"It’s raining gold!"

As the leaves tumbled down around our heads, it certainly looked that way. Fall had painted the entire forest the colors of the sun; its palate seemed to consist only of pale yellows and rich oranges. The ground was already completely covered by the golden pilgrims voyaging from their perches up high, making an eerie resemblance to the yellow brick road to Oz. It made for a beautiful sight indeed.

My little niece Katie, however, was not content to just stand around and watch the leaves fall. Running from my side and almost taking off the arm she was holding on to, she started to try to catch the shooting stars from the trees overhead. Although it is the thought that counts, I don’t believe it applies when making attempts to grab the gold as it floats down upon you. For nearly five minutes Katie ran and snatched at them, coming away with a mere four for her efforts. These were brought back and shown to me while the biggest smile I have ever seen played across her freckled face. I had to smile too, and ruffled her hair in congratulation. Three were put gently into the big front pocket on her overalls; the fourth she slipped into my hand and grinned at me again. Never have I gotten a gift so special to me—-it now hangs from a piece of fishing wire attached to the ceiling fan in my office, spinning and dancing about whenever the switch is flipped.

Taking my hand, I was led a little deeper into the magnificent woods, the smell of a rotting log invading my nose, thick and earthy. After guiding Katie away from it and explaining why crawling around inside it like a raccoon would not be a good idea, we came across a frigid stream, untouched by the world. Well, formerly untouched, as Katie gave a squeal of delight and ran into the middle of it, kicking up splashes of clear water behind her. Chuckling softly, I pointed out a school of small silver fish to her moving under the ripples created by her entrance. Immediately she froze, a look of fierce concentration on her face.

"I’m going to catch one," she whispered, as if her voice would scare them off.

Wishing her luck, I stood back, amused at her attempts, which led to be even more unsuccessful than leaf catching. Uncoordinated she may be, but definitely not a quitter. After her initial quiet, stealthy sneaking proved worthless, she pounced and grabbed and even shouted at the minnows, never once actually touching one. I think she’d still be there if I hadn’t noticed the sun creeping lower and lower in the sky. I hailed to the wet little girl in the center of the creek, and she splashed her way out of the water, soaked and more than a little disappointed, but still smiling hugely.

I hadn’t thought to bring a towel, so I took of the gray sweatshirt I was wearing and helped her put it on. She was still shivering a bit, but hidden within the warm hooded thing helped that some and made her smile even bigger, if that was possible. The sleeves dragged on the ground and the muff-like pocket in front was down past her knees. She made quite a sight, and I gave a small laugh as well.

With my hand on her shoulder, we headed through the twilight, on the golden road back to our Emerald City-—just me and my little munchkin—-smiling all the way.

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