Summer Solstice Mourning

Summer solstice crept over the horizon like a cat stalking a cricket. Move too fast and the moment will jump and flutter away on noisy wings.The sun peeked over the trees and hills on the far side of the neighboring farm. The driveway momentarily moved from night-shadow grey to a deeper black as the entire world adjusted to the flow of light.

Georgia sat on the porch, glancing over her shoulder from time-to-time. Searching for adults had become a habit so ingrained it seemed more like a reflex. Watchful vigilance was something akin to blinking or breathing.

She was supposed to be in bed, like all the other children, but today was the first day of summer and Georgia intended to see it from beginning to end. She’d told her mother this over dinner the previous night, but the only response was a long sigh and a wordy lecture about things ‘they’d talked about.’

This was important. Her mother didn’t agree, but Georgia was convinced she knew better. Besides, what was so wrong about watching a sunrise and a sunset? There was no school and chores were always the same.

The first day of anything was special because it was different. Summer was special because it was…summer! The first day of summer? That was something extra special and Georgia was going to see every last minute of it. Even if she couldn’t convince a single adult to bake a cake with the words “Happy Summer!” in green and blue frosting.

The sun rose higher in the sky. The birds began their songs long before the sun showed her face, but now there was a loud chorus. It was the bird version of a traffic jam, with all of them fluttering about, chattering away, and occasionally diving down after a bug or a worm.

The last star was still visible in the sky. The smell of coffee floated out on the air from the nearest Wild Raccoon neighbors. Lights were slowly flickering on in different windows across the community.

A buzzer went off in her mother’s room a few moments after Georgia watched the last star disappear from the sky. As quietly as she could, Georgia slipped back into the small house she shared with her mother and younger brother.

It was a small building, much smaller than the one they’d had when daddy was alive, but the Wild Raccoon farm was an entire world just bursting with things she’d never seen before. Safe in her room, sitting on the bed and watching the sky through the open window, Georgia closed her eyes and remembered her daddy. Remembered everything. His voice, his smell, the way his face turned red when he was angry and even more red when he laughed.

“Good morning daddy.” She whispered. “I miss you.”

As long as she could remember him, he was here with her. That was what they said at the funeral – and every opportunity for many weeks after. Georgia practiced remembering every time she found something amazing or beautiful. She wanted her daddy to share it and she wanted to make sure she never forgot.

The Wild Raccoon had many things to discover and, as long as she kept finding little things like he sunrise, she would never lose her daddy. Not for real. Not for forever.

Mentoring Georgia

The farm forest had a lot of debris that needed to be cleared. Bobbi worked steadily, moving fallen tree branches into piles along the edge of the orchard. She’d already located, cut and stacked the larger items. Now she just needed to clear out the smaller stuff in preparation for moving the entire stack down to the woodpile behind the barn.

She also collected fresh wild edibles and stored them in a large cooler. Foraging wasn’t the objective, but wild plants provided a steady income for the farm. It was best to be prepared for anything nature just happened to hand over.

With her head down and her mind on wood and low growing plants, Bobbi was unaware of Lisbette and Georgia climbing the hill – until Georgia shouted a greeting. The shout caused Bobbi to jump and hit hear head on a tree branch. Rubbing her head, Bobbi returned the greeting as she walked down to meet them at the cooler.

“Georgia loves the books,” Lis said with a smile. “She can’t stop talking about them.”

“I’m glad,” Bobbi replied, silently noting one of the smaller books sticking out of Georgia’s back pocket.

“You didn’t have to leave them on the porch,” Lis teased. “We will answer the door.”

“It was late,” Bobbi stumbled. “I didn’t want to wake anyone up.” Or find herself dragged inside for a cup of coffee and another hour (or two) of conversation when she was already dead tired. Late night social visits were common around the farm – and something Bobbi simply did not enjoy. Thankfully, Lis appeared neither surprised nor offended.

“Georgia asked if you could be her mentor.”

Lis was known for being direct,  a trait Bobbi admired; but this caught her off guard.

“You’re the only person she’s requested.” Lis added in a manner common among the parents on the farm. It was a gentle, firm, this-is-final, implied-decision tone that Bobbi found equally perplexing, fascinating and annoying.

Mom voice aside, the request for a mentor was a big deal. All of the children living on the farm had to have one. It was one of the few hard-and-fast (actually written down) rules the farm had. For families, it was one of the primary reasons behind decisions to join, or not join, the farm.

Georgia had been through four mentors already. It was clear she was not going to work well with any adult she did not choose herself, which was something Bobbi silently admired. The entire family had been under a lot of pressure to help Georgia choose, because she couldn’t run around the farm, unattached, indefinitely.

Which brought this around to the real issue – being a mentor. If Georgia was assigned to Bobbi, she would also be assigned to chores on Bobbi’s watch. No more hopping around from person to person. Georgia would be expected to follow Bobbi around and learning what Bobbi knew, until it was time to either change mentors or begin working on her own.

“Are you sure you want to work up here in the farm forest?” Bobbi asked Georgia. “I don’t spend much time down by the pond.”

Georgia shrugged. “I like trees,” she said, unconsciously placing a hand on the book in her back pocket.

It was only three words, but Bobbi had a strong feeling that it wasn’t about the trees, it was about the conversation in the barn. Georgia liked talking about the frogs, myths and possible stories that came out of those ideas. She liked the books.

“Yeah. Sure. It works for me.” Bobbi said. “But I’ve never done this before. Do we have to fill out a form or something?”

“In blood.” Lis said, deadpan, nodding her head as though this were common knowledge. Then she burst out laughing. “I have no idea,” she admitted. “I’ll ask around. Georgia, it’s time for you to get to school. Thank you Bobbi, we really appreciate it.”

As Georgia and Lis walked back down the hill, Bobbi noticed Lis was unusually…relaxed. Georgia seemed to be a little lighter too. Trying to find a way to connect with, and fit into, a new community was tough; particularly when the kids were having a hard time.

It will work out, Bobbi thought to herself, firmly banishing ever present doubts, and returned to gathering wild greens.