Healthy Green Gift-Giving
The Rise of Blue
News for December 2007
It's That Season Again
Snow Angelby Shannon Wolff
Ava chuckled softly and blew across her palm. She watched her breath transform into light, dainty snow flakes and flutter to earth. Her chuckle grew into a dreamer’s sigh as she gazed upon the thousands of snow flakes, her creations, lazily drifting downward, blanketing the forest with a clean simple coating of new snow. She honestly did love her job. Once the autumn sprites were done, her work started anew.
She would be the first to admit the brilliant cascade of reds, golds, orange and browns were truly a breathtaking sight, as though nature herself were putting on one last show before consigning the world to the long, cold winter months. While Ava thought the winter snow had a simplistic beauty of its own, she had to concede that the autumn sprites did give the growing season a proper send off. But they made such a mess doing it.
Once the vibrant leaves had fallen, the trees were left awkwardly bare, almost as though embarrassed by their naked limbs and fully exposed bark. The bashful, tender buds of spring had long since gown and matured into the full come-hither leaves of glorious summer days of sunshine and warmth, only to progress into the flamboyant colors of fall. And now that their leaves had abandoned them all together, what else was Ava to do but give the poor trees a new coat to wear?
A bell-like laugh escaped her lips as Ava slipped into her snowflake coat and drifted down to earth with her creations. Much as she loved her home in the clouds, and as much as she needed to get started on the next batch of snowflakes, she couldn’t resist taking a few moments to walk among the falling snow. To be alone with her creations in a forest where the snow covering the branches had all the sparkle of sugar coating a gingerbread house, and was almost as tempting.
Ava made her way through the snow-shrouded woods, wearing all the peace and serenity of a mother tucking her child in for the night on her face. The clean, crisp winter air nipped at her nose. She gave a wistful sigh as her eyes roamed over the snowy branches and she through of how her flaky creations would soon form thick ribbons to drape from the boughs. When the moon rose that night, the snow would radiate a cool blue light, while individual flakes would shine and glisten, mirroring the stars shining above.
The tranquility of the drowsy forest soothed Ava’s spirit and assured her that all her toil in making the snowflakes was, once more, worth the effort. Still, she knew she couldn’t afford to linger too long in the wintry world. While the forest she walked through seemed to hold her in a spell, far too many responsibilities awaited her in the clouds for her to linger too long. While this forest neared the end of its first snowfall of the season, many other lands lay waiting for her. She could all but hear them now, calling to her, beckoning her to them to work her wintry magic; to coat their trees and grace their vacant fields with her downy white flakes. Yet, no sooner did she prepare to depart then she noticed that not all in the forest was as it first appeared.
Huddled at the foot of a great oak, a little girl lay shivering under a warmth-less blanket of snow. Ava’s heart broke at the sight. Coats of snow were fine for trees but little girls belonged safe and warm at home, not shivering and lost in the woods. A sympathetic sigh slipped from Ava’s lips as she looked around, hoping to find someone looking for the girl. Not a soul could be seen in the fading light. Far too soon the sun would set and the forest would grow much, much colder. Too cold for a little girl shivering at the foot of an oak tree.
“Don’t worry, Little One,” Ava whispered in her gentlest voice. “I’ll keep you warm.” She brushed her chilly creations from the little girl’s light coat and wrapped her snowflake coat around them both.
“Who….who are you?” the little girl murmured and half opened her eyes.
“That’s not important right now; I am here to keep you safe until someone finds you.”
“A sweet little girl like you must have someone looking for her,” Ava cooed as she brushed the girl’s hair from her eyes.
“Then I will stay with you until your papa comes to take you home.”
“Are you an angel?” the girl asked in a soft voice and looked up at Ava with starry eyes.
“Tell me, Little One, what is your name?”
“Well, Elisa, you don’t have to worry, you’re safe with me.”
“But are you an angel?”
“I am tonight.”
Reassured by Ava’s tender words, Elisa snuggled deeper into the snowflake coat. A gentle smile bent Ava’s lips. Eager as she was to return to her chore of blanketing the world with her chilly creations, tonight her duties would have to wait. Something more pressing had just come up.
Faraway trees continued to go bare and vacant fields remained uncovered. Towns and villages lingered in autumn’s drab remains and a snow-less wind blew through empty streets and alleyways without a single flake in sight. In the clouds, Ava’s snowflakes called impatiently for her return, yet moonrise found her in the exact same place the sunset had: in a wide woods, under a great oak tree, with a little girl wrapped in her downy snowflake coat.
