I remember treading softly through the fields, each colour bursting and blossoming around us. Each incredibly bright trail led to another and another, the flowers swaying with the breeze that ruffled Matthew’s brown hair and whipped about his features. He cried with utter delight at the small birds which would duck to every flower in sight, almost bouncing on the tender petals at an alarming speed.
“You can go play, Matthew. Just don’t wander too far off…” I had to shout to the little 6 year old waddling off through the forest of colour. I imagined that he felt like being in a jungle, the place he always told me he dreamed of disappearing into one day, and the place he mumbled in his sleep despite whatever story I would read to him that night.
“Ok! Come play Emma….with the birds and the flowers and the big blue sky. We can escape just like we said we would, to a better place where our mummy and daddy are. Our little pool under that russet-looking tree.”
He grinned and his eyes radiated a light I had not seen in years. We had just returned to the one little cottage which remained from our small township, removed in the hills, with our aunt and uncle from overseas. They came from somewhere Matthew and I can never remember exactly, all we knew was that they left us in peace occasionally, to wander for ourselves. The only place which feeds us, nurtures us…and fills our minds is this place. The place we once called home, with the fields of colour and the cosy house of warmth which stood behind us. It was called Riverside because there was an inconspicuous stream running through the colours, washing them all into a pool, still and quiet, where Matthew and I visited daily. It wasn’t much, it smelled damp and dripped but there was no other feeling that could compare to moving past the stringy details of the tree and escaping from the world outside, one which was not nearly so beautiful. All there was were our reflections; a 12 year old, fair-skinned girl and her brother with the green eyes.
Estrangement. I felt displaced like a pool of water when rocks fell into its gleaming surface. That was when the nightmare happened. One would never think such tragedy could occur in the midst of a blooming, sunlit afternoon. But it did. Our uncle’s shadow fell over our backs and over the water, and everything didn’t feel so warm anymore. His hands encircled Matthew and carried him back to the cottage, our uncle’s words driven like sharp spikes through our daydreams. He ordered me home with a stiff command and a crying Matthew on his back. They had decided it was too remote, we wouldn’t be able to go to school and learn something apart from the things in that ‘overgrown wilderness outside’. We would sell the property and move back to England. That was final. There was the farm out there…amidst the snow, the broken and skeletal branches of the trees. It had no fields; no pool of water in a mystical place; the birds screeched and had not the graceful movements of our home; there would be people walking up and down the road beyond the spiny gate which served no purpose but to barricade us in. The sun rarely fell out from the dense blanket of dark grey clouds, hung permanently to block any warmth at all. The stars did not glow nearly as bright as in our fields.
There was no colour there.
Our bags packed for us, the windows shut, and our doors locked behind us Matthew and I were forced to turn our backs on our beloved haven of nature. The house our parents would lovingly care for and the wondrous gardens our father considered one of his crowning achievements were decimated. Our minds were sponged clean of any residual colour left behind; that we clung to for dear life.
Whipped about by time, and not the sweet breeze we craved for at Riverside, we both grew up. I moved into the city and Matthew followed in his own time. Both of us never returned to the cottage or saw those magnificent colours again. It was the greatest loss we both suffered.
But we cannot forget the memories we shared there, nor the sights, sounds, smells and the inky colours beneath a bright sunny sky. We reach out for them and fall back into our own reveries.
*Artwork by Jacek Yerka*