Monday, October 30, 2017

Autumn Alchemy

The air is very still. Around them the trees perform their autumn alchemy, transmuting their leaves into gold against the gold of the late October sun: gold against gold. Together they walk between the trees. Hand in hand, as always. They do not speak. Words would add nothing to their togetherness.

Every now and then one of them stops to read a text on a stone, out loud, but softly, while the other waits quietly. And then they walk on. Sometimes the woman bends over as if to brush away some leaves from the stones, and only then they let go of each other. Many of the texts they know by heart, but every now and then they discover a new one, and pause to read it with great concentration. Their bodies stretch forward, and quietly they read names, dates, wishes for peace: gestures of a love which endures long beyond the dates on which they were inscribed.

Sometimes the effort needed is too much for them. Then they speak in turn, each one carrying the words forward to the end of the inscription. The rhythm of the one glides effortlessly into that of the other, as if one voice only is speaking. But a beautiful text they read together, simultaneously. The woman now and then shakes her head compassionately: "So young still, so very young." "Come", says the man then. And at another place they might just nod, or agree together: "Yes, yes, that is a wonderful age!"

Their bench is occupied. A woman, middle-aged, alone. They greet her. "Good afternoon madam." But the woman does not respond. Her head is lowered, sunk deep in her own thoughts with a resigned finality. She hardly seems to notice them as they walk past her. They walk on, a little taken aback, to the next bench. There they rest.

A bird starts singing its evening song, sitting in a tall tree which bends over a new grave. The song sounds so full of life. In the distance a church bell starts ringing, almost as if in response to the bird’s own cadences.

"That late already? Come, we’d better go now." Hand in hand they walk back between the trees, past the woman on the bench. She looks up at last as they approach her, grateful to have the cemetery to herself. Grief is, after all, a private thing. High overhead a formation of geese is flying. Winter is nigh.


  1. Such a beautiful - and beautifully crafted - story. You have such true writing talent, Emma. Someone else would have made it twice as long and half as effective!

    1. Thank you so much for such an appreciative response, David. As you know so well, this story has been gathering dust on a shelf for too long. ♥♥♥

  2. Dank je wel, lieve Hannah ♥