I’ve always loved mist in the hills after a long rainy day. Tendrils of it tracing the outlines of stream and hollow above the trees. Clouds pouring through saddlebacks, grudgingly parting for the higher hilltops.
All the seasons of the woods were like home to me. I would sneak out into the harsh cold of moonlit winter nights, just to dance with my shadow. The first Peepers of spring drew me out like Sirens. Day or night, it didn’t matter. I would sneak from bed or run off as soon as my father’s back was turned, heedless of the thrashing I’d get, if he was still mad when I came back
All the seasons were home, but best of all were those drizzly autumn days when crow calls echoed hard among the trees and the mists came and played hide and go seek with me. I conjured faces in those wisps of cloud and heard laughter in the dripping of the leaves. There were spectral shapes in the mists and, somehow, I was never alone, never afraid.
Forgotten were the long cautionary tales of children lost in the hills and never found. Or the way my father frowned whenever he looked past the stone walls that bordered his fields. The mists reaching out from between the trees was the only thing that would make him quit work before sundown. Perhaps I loved them so much because he hated them so much. There’s peace and safety to be had in the places parents won’t go.
I’d like to say I’ve grown wiser, but I haven’t. There was one day, just one, when the mists were thick as thieves and I got lost for a bit. And cold. Very cold. And – maybe – a little scared. But the faces were there, peeking around tree trunks, and wisps of hands beckoned me back to the game. I laughed, and it was echoed in the mists, my voice and theirs woven together in a blanket of play that warmed me up again.
Sometimes I miss my father. Miss the warm, Captain Black smell of him. Miss his laughter and mine mingling as he spun me around over his head or hefted me up to ride the plowhorse back in from the fields. That’s the way it is with parents – there’s always just enough fun to keep you hanging around. Just enough bait to lure you onto the hook.
I still see him, once in a while. From a safe distance. But none of that really matters now. Now there is only the game. Gliding through the trees with the others. Laughing. I see you, walking alone in the woods. In the mists. I knew you in school. Can’t you hear me calling? Don’t you see my pale hand beckon?