Winter Sky

Winter sky Feast day of Saint Ethelgiva of Shraftsbury, the 11th year in the reign of King Richard II

Jack sat with his chin on his hands and his arms lying on the sill, gazing out the window.

“Isn’t it a bit cold for that?” I asked him.

“Aye, Master,” he said, barely moving.

I walked to the window to see what he was staring at. Autumn had long since given way to winter, and there was that peculiar look to the skies–a gray wash with an undertone of rose–that seems to characterize the season. A wedge of geese move through that expanse, the lead taking his charges in a decidedly southern direction. I have always wondered where they go. Perhaps Jack was wondering himself, and hoping to go with them.

“Daydreaming, Jack?”

“Aye, Master,” he said with a deep sigh. “Here’s another winter upon us. Is it meant to go on and on like this, year after year?”

“It’s a bit early in the season for languor, is it not?”

Jack turned toward me. “It might be…if I knew what that meant.”

“Bored. Dull. World-weary.”

“Oh. I’m none of those things, Master. It’s just that…it was the same last year, wasn’t it? And the year before.”

“Winter is a slow time for our kind of business, Jack.”

“I know. So you have said. But…” He sighed again. “We must do something.”

“‘Something’? What do you suggest?”

Suddenly his eyes were alight. “What they done at the Boar’s Tusk! Master Langton brought in green boughs. It brightened up the place with its color and scent. Why can’t we do that, Master?”

I couldn’t help but smile. “You wish to wash away the gray of Advent? Should we not rather be in contemplation of our souls at this solemn time of year?”

“Oh I contemplate me soul all the time! But a bit of green. That would make all a bit merry. While we were, er, praying and all.”

I studied him and the energy now suddenly simmering below the surface. The boy was likely to explode out that window if he wasn’t allowed to do something. “And just where would we get this greenery, and more to the point, how much will it cost me?”

“Never fear that, Master. I know of a man…I could get it now.”

Of course he did. I shook my head and he followed my movement with great intensity. Finally, I could stand it no more. “Go on, then, you knave. Bring greenery to our home, if you must.”

He jumped to his feet and his face split with a smile. “I’ll be back anon, Master. And I’ll spice some wine on my return!” He was at the door in no time and vanished like a breath. His steps thundered down the stairs until they were suddenly gone and I shook my head in amusement for not the first time.

And now I was leaning in the window, staring out toward the bleak rooftops, their curls of smoke from chimneys, and barren trees just beyond them. And at that vast sky with its promise of snow waiting to create more bleakness upon the landscape. Perhaps a bit of greenery would not go amiss.