By Sangeeta Kaul
When she got started, she had not thought of putting on her winter shield— no coat, no boots, nor gloves or a hat. But she wasn’t about to let that stop her. Inspiration had struck her most unusually, and there she was, standing by the side of the street in the middle of a winter storm, her hands plying into the soft snow pile that was forming on the nature strip of the sidewalk.
She was going to carve out a big heart shape, and maybe form arms for it with two fallen branches. The creation of a big, snowy embrace for all passersby in the winter landscape. Her bare hands numbed out as she continued to work on her creation, snowflakes sometimes fogging up her glasses, but never enough to stop her progress.
When she was done, there was a beautiful heart shape on the surface of the snow pile. She carved the letter “U” into it. “Love you,” she thought and wrote out the message for her community. A frozen hand and a hungry stomach demanded her attention, so she left the sidewalk to head back to the warmth of her home. She was pleased with the potential joy her work would bring the onlookers.
Her neighbor had been observing her snowy project from atop the high-rise building she lived in. Bemused with her initiative, he waited until she left the outskirts of the building. He then went down to the sidewalk, and dipping his hand into his winter cloak pocket, pulled out some beads, no, seeds. Magical seeds. He framed the snowy sculpture with these glistening pearls of nature. Their colors shifted hues in the weakened sunlight within the storm. Now they were purple, then red, then perhaps an autumnal orange! Ensuring that no one around had witnessed his act, the neighbor made for a quick disappearance.
The cold, snowy heart lay on the earthen verge for some time. It had been slathered up with a few more inches of feathered precipitation. The dusk was giving way to the impending darkness of the night. The icy heart did not know anything and certainly did not feel anything, but something was telling it not to give up. You see, before it had taken the shape of this beautiful memento, it had been dropped from the heavens in many swishes—-this way and that— along with other companions on the journey. It was pure, sparkling white as it descended into the earthly atmosphere, but no sooner had it touched the ground, than it got muddied and splattered with dirt. And then it had just lain there. No more swishes left within anymore.
And yet, in this new curvaceous reincarnation, it had begun to breathe again. A breath of hope. A prayer from within surged ahead into its new shape. The dark night was almost upon it. The solitary neighborhood dog on his walk with his owner chose to relieve himself on the snow-white heart. The warm flow of mustard-colored urine began to melt some of the edges of the snowy heart, but its center refused to give in. And the frozen night advanced onwards for the next few very long hours.
The next morning, the sun rose and melted away any memories of the winter storm as fast as it could. Its benevolent rays thought they were doing much good to warm up the world from its wintery slumber. It has no idea that the snowy heart was melting away into oblivion.
Then came the rush of kids who had seen the snowy sculpture that had delighted them the prior afternoon. Shocked to see the disassembling pool of ice, the kids decided to come to the snowy heart’s rescue and began applying reinforcements of freshly collected snow. They did the best they could, and they did well. The snowy heart lived for another day. The following morning, the landscape began losing its bleached comforter and shards of grass began peeping through. The snowy heart had all but disappeared. Just a puddle of dampness on the earth where it once existed.
A few months later, spring came on strong. Even before the daffodils could spring up and announce the end of winter, the community saw a strange sight on their walks by the nature strip. There was a cluster of seedlings with glowing neon colors on the patch of dirt by the sidewalk. It had a frame of baby plants with glowing buds rising out of the earth… in the shape of a flowering heart.
January 19, 2024