“I hear a lark singing,” Rosethorn commented, swinging the cream-colored palm she had entwined like ivy around the golden honey brown wall of Lark’s hand as they rambled along a sun-dappled path in the countryside outside Summersea.
“You won’t hear this Lark singing.” Lark could feel her throat tickling with the inhaled polen of some unknown plant. Her countryside romps with Rosethorn always made her asthma act up like a Player but she loved Rosethorn too much to refuse these adventures in nature.
“I see a mother lark with her nestlings.” Rosethorn’s fingers released Lark’s to point out a bird’s nest in the bough of a nearby oak.
“Our own nestlings have flown away,” murmured Lark, reflecting on how she and Rosethorn were now empty-nesters since their latest charges had graduated from Discipline cottage. There was always a sense of pride and completion but also of an aching hollowness whenever that happened that could not be entirely filled or eased for Lark by these countryside rambles with Rosethorn.
“Soon we’ll have more nestlings to force worms down the throat of until they can fly on their own.” Rosethorn’s tone was short as her close-cropped auburn hair, which Lark understood meant her truest partner in life was missing their Discipline graduates as well.
As they ambled on, the mother lark’s lilting music faded into the cloud-soft whisper of a stream that miles away would flow into the ever-crashing waves of the Pebbled Sea. When they reached this stream, they waded into its sun-warmed waters up to their ankles, bare feet wandering along its stony bottom until Rosethorn found a blackberry bush along its bank.
Rosethorn with her keen eye for what fruit was ripest plucked a blackberry and slid it into Lark’s obligingly opening mouth. Lark chewed on the berry, tasting its sun-sweetness and hoping it would linger sticky on her tongue and lips forever as a memory of this simple, purest pleasure.
Continuing along the stream, they were draped in the long, eternally mournful arms of a weeping willow.
“Do you know an interesting reproductive fact about willows?” asked Rosethorn as the willow hugged them.
“No.” Lark shook her head, an amused smile tugging at her sticky lips. “I suspect you’re going to enlighten me, though.”
“A willow reproduces by dropping branches into a stream like this one”—Rosethorn’s fingers dipped into the water as if in benediction of its essential role in the reproduction of weeping willows—“and the gentle stream carries the branch to fertile ground where it can grow into a willow tree.”
“There’s something beautiful about that.” Lark stared at the canopy of willow branches encircling them and pictured each one as a tree. “The branch is the tree, and the tree is the branch.”
“All thanks to the gentle stream. I’m the sharp branch, and you’re the gentle stream bearing me to fertile ground, Lark.” Rosethorn leaned in to kiss Lark on the lips, not seeming to care that her mouth was stained by blackberries, and Lark inhaled the fresh fragrance of pine, dark soil, aloe, and basil that always clung to Rosethorn more stubbornly than her green robe of an Earth dedicate. “Now let’s find our own soft spot of earth and make this a real countryside romp, shall we?”