This story originally published on SimWriters.com as an entry in the Super-short Valentine’s Day Contest.
Naomi Cressida had long ago given up on romance. She hadn’t given up on love, for love seemed to be the very air she breathed, but she was fond of telling her friends that falling in love was “for younger people, who don’t yet know what love is.”
For Naomi, love was the feeling she had when she was any place wild.
When she could hear the wind through pine boughs, listen to the chatter of chickadees, hear the rush of a distant waterfall, that’s when she felt an inner smile which was, for her, the feeling of love.
To stand in a mountain meadow, while the cool air touched her skin and the scent of pine resin perfumed every breath, this was, to her, the closest feeling to union that she had ever known.
When one feels at-one with the natural world, with the life energy that infuses every green thing, then what does one need with romance?
Naomi never felt lonely when she was alone in the wilderness, for in wilderness, she was never alone. She was surrounded by other living things which shared their energy with her.
This was how Naomi had lived her life, closer to the growing wild things than to other people, and when she realized, after decades of seeking solace in wild places, that she was no longer young, she quietly accepted that her days of romance were over, and had, in fact, never even begun, unless one could consider her life-long love affair with wilderness to be a romance.
“Surely I’ve known love!” she told herself while the pines sang their soft songs to her. “And now that I am past spring myself, I have nothing to regret.”
But when spring came to the forest, and she heard the yellow warbler sing with renewed passion to his mate, she yearned, for just a moment, for her own youth, which she had spent chasing frittilaries through the fields of Joe-pye weed.
Who had sung to her, when her long legs raced through the meadow grasses? Whose nest had she settled into?
What was it to have spent a life tasting the love of mountain streams, but not to know the warmth of another beside you on dark summer nights?
There had been a boy once. And together they had found a spot of soft grass beneath the aspens where they lay and felt the whispers of each other’s breath on curve of neck. But that had been when she was very young, before she had known what love was.
That memory was fragile as a frittilary’s wing, and she could not handle it without it crumpling in her hand.
She would live out her days as she had spent them, alone in the wilderness every moment that she could steal away from her life in town, and the other moments would be spent dreaming of granite and pine.
Yet she was not stone inside.
These were her thoughts while she stood in the meadow, listening to the cascade of sound that she prayed would steal her thoughts away and leave her standing in the peace of silence once again.
And before silence returned to her, she heard the crunch of feet on dried pine needles. A man walked towards her. He had a light in his eyes that reminded her of summer skies, of the snatch of blue between aspen leaves.
“I thought I had the forest to myself,” he said.
“It is yours!” Naomi answered. “It belongs to any feet that find themselves here!”
He chuckled at her answer, and when she heard his warm laugh, her inner smile fluttered.
Flowers bloomed all through the meadow.
“Is it spring?” she asked.
And he laughed again. “I thought I would never see another spring,” he said. “But something tells me that thought was premature.”
They walked together back to the campsite, sometimes following the trail, sometimes finding their own way through meadow and forest. While they walked, on occasion they would talk, but mostly they moved in silence, each feeling the pulse of his or her own heart. When at last they came to the campfire beneath the Douglas firs, they each wanted to say to the other that they felt like old friends.
Yet neither could say it, for it was not true.
At last, he looked at Naomi and said what was true. “I feel young,” he said. “Young and in love.”