This is the painting Gwen brought to the initial gathering.
I was intrigued by this little girl's smile!
Here is what I wrote after spending time gazing at Gwen's painting, wondering what satisfying secret this little girl was savouring.
Jillie bounded up the veranda stairs, too full of her news to do anything carefully.
“The trees talked to me!” she exclaimed, screen door slamming in her wake.
“Jill Marie Dawn!”
Mother’s stern tone did nothing to diminish Jillie’s delight. She skipped to Nana’s side of the table, but her grandmother’s eyes held only caution. Suddenly unsure of herself, Jillie drew a circle in the flour coating the table.
“Get your filthy hands out of the flour!”
Jillie snatched her hand away as her mother slammed down her dough, making even Grandpa Henry’s sturdy table shake.
“What are you waiting for? Go wash them!”
Blinking back tears, Jillie lathered up her hands with the harsh soap. She stared out the window, blind to everything—even the ladybug watching from the sill—until the warmth of her grandmother’s hands on her shoulders brought her back to the room.
“Look at the wee coccinelle, come to say hello,” Nana whispered in her ear, before returning to the kitchen table.
Jillie focused on the ladybug’s brilliant orange coat. She counted the dots decorating its back then looked past the insect to Nana’s corner of the garden where she had dreamed away the morning, surrounded by cheerful daisies and elegant columbine and blousy, show-off peonies. Little by little, she felt herself return.
She concentrated until she could feel the earth pressing against her back, the sun warm on her face. She smelled the mint crushed beneath her abandoned weed bucket, felt the rose-scented breeze lifting her hair. Filled once again with Nana’s garden, she cocked her head and listened. Deep and wide, in an inside-out kind of way.
She listened beneath the birdsong, above the bee buzz, around and through the heat-rippled air until her ears opened to the humming grass . . . the singing flowers . . . and, finally, to the trees whispering her name.
We’re here, Jilliebean.
She tuned in to the shimmering poplars shading Nana’s garden bench.
We have all sorts of secrets to share, Little One. Are you willing to listen?
The same joy that had propelled Jillie into the house welled up inside her again, but this time she didn’t let it carry her away. Her steps were measured and careful as she returned to the table. Nana slid a ball of dough toward her. She reached for it, not daring to look up.
When Mother took her dough to the warming oven, Nana leaned over until she was eye to eye with her granddaughter. She smoothed back the child’s fly-away hair and whispered, “They talk to me, too, Jilliebean.”
Jillie’s heart leapt. Did the sun and moon talk to Nana, too? That sound, like softly chiming bells, was that faeriesong? What were the grasshoppers always going on about?
Every inch of her sparked with curiosity but, held by her grandmother’s sheltering love, Jillie willed herself to wait. She kneaded her questions into the dough in front of her, lips curved in the smile of a secret shared.