Ava let a soft lullaby slide from her lips and fall to Elisa’s ears with all the grace and gentleness of the snowflakes she had sprinkled over the woods hours ago. Slowly the little girl fell asleep in her snow angel’s arms. Around them Ava could hear the snowflakes, trees, stars and calm wind whisper to each other in voices no human could ever hear.
“Where is Ava?” the cool wind whistled, slipping through the trees.
“She’s here, she’s here,” thousands of tiny snowflakes answered in bubbly, giggling voices.
“Where?” the stars chorused in wistful whispers.
“This way,” tattled the trees. One echoed another, leaving a trail straight to the great oak.
“Ava?” the wind called and rustled her hair. “You’re supposed to be far from here, Ava. Why do you tarry?”
“She needs me here,” Ava answered softly as she pulled a sleeping Elsie closer to her.
“Your responsibilities lay elsewhere, Ava.”
“I cannot leave her.”
“Nor can you leave your work undone.”
“But I promised Elsie--”
“Remember your charges, Ava,” the stars cooed, one after another, as though Ava could have possibility forgotten her waiting creations in the clouds.
“Our brethren need you,” cried the trees in forlorn voices that nearly broke Ava’s heart. “They go bare in the cold, deprived of the coats you were to provide them. Are we no longer important to you?”
“But I can’t…” Ava let her words trail off as a single tear raced down her cheek only to splash onto Elsie’s forehead. Much as she loved her snowflakes and winter walks, she couldn’t bear the thought of anything going cold in the night.
“Don’t cry, Ava,” the shed snowflakes bubbled from all around her. “Now see what you’ve done?” they added in chiding tones to the trees, wind, and stars. “You’ve made her cry. Please don’t be unhappy Ava.”
“Made her cry!” howled the wind, blowing snow off the trees’ branches much to their protest. “She is neglecting her duties! What do I care if she cries? If she is so unwilling to perform her chore another will have to take her place.”
“No,” Ava gasped, her heart filling with dread. “Please, just let me help her. I’ll work through the night to make up for time, but don’t make me leave her here all alone. I beg you.”
“If some human girl is more important to you than your responsibilities--”
“Oh, leave her alone,” interrupted the great oak as it bent its branches around Ava and Elisa protectively. “You always were a bully.”
“How dare you?” the wind howled even harder, knocking still more snow from the objecting trees. “Her remaining here is depriving your fellows of their winter coats! Have you no feeling for your own kind? No sense of duty?”
“Have you no compassion? No sympathy?” the oak thundered in response. “Ava is not neglecting her charges for her pleasure! She is saving the life of another.”
“What care any of you is the girl lives or dies?” the wind bellowed, causing the tiny snowflakes to tremble. “She is none of our concern.”
“None of our concern,” the stars echoed as hot tears began to bite at Ava’s eyes.
“I promised I would keep her safe,” Ava cried over the wind’s piercing howl as Elisa stirred in her sleep. “That makes her my concern!”
“And mine,” the oak called with enough force to silence the howling wind. “My fellows can manage one night in the cold, this child cannot. Ava’s place is here!”
“Who are you to decide her place?” hissed the wind. Ava pulled Elisa closer still.
“No one. Nor are you one to decide her place. Each must choose their own place in the world, and Ava has chosen hers. I have no doubt she will fulfill her promise to make up the time she has lost here surely as she is keeping this child alive. This is the first time in over a hundred years she has fallen behind in her duties; can you make the same claim?”
The wind fell silent at the oak’s question, as did the chorus of stars, and the protest of the oak’s fellow trees. Even the perpetually cheery snowflakes found themselves awed into soundless suspense. Ava held her breath and waited for the wind’s answer.
“Stay if you wish,” the wind huffed in disgust and started to leave. “Just make sure you’re caught up come tomorrow night.”
“I will,” Ava promised with relief in her voice. “Thank you,” she added to the great oak, wondering how Elisa managed to sleep through it all.
“The wind has been howling for centuries,” the oak answered in a kind voice. “Most of the time it is wise to bend until it is done blowing. But sometimes one must stand tall, regardless of how much it bellows.”
The oak’s words faded into the winter night as all remained still. The wind had gone to howl elsewhere, the stars now only sighed as they slipped through the velvety night sky, the trees mealy muttered and whispered among themselves and the snowflakes joined Ava in a soft lullaby as Elisa continued to dream, wrapped in her snow angel’s coat.
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