The First Snowflakes

I know I have to get up and take my dog for a walk. But the idea of leaving the comfort and warmth of my bed to step outside in the numbing cold just doesn’t seem very inviting to me. I close my eyes one last time, telling myself that a little fresh air might not be a bad idea after all, and carefully slide out of my duvet’s hug in order to get ready. My dog has noticed the intentions and sure enough pulls his usual full body stretch, walks to the door and will probably spend the next five minutes staring at me judgementally, knowing that I should have taken him out about five hours ago. He always knows.

Socks. Sweater. Hat. Gloves. After what feels like five layers of clothing, we finally head outside. One of us clearly acting as if the doors to paradise had just been opened to him. I wish I could be that excited about walks.

The winter winds hit me like a pure breath of fresh air, causing my eyes to tear up unintentionally. It’s my favourite kind of air- the same air that filled my lungs all those years ago when I was little, running home to finish the Christmas letters I planned to write for my family members. I’ve been having those vivid flashbacks a lot lately. They’re bittersweet, and yet feel like a calming warmth in my chest.

20 minutes have gone by since we left the house. My dog has finally matched my pace and is probably starting to wonder where we’re headed to this time. At the end of the street, we take a turn to the left, and walk up a beautiful hill colliding with what must be the school of my dreams: A big white house with windows proudly showing the colourful christmas stars that the children have been creating over the weeks. Yet again, I can see myself behind those windows as a girl, sitting on the floor and trying to cut out the most beautiful star, usually taking a peek at my classmates’ work to make sure that mine’s still the one that will get all the compliments. What is it about this place?

We keep walking, through the farm where the cows always seem amazed by their new friend at the end of my leash, and past the cemetery where each tombstone was made with so much love and dedication, it brings you a certain peace to know that these souls are being carefully taken care of and surrounded by flowers of all kinds, even after departing this world. I take another look at it and finally walk the last bit of the trail, hearing the stones and leaves crackling under the soles of my shoes. There’s a little bench in front of the pine trees, so I decide to sit down and enjoy the view. I take my dog’s leash off, but instead of running to explore the fields surrounding us, he jumps right next to me and stays there with a certain calmness that’s quite unusual. He’s listening to the chirping birds and catches a glimpse of a dog, playing with his owner on the other side of the field, while I try to keep him warm with the inner side of my winter jacket. The wind is playing with his messy hair, and I can tell by the wandering of his eyes from one place to another that he is still curious about all the things going on in his new home. He used to be a lonely dog before my mother found him, but times have changed and now here he is: under european skies, knowing that every single morning he will have a family to wake up to. “And so do I”, I think to myself with a smile.

The church bells start ringing nearby, making me realise that we’ve been sitting here for a while, but I truly want to enjoy this moment for a couple more minutes. Life seems to have gone by quickly these last three years, and this feels like the first time I’ve really given myself permission to sit down and simply appreciate. The winter sky, the man playing with his black labrador in the distance, the mysterious tree next to him that looks like it has escaped Kafka’s imagination, the warmth of my dog (who by now has probably fallen asleep next to me), and the extraordinary, unconditional and calming happiness that has filled my heart just like it used to when I was that little girl cutting out christmas stars on the classroom floor. So much has changed since the day we moved away, and even 12 years later, this place feels like an old friend, waiting for me to return.

I put my dog on the leash and take a last look at the view, noticing that for the first time this winter, snow has started to fall.

“It’s time to go home”, I say to him. And for that split second I know that I’m telling it to myself as well.

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Céline Aere

A little too existentialist to be a law student. I also believe in true love.