24 April, 2012

24 April 2012

The two men were out there so long that Liz and Susan, long finished with the breakfast cleanup, began wondering what might have happened but neither of them were particularly anxious to venture outside and check.  Best not to step into the middle of certain things, and whatever the two of them had going out there, both women agreed it was almost certain to be that sort of thing.  So Susan used the time to enjoy a final visit with little Will, who was, so far as she could tell, really thriving under Liz’s care, definitely growing and gaining a bit of the plumpness that she liked to see start to appear in a healthy infant after that first difficult week or so of adjusting to life outside the womb, and she had every confidence that he was going to do just fine up in his high mountain home.  Liz, also, seemed to have healed quite well from the birth, was adjusting well to motherhood, moving with a good deal more ease than she had been upon their initial arrival and had most of her energy back, after the blood loss.  Even her sleep seemed not terribly disturbed by the presence of the little one; having the baby right there with her in the bed where he could be fed with minimal disturbance to her position seemed to be suiting both of them quite well, and so far as Susan could see, Einar was causing her to lose more sleep--though certainly not intentionally, on his part--than was the infant.

Despite their many challenges, she believed the little family ought to do just fine.  The next time she made it up to visit--couldn’t stand the thought of not making the journey again, someday--she expected to see the little one scooting around the clearing in buckskins and the tiny, perfectly-constructed moccasins his father would no doubt create for him, wolverine fur hat insulating his little head and eyes bright with wonder and curiosity at the big, wide wild world which was to be his for the discovering.  A good life it would be, and the thought nearly brought her to tears as she held the sleeping child, watching his little breaths and praying that it might be so, that they would find themselves able to remain stable and steady at the little cabin on the plateau rather than being forced on the run again, a life already made uncertain by circumstances becoming doubly so, and all of their continued existence thrown into grave doubt…

Yes, let them stay so this little one can live and grow and prosper as he ought to do, raised up here in this good clean air with the spruces and peaks soaring all around him and a raven for a playmate…it could be a great life for a child, but I know Bud would tell me the chances of their being able to stay here long-term without being discovered are slim to none, that they’re forever going to be wanderers, fugitives and that we’ll lose contact with them at some point, will have to, for their own protection, and probably never see them again.  I’ve heard him debate it with himself, the wisdom of our coming up here at all, the chance that it might bring unwanted attention and destroy everything for them but he’s decided it worth the risk…so far.  And then there’s the very good chance that his father will decide to move them at some point, will get the notion that they’ve been in one place too long and need to move before something draws the attention of the authorities and they get raided in the night with no warning, and the sad thing is that he’d probably be right to think that way, and right to do it…

I know this may be the last time I ever see you, little Snorri Willis, and if that’s how it needs to be so you can grow up free like your father--and with him--then so be it.  But I really want to watch you grow , even if we don’t see each other very often, so I hope there may be some way.  Kissing the sleeping child on the forehead she handed him back to Liz, embracing the two of them and speaking softly.

“Lord, bless this child and be with him as he grows, keep him healthy and strong and free, just like his parents.  You know their needs better than I ever could, and I know that You will provide.”

Simple words; more would have been excess, and Susan had never been one for excess.  Good-byes done, blessing given, it was time to move on to other things.  In a hurry, for she was finding it difficult to think about leaving, and did not want Liz to see.  Talk about the future.  Spring was coming.

“Have you thought about a garden up here?  We could drop in some seeds, if you’d like to give it a try.  Cold weather crops, things that would have a chance in the short season and give you some more variety besides what you’ve already got up here, broccoli, beets, cabbage, that sort of thing…”

“Einar and I talked about that at one point…right after his half-jokingly getting all excited about domesticating a small herd of mountain goats for meat, milk and wool, as I remember it…but we decided against both ideas because if we start getting too settled around here, and especially setting up gardens and significantly disturbing the ground, well, that’s almost sure to catch somebody’s eye someday, and then we’ll lose it all.  We decided that we’d really better keep to the hunter-gatherer sort of life, for now.  Traplines, maybe some fishing if we start getting down to the river a little more often, food-producing plants in season and harvest as much as we can of those, learn better ways to store and preserve them so we can have some variety through the winter, but I don’t think a garden had better be anywhere in the near future, for us.  Unfortunately.”

“I do think it could be done carefully and on a very small scale, everything dispersed so that nothing would show from the air, but you’re probably right about the wisdom of leaving things as undisturbed as possible.  Can’t be taking that risk.”

“Einar also prefers that we don’t come to rely on things that are more likely to fail, like introduced crops would be.  He says it’s risky enough living as large predators and scavengers up in a place like this, and that more famines have been caused by people coming to rely exclusively on agriculture for their sustenance rather than on a variety of things they can harvest from the world around them than by anything else in human history, and I guess he does have a point…though I don’t see why that should keep us from growing a few beets or some lavender and dill, really!  But that’s where the other thing comes in, about being seen from the air, and I’m back to digging roots and harvesting wild raspberry leaves for tea.   I don’t mind it.  There’s so much up here, all around us, and being basically in one place for a number of months has really allowed me to get an idea of how things come and go and change through the seasons.  We did well this past summer, and still have dried chokecherries and serviceberries to enjoy, spring beauty and lily roots when we want to add some starch to things, more meat than we’ll eat before the snow starts melting, not to mention the honey!  That’s been the biggest treat of them all, and has probably saved Einar’s life a couple of times, too…goofy guy.  Wish I could just get him to eat on a regular basis.  But he’ll do better once things start thawing… I hope.  Won’t be quite as likely to freeze solid in the night, at least, which will ease my mind a little.  But yes, the honey!  It’s been great, and we hope to be able to go back and harvest more this year, though this time maybe I’ll do the climbing, and we’ll figure out a better way to prevent getting so many stings.”

Susan smiled.  “You sound so excited when you talk about it.”

“I am!  I’m excited because finally we’re not on the run all the time and wondering how many days it’ll be before we get something to eat again, we have shelter and food and everything we need, right here, and I’m excited to start teaching this little guy about all of it.  Things would be just about perfect up here if…”  she motioned towards the woodshed, where they could now hear the two men carrying on what sounded like a rather heated discussion, and Susan nodded.

“Things can’t be perfect, though.  That was never my expectation, and we’re getting along pretty well, all things considered.”

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