January 8, 2008
I slowly made my way down the cobblestone pathway, the trees around me swaying in a gentle breeze. The winding walkway carried through beautiful scenery filled with an aroma of tranquility and nature at its finest. A few dying flowers were scattered amongst the brown grass. All the trees were bare, their limbs stretched in a begging sort of manner. I stopped in mid-step and looked to my right, my heart feeling the ache the tall creatures felt. They were cold and felt unwanted.

A tiny rabbit came to a skittering stop before me and looked up at me curiously, as if questioning my appearance in these morbid woods. I had not visited this site in too long of a time. Slowly, almost cautiously, I placed the palm of my hand flat on the base of the old oak, rubbing my hand up and down softly. Finally, with a heavy sigh I pulled away from the connection I used to have with this place and continued on my journey down the long trail.

After a good amount of time spent still walking, I came upon a sight that almost brought me to tears. It was raining out. How appropriate. It wasn’t a light rain but it wasn’t heavy either. It was right in the middle, considerably perfect. So, there I stood in front of an old, abandoned cabin. The once sturdy roof layered with thick straw from the now burned down barn seemed to be sinking inward. The barn had burned six years ago, and I had been the one holding the match. I dropped it and ran. That was the last time I had visited this cabin: six years ago. One of the windows no longer obtained a frame or an actual window for that matter. It was basically just an empty hole. The wood was rotted and splintered, and looked ready to crumble. The whole cabin in itself was in the worst shape of its life, but it held so many memories that I didn’t even notice all these awful flaws.

I wiped my eyes with the back of my hand before taking a deep breath and slowly stepping towards the cabin. I knew what I would find inside and I dreaded to think that my conclusion was going to be right. I stopped, however, when a twig snapped behind me. I spun on my heel and looked through the now still maze of branches, through the overgrown grass, through the oaks until my eyes just barely reached the mass of random birch trees clustered together. A delicate figure was easing her way through the birches, coming closer and closer to me by the second. She eventually made it far enough so that when she looked up, she saw me staring. A tiny, almost invisible smile crept upon her lips as she held the gaze. But a deer moved to her left, and she out a small shriek and jumped back, grasping onto a low hanging branch of a willow. That brought my sense of humor back and I was able to smile. She never did like the outdoors that much. I kept my back turned to the cabin and made my way over to her as she tried to slowly get away from the deer.

“He won’t hurt you. He’s more afraid of you than you are of him,” I said, obvious laughter trickling on every word.

“I am well aware of that.”

I helped her away from the animal which bolted the second I reached for her.

“I figured it would be easier if we did this together.”

I nodded in agreement, and we both walked back through the trees to the cabin, hands interlocked. We passed the old, twisting oak tree that stood by the side of the cabin, its looming figure bearing down on us. Its warped trunk seemed to spiral upwards endlessly while its curvy branches reached out everywhere and made it nigh impossible to pass through in order to get to the door. The cabin was literally in the very heart of the woods.

Long ago, before winter came and swept away the life that used to reside here, the surrounding area was unbelievably beautiful. When she and I still lived here, secluded from the rest of the world, she would sit out in her garden, making it grow and live more than any other normal garden. She would work for hours on end and return inside when the sun was high above her and we would eat lunch before going for a walk through the forestry and ending at the dock that I had built only a few years before. We would sit at the edge of the dock, our feet just above the water, and the normally rippling lake completely still. It was such a blissful time and yet, we had been forced to leave it all behind lest we die forgotten by the world. And with our future, that was just not an option.

We did make it past the winding branches and to the front door where I grasped the handle and slowly eased the creaky door open. Its rusted hinges were probably the only metal holding the whole house together. Everything else was made from the wood of the beautiful foliage around us. We carefully stepped over the threshold, one after the other, and stood in the doorway of our old house. A musty smell sat in the air while the loss of a life once loved hung in our mindset.

“Everything is right where we left it,” she breathed, slipping her hand away and instantly moving towards the kitchen.

I could hear her walking through the house, her feet softly padding on the wooden floors. I had forgotten the beauty of this house, the serene feeling it passed through any member that stepped inside. It was so flawless and yet so blemished.

I stood in front of the old dresser next to the fireplace in our old room and gradually ran my fingertips along the top of its frame. My fingers danced along the dresser until they reached the handle that opened the middle draw. Inside was an old album full of photographs that would preserve our lives forever. She stepped into the room and I turned at her presence, my hand still in the draw, still resting on the cover.

“You found it?” It was more of a statement than a question but her voice still rose at the end.

I pulled the album out of the draw, closed it, and started to leave the room. She left with me and went to sit in the living room while I looked for the matches. The state had ordered us to either get rid of the house ourselves or have someone else to, or they would by any means. We decided to use our own means and burn it like we had with the barn. There were very logical methods to our reasons. We had burned the barn because my mother died in it, and because it was taking too much space up in the forest. We would burn the house because our lives had been here and the past was too painful to deal with if it was so physically alive. Once I found the matches, she left the house and stood far away from the cabin while I sparked the fire, dropped it onto the floor, and left myself. We walked with her in my arms, the album in hers, away from the cabin, and towards the old dock.

We passed pine and oak and maple and birch and willow, begonia and lily and tulip and daisy and sunflower; we passed deer and mouse, cardinal and blue jay and oriole, rabbit and snake and frog; we passed all sorts of wild creatures and plants and every beautiful thing that is the woods. It was interesting how everything was just alive and flourishing beyond the cabin and everything before the cabin was wilting and decaying. It was like the old and the new. Our past had come and our future was ahead.

