On the seventh day of December

Heeding the doctor's advice, the husband and wife were busying themselves in their advent preparations.

During the summer, in a neat square behind the cottage, they grew a few small vegetables and grains, and amongst these was a little patch of wheat. Most of this went to a few loaves of home-baked bread — the most awaited and delectable loaves of the year. But in the course of the harvest they would keep back a few stalks, standing them to dry.

The husband and wife now brought out a wooden pole: a fine, straight branch from which the bark had been removed, and which had been patiently worked to a hard, varnish-like smoothness. Along it were several dreamy whorls and knots, bearing testament to a stalwart life.

Binding the kept-back stalks to a sheaf1, they affixed it to the pole with a simple, thin piece of hemp rope. A few metres from the cottage door, the husband then drove the pole through the hard-frozen topsoil to the more like-minded earth below.

Standing on their porch a long while, they huddled, arm hooked through arm, contemplating the sheaf and pole against the vast afternoon light; white-yellow giving way to pink. There was a reassurance in this meek, age-old, symbol; something of the affirmation that human's find in nurture.

It drew to it the treecreeper. Its foray to the Hazel grouse hills had calmed it to a degree; but innermost its luminescent discoveries perturbed it still.

The treecreeper dexterously extracted a few wheat kernels, and savoured their wholesomeness. But as it slowly ate, something in the fragile leaning of the pregnant wife against her husband, as she looked out upon the fading afternoon, brought for a moment the enigmatic intensity of the set-apart pine's inner light back to mind.

Turning, the husband and wife stepped inside. Apple juice mulled2 with cloves — above all cloves! —, nutmeg, cardemom, ginger, and pert raisins was brought by the husband to an inside-firing pitch upon the stove, and as she clasped and sipped a mug of it, her eight month old kicking familiarly, the line between tragedy and elation upon which their lives teetered was almost — ever so nearly — forgotten.

This is the seventh part of an episodic tale written in November and December 2022. Previous part. Next part.

Footnotes (terms in Norwegian)

  1. Nek.
  2. Gløgg.

Last updated: 12:35 (GMT+1), 8th December 2022