped in unseen on the silent feet of shadows and taken some of her most precious treasures. Many of her treasures were gone now, no longer of this world but waiting for her in the next one. But sometimes in her dreams they visit. Sometimes in the quiet she hears them. Sometimes on a gentle breeze she feels them, and sometimes when she is in danger they save her.
From the edge of the field a shadow stirs and just for a moment the ghost of her beloved aunt appears and smiles, but as she walks out of the shadows the ghost transforms into her aunts namesake and the smiling face of one of her five daughters is brightened by the sun. The ghosts of past memories drift across her mind, she had loved this hilltop, always would. She will miss this place, but just as the waters of Ryan creek move through the county touching other waters and other banks her ghost move through her reminding her of a life that was lived with love. She smiles and turns her face to the sun for the last time in this place, not far from here the waters flow onward so onward she will go as well. She packs up her memories to take with her. If she ever doubted she was loved she has her ghost to remind her, her ghost of Ryan Creek.