"Her mind was like her room, in which light advanced and retreated, came pirouetting and stepping delicately,...
and then her whole being was suffused, like the room again, with a cloud of some profound knowledge..."
Anna could not help thinking about it. Seeing the vitality of the girls today made her more aware that she was now an old woman. But she was touched by their presence in other ways too. She saw Kellie as practical beyond her years. Hannah was sensitive and bright. And Emily, well Emily made Anna laugh. Anna smiled thinking how she stalled going to bed by telling her things about the horses. How Gracie's Icelandic name meant gray sides. That Hrimnir was a vocal clown who liked to voice his opinion, especially when he wanted food. Emily was emphatic that Lady would always come along as a pack horse because she was accepting that she was growning too big to ride her now. But, she could not bear the thought of leaving her behind. The pony just loved to go out on trails! Anna hoped she would get to know these girls and their horses better. Maybe, like some of her oldest friends, one of them would enjoy writing letters. Life was never lonely with letters.
Anna had perfect gifts for two of the girls: a favorite book, Traveler's Joy, and a small Rookwood vase with horses on it. Now...one more. Why was she so concerned about this?
She had time, didn't she?
She was tired, but sometimes it was hard to give in to sleep on a beautiful summer night like this. The thing about staying up with the moon was having to get up in the morning; she did not want to miss a single morning with Harlan. Dawn hours in Payne Hollow, with early bird song and fog, or any other gift of weather, were among her happiest times. Harlan was often up early bringing in armloads of wood and tending the fire before she was even out of bed. Anna delighted opening her eyes to a new day with the prospect of more peaceful productivity together.
Their life had been good despite the fact that when they married, they both knew that having children was behind them. Anna was past thinking of children by the time she met Harlan, but her love and respect for him made her regret this loss. It was their river trip in the shantyboat that provided a blessed distraction, because all thoughts and energies were turned to the immediate needs of their adventure. Life became so fulfilling as a family unit of two that nothing seemed to be missing. Having these girls here made her wonder what their children might have been like, and what kind of parents they would have made. She and Harlan had talked of this, and they were aware that their lifestyle would not be the choice of most young people today. Besides, with the success of Harlan's books, they felt they were making more of a difference in the lives of others than they could ever have imagined.
Tonight she wondered if she would make some small difference in the lives of the three young girls. They were asleep in her woodland home and under her loving care. It was a comfort to know they were safely tucked in for the night. The thought brought to mind the whimsical figurine she had forgotten about, a mother mouse with all her babies tucked in a basket. Emily would be the right one to have it!
Anna pondered...Many of the things Harlan had accomplished were tangible; they would remain after he was gone. Her life had been taken up almost entirely in perishable pursuits. Music was a daily joy, yet after they finished playing, it was lost into the air forever. She wondered, when she was gone, would the birds miss her music?
Anna was sure her life had meaning. It was satisfying to know that her support helped Harlan accomplish so much. He appreciated her. But in the end, she had not painted the pictures, and she had not written the books. Perhaps her greatest legacy would be in children. She longed to kindle in them the desire for simple work, well done. And some had been grateful for her interest in them. They were learning to live more respectfully on the earth. After all, nothing from Anna's garden was wasted. The most insignificant weed or bug was a fascination to her. She wondered how anyone could live without this joy?
She thought of the girls' fascination with the shantyboat. She would never lose her childlike fascination with it either. The floating cottage was a precise and compact dwelling. As written in Wind in the Willows, there was a place for everything and everything in it's place. She so delighted in keeping all neat and tidy. Another revelation was to experience how little was truly necessary for them to live in comfort and contentment.
Anna sighed deeply. Crickets pulsed in the night. The air was perfumed with the scent of mosses and leaf mold. She accepted these comforts from the earth and drifted slowly into sleep.