A storm is coming. It’s on the edge of the wind, in the smell of the leaves and the heaviness in the air. The animals already know about it, and even Alexander is restless. He’s only a hedgehog, but he’s never liked the rain. Not when he was little, and maybe less now that he’s old and bad-tempered.
I love rain. I love the whisper it wakes in the trees, the new life it brings to my meadows and ridges, and the smell of it in the mountain air. It rains the most in the spring, after all the snows have melted and the passes are clear. Spring will always be my favorite time of year, even before autumn, with its ripe hazelnuts and hazy, hot sun on ripe grass. It rains in the fall too, of course, but it’s a cold rain, weepy and gloomy and lonely. I like the spring rain best.
But Alexander doesn’t like either. He’s already nosing at my hands, nudging my fingers and nibbling them gently to remind me that he doesn’t like to get wet. It’s time we were home again.
The trees are already whispering when we take the paths home. The wind has risen, and I can hear their voices around me. Muffled, murmuring voices, all of them different, all of them unique. I can hear the oaks down in the valley, with their deep, throaty grumbling, and the high singing of the aspens on the ridge, and the low, murmuring sighs of the willows by the river. I don’t have time to listen to their stories today, not if I want to be under my own roof before the storm hits, but I am tempted. Tempted to pause, tempted to stop and sit beneath the oaks and listen. They tell the best stories. The oldest ones. The aspens have lovely, flowing tales that seem to go on and on forever, but their lives are nearly as short as my own, and they talk only of the wind and the color of the sky. The oaks tell stories of the deep loam, and the roots of the mountains and the wells beneath the stones. When I listen to them, I hear things that I can’t see myself or learn on my own.
They’re waiting for me at the house. I always bar the door when I go out to keep the woodchucks and squirrels out of my stores, and the first of the rain is already falling. My hair is wet. I push the door open, and they all scramble in.
Oliver is the first to hide under the bed. He’s a fox, but I have never held it against him. He hates thunder, and secretly, I think he’s afraid of the rain as well. Two of the squirrels hide in my coat pockets, and Alexander trundles off into the corner behind my spinning wheel.
I sit by the window. I want to see the rain come in, watch it shroud the mountains with mist and listen to the songs it wakes from the trees. My fawn lies down next to me, with her head in my lap. She hasn’t told me her name yet, but she will soon. Once she’s more comfortable here, once she’s sure she can trust me.
For now, we’ll just watch the rain.