This is not a travel piece in the conventional sense. It is a journey through life.
The Quiet Woman
She rarely spoke to me.
A quiet woman.
Yet her body told a thousand stories.
snowy-owl white, feathery, falling in wisps about her face. She’d no time for herself, always tending others: a husband, twelve children and any other strays who came her way - the homeless, the abandoned, the neglected and the orphaned; the endless stream of farmhands passing through, stopping by her kitchen table. She thought nothing of cooking up breakfast for twenty.
weathered brown and rough like an old chamois. Lined and cracked, I’d trace each story line with my mind - a lifetime of lines, a lifetime of stories.
gnarled and twisted. Hands that cradled babies, buried month old twins, wiped away tears, smacked bottoms, shook a child in anger, held a child in love. Those hands had tugged knots from hair, twisted strands into braids or tied them down in rags.
Hands that manhandled pigs, wrung the necks of turkeys, squeezed the teats of milking cows and laid orphaned lambs into the Aga to thaw.
Hands that chopped wood, baked countless cakes, kneaded dough upon dough, pulled the sour fruit from garden shrubs and trees; sliced and diced, stirred and beat, pressed and shaped and supplied endless mouths.
Hands that scythed hay, dug earthy potatoes, mucked out, hauled meal bags, wiped away sweat, wiped away tears, wiped away fear and longing and all the other emotions never expressed.
savaged by childbirth, farm labour and domesticity. Stooped, twisted, worn down, worn out, well used, not loved enough.
Her eyes now closed, her words ran out, her heart given up. No words at all: the quiet woman.
Looking back, I wish I’d asked her about the stories; wish I’d held her more - for she was my grandmother.