As I walked along the path, my shoes padded on the hard-packed dirt, clicking only once in a while on loose pebbles that had clawed their way to the surface. My eyes traveled endlessly about my surroundings, capturing every sight they could contain. The tall grass sprouted up between the closely-knit trees, hiding what I was sure to be a treasure trove of insects, shy chipmunks and glittering rocks.
The statues that rose up from the water guarded their pond with gazes that could either frighten or intrigue: swans with arched necks; giant butterflies with wings ready to fly had they not been trapped in stone; turtles with heads just visible above the rippleless pool. A dragonfly flitted about in this fanciful playground, ignorant of any misdeed or sadness, content only just to fly and be warmed by the sun.
My hand curled a little tighter around the larger one that held it. The hand with rough skin that smelled of wood and earth. The hand that had pulled me into those big, strong arms as I cried over Papa’s death. The hand that I knew would never let me down.
A sleek figure emerged on the path, and I stopped, the breath sticking in my throat. A pair of soft, brown eyes stared back at me. Grandfather and I were silent, looking upon the curious doe with unspoken greetings. Her ears twitched and I imagined her saying hello in a foreign language that only animals could understand. And then, in a fleeting moment, she was gone, and our walk resumed.
When the mansion came into view, my eyes widened as if overflowing with all of these wonderful sights. Even from this distance, I could smell a chimney fire, mingling with the scent of damp earth and evergreens with which we’d been traveling. Now in the clearing, the edge of the forest was revealed, wrapping itself around the grand estate. My ears tingled with delight as I heard song birds calling to their loved ones, the grass dancing amidst a warm breeze, and horses complaining for their evening meal.
As Grandfather stopped, I copied him, almost afraid to break my gaze from the scene, for fear it wouldn’t still be there when my eyes returned. I did look up at him though, questioning his halt. “Is this where you live?” I asked, not realizing those were the first words I’d spoken since stepping off the train that morning.
Grandfather nodded, his smile forming wrinkles under and around his sparkling eyes. He knelt down to be at my level and stretched out his arm. I had to tilt my head to follow his finger, and I found he was not pointing towards the mansion. Instead, he wanted me to see a small hut-like structure off beside one of the stately barns. I’d always wondered what a groundskeeper’s house would look like. Now I knew.
As we stood watching, the setting sun found its way beneath a thin bank of clouds. Bright beams of gold streamed across the land, exposing the shadows and bringing light to every crack and crevice. Even at my young age, I wondered if this was what all new starts looked like. That’s what Grandfather had called it – a new start. I wasn’t sure what it meant, nor was I sure what the future held. But all the way here, Grandfather had talked of God and read from that book he called a Bible. He talked about how God would take care of them both. Was this what God’s care looked like? I thought so.
Even today, I still think that’s what God’s care looks like – warm and bright and full of adventures just waiting to be found. I had been orphaned and taken in by my grandfather, growing up in the midst of elegant horses, statues with whimsical personalities, and deer that frolicked through the woods. God could have chosen to take care of me in a much different way. But I’ve always loved how He picked the perfect little house, perfect landscape and the perfect grandfather.
I’m the groundskeeper now and my son is learning by my side. Every once in a while though, I walk along that path again and gaze at the stone turtles, play with the dragonflies, and hunt for chipmunks in the grass.
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