I sit here, looking through the window, out onto the open fields. I see the crisp autumn leaves swirl around in the cool breeze, floating, as if they have no troubles in the world. I make out the sheep, grazing peacefully, oblivious to their surroundings. I gaze around the land I have walked and hunted through; worked in; played in with my children , for the last four decades. I sit here looking, as I have many times before and nothing seems different. But it is. I know I will never see this place again. I know I will never return.
During my life, I have been called many things – daughter, sister, wife, sister-in law, mother, grandmother…..and I have always tried my best to fulfil my roles and do my duties. I feel I have succeeded :ever since I came to this farm, a young girl of sixteen, I have looked after my mother-in-law and husband, and children. Now my daughter looks after me. As I get older, my eyes start to fail, I lose mobility and I become deafer. But one thing stays the same, as bright as the sun and the evening stars: my mind and memories. They stay as fresh as the morning dew. I can remember the first time I met my late husband, all of the births of my 5 children, and the death of my baby son.
Some may even say I am wise. I do not know. But I know things that are unwise. My son-in-law’s plan. He is a lazy man. He claims that we pay too much to run the farm, which has been in our family for generations. He says that tomorrow we start our voyage to Canada, because the land is cheaper. He looks down on me, calls me a nuisance, just because I am old. I am not happy, nor is my daughter. But as dutiful women, we must leave, even if it is unwise.
My daughter wakes me, baths me, and dresses me. She helps me up to the bursting wagon, full of our belonging. She sits me down among the things, then goes to sit beside her husband up the front. The wagon is harnessed to the three horses we did not sell. One of them is Scout, the last gift my husband gave to me before he died ten years ago. As we set off, I feel my heart breaking and I shed a silent tear for all the things I am leaving behind.
I spent a lot of time in reflection, and my memories keep me company throughout these long journeys of solitude. The only time I see my daughter is at lunch and supper times, when she feeds me, usually salted fish and biscuits. Sometimes we stop off for the night and rest the horses, other times we may not. Time seems an unrealistic fantasy as I drift between sleep and reminiscences. The landscape changes gradually as we progressed up country.
We have been travelling for a few weeks now. The energy is being sapped out of me. I can tell we are getting nearer to our destination. The air is thinner and icy, and it hurts me to breathe. The tracks become more slippery and our progress in slowing. After supper, my daughter Sara wraps me in a fur-lined shawl to keep me warm.
Today was a tragic day. The tracks are treacherous, but my son-in-law is getting impatient. He urged the horses on too quickly. Suddenly there was a jerk and the wagon abruptly stopped. Scout had slipped on the harsh ice, and snapped his foreleg. My son-in-law unhitched him, took out his gun, and led him away. We heard the shot pierce through the air and ring loud and clear. I prayed my Scout went go to a better place, away from this unforgiving land of snow. I think I will soon join him; I feel I will not survive this long voyage.
Sara forgot to put my blanket on me. I sat in the cold night, as we rattle on through the fast falling snow. The bitter wind was howling in my ears, biting away at my skin, nipping at my feet. I yelled for help, but my words were lost in the raging storm. My throat became hoarse and parched and my eyes sore, my fingers and toes dead. I stayed in agony for many hours alone in the shadows of the frosty night in the open back of the wagon. Then eventually I fell unconscious, exhausted.
I hear Sara call my name. I try to lift my head. Then it hits me. My body is on fire, in torture! I must be in hell itself. My joints ache, my head pounds. My ears ring and I feel the sweat sizzle on my forehead. All my eyes can see is a blinding white. My legs shrivel, and I writhe and struggle in agony! I thrash around and whimper, begging for the pain to stop. I drift manically between consciousness and unconsciousness. Sara pleads with me to stay strong, and to not give into the fever that burns me. It is the Devil, she says, trying to claim my soul; but I must not give in, she whispers to me.
I stayed in this state for a few days, going to hell and back. But then, I woke up. Where was I? I felt as if I’m swimming in a tunnel, with shining lights at both exits. The water is thick and voluptuous like glue. But my body is supple and young, and I am not tired. But where do I swim to? I am not troubled or concerned – either way I don’t mind. At one end I hear Sara’s voice calling me – and at the other?… My heart soars as I see two faces.
One of my husband, and one of the son I never knew. They are calling me. I power on, desperately trying to reach them. Their voices encourage me. I get closer and the light gets brighter! It is easier to move, and I’m powering through. I feel like I’m flying now, floating, as if there are no troubles in the world. I feel free; from my duties and life! I soar forwards, as free as a bird, gliding gracefully in the sky…