By the time our long travel ended and we had reached the dock, it was nearing dusk. The sun’s rays shown brilliantly all around and cast a gorgeous array of colors. The golden rays shown through the white clouds as if the heavens were looking down on us. A mixture of pinks and oranges and purples and blues were splattered amongst one another, and stretched as far as the eye could see across the darkening sky. The large, old willow tree that sat at the base of the dock had grown a little since the last time I had been here. A soft breeze blew past us, ruffling her hair, and shaking the limbs of the willow. Its branches flowed with the zephyr as a lone crow flew past us and into the endless limits of the sky. We made our way to the base and carefully took of our shoes before starting our descent down the dock to the edge where we would sit and look through the album, reminiscing in all our memories.

We sat, our feet just above the water, and I opened the cover, turned a blank page, turned past our names, and continued on to the first picture. It was our first day there. The cabin hadn’t even been built yet. We were just standing there, I behind her with my arms spread wide open and she standing in front of me with a large smile on her face and her arms folded across her chest. In a moments’ time, she would turn and tell me to stop goofing around and get to work, but I would just laugh at the scoff and dance around the open space before I finally got down to business and built our cabin. We flipped pages for a while before I stopped on the one when our cabin was finally built and we were proudly in front of it. I was covered in dirt as my friend and I had gotten in an argument over what hinges to use on the door and it had ended in a wrestling match. She was leaning against the then baby oak, her arms stretched above her head holding onto a low hanging branch. Her cat was curled up at her feet, purring contently while a rabbit rested lazily next to the cat, the two soon to be best friends. A bird was sitting on her curled finger, chirping merrily while I was sitting cross-legged in front of the door with my friend diagonal from me, digging his fingers in the earth beneath him. I was leaning back on my dirty hands while the scenery around us was just perfect. There was a blue jay fighting with a cardinal a few trees over, two squirrels playing on the ground, mice scurrying around, and chipmunks staring at us curiously. It was like Snow White come to life.

More pages turned and then another one worth describing. My friend had taken this picture without us knowing, but I was glad he did. There were only four pictures of us at the dock and we had taken two of them, he had taken another, and my mother had taken the last. We were sitting side by side, her head on my shoulder, my arm around her, our feet just above the water. It was the day I built the dock and we were so happy with it that we spent the whole next day just sitting there. Later on, there would be a picture of my friend jumping off the dock and into the water. Only a few seconds after that picture had been taken, he fled from the water claiming there was something moving in it. No one went in after that. Turn, turn, turn, and a picture of us asleep on the couch; another picture compliments to my friend. It was the day after we finally finished building the barn and I had been exhausted. I collapsed on the couch upon entering the cabin and she came to join me later on, only two hours before dinner. My mother cooked that night.

The barn was absolutely wonderful. We had no specific animals in it. It was simply for the benefit of random days spent in there and for all the forest animals to come and go as they pleased. Sometimes we would leave out food for them, sometimes we would just sit with them. It only lasted for ten years. There were a lot of pictures from the barn, ones that included my friends and I jumping from the loft into piles of hay, and she and I spending nights up in the loft just because, and all sorts of interesting activities that had taken place in that barn. We held our wedding out in that forest. The wedding took place by the willow and the dock. We only had our closest friends and relatives attend but it was beautiful anyway. The reception afterwards took place in, yes, the barn, but it was also held in the cabin and in the surrounding area. It was a memorable day; one that would live in our minds forever. That was towards the middle of the album.

By the end of all the photographs, there was one last picture that always stood out from the rest. It was our last day at the cabin. She and I were standing outside the cabin, exactly posed like our first day there. We had made a promise to put pictures into the album and never look back at them until we moved away from the cabin. We had no idea we had recreated our first photograph. I was standing behind her, arms wide open, embracing the world around me. I had grown since the first picture and it was fall now so there were leaves falling. It was a magical day. A harsh wind had been blowing through all day, and the red and orange and yellow leaves were flying around everywhere. They were coming down on us, and I had my arms open to welcome them. She was standing in front of me, arms crossed and with a sad look on her face as her hair whipped around behind her, some strands hiding her face, others flowing freely. The cabin looked old then, and it definitely looked as if a good life had been lived in it. But, we had to leave. We had a child by then and he was due to start school soon. We had to move on and leave our fantasy behind. And we did. It was sitting in ashes by now.

The sun had set by the time we finished going through the album and the smell of rebirth was in the air. Everything before the cabin would slowly live again and maybe a new couple would walk through and decide to live a life amongst the trees and animals one day. But, we were done with that life and she and I left the dock behind and approached the willow with a heavy heart. Long, long ago we had inscribed our initials into the tree, but now we had to do more.

Love life, live love.

She carved the phrase that we had always gone by into the trunk under our initials before I took the sharpened stone and wrote my phrase.

Dreams do come true.
Imagine is endless.

We left it at that, simple and straight to the point. We didn’t go backward; we went forward into a new part of the woods until we came out at the end. But we still kept walking; we kept walking until we left the woods filled with critters, and the cabin filled with memories, and the barn filled with laughter, and the dock filled with silence, and the willow filled with words, and the random clump of birches, and the oak by the cabin, and we left it for something better. We left it for the photographs to remember.

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