Now close the windows and hush all the fields:
Inhaling the sweet New England winter gave her pause. Flashes of her childhood: Vermont wind nipping at her apple dumpling cheeks, laughter bouncing off the endless snowdrifts. How the house had seemed so bright, like a beacon in the grey. She closed the memories with a slam of Early Colonial wood and glass.
The house whined the same as years before, when her only pregnancy had ended upstairs, blood-soaked quilts wrapped around her clenched thighs. The wind howled as it whipped across the fields outside--howled as she had when the stillborn child passed from her loins. Though the house had kept the wind out, it had locked her own screams in, cradling them. She hushed the quiet sobs from her chest. The fields did stop, in turn.
If the trees must, let them silently toss;
The old woman turned to start her tea, arthritic fingers curled around the kettle. A silver wedding band, now contorted by years of manual labor and loneliness, hinted at the wife she'd once been. But when the child had passed, he'd blamed her and left. She still lived in her former dowry, which creaked and sighed like her old bones during a harsh cold spell. The walls held fast even at the worst of times, when she'd prayed a strong wind might knock them over and give her reason to leave. Only the trees outside swayed with the seasons; the home was as she: relentless, unyielding to change.
No bird is singing now, and if there is,
Be it my loss
Tea ready, she took up a seat by the window nearest the hearth. Silence filled the room, save the crackling of flames at the fire. She could hear no birds singing. Her own soul had stopped its song years before and felt no joy in such trivialities. It would be long before the birds would sing again; longer still before she would find reason to follow suit.
It will be long ere the marshes resume,
I will be long ere the earliest bird:
So close the windows and not hear the wind,
But see all wind-stirred.
Windows closed against the elements, she felt an empty comfort. An old home needs to be shut against the cold, much the way a woman's heart cannot be left wind-stirred. Though snow and hail and bitter cold would not enter here, nor would the gentle sun and crisp air by which winters are often graced. She was dying not by flesh but by soul, steeling herself from the winds of sorrow and joy alike. But no more. Placing the cup of tea beside her with care, she rose gingerly and ran her wrinkled fingertips over the window's wooden frame. Slowly, gradually, those pained fingers wrapped around the latch and released. Fresh air cleansing everything, finally.
Poetry by Robert Frost, as noted above.