It was time to leave this place and I hoped it would be forever.
I could feel the fingers of the ghosts of the Frenchmen's Mill grasping at my soul, clawing at my memory as I hurried my steps back to that warmer place that now seemed I left so long ago.
They were but figures on the fire's far side, their faces carrying on a silent conversation back and forth, my Grandfather and the pilgrim widow down from the Northwoods. They had a peaceful joy upon their faces, like old, old friends reliving a lifetime once more together. As my awareness left them there, my eyes began to follow the sparks rising from the fire. It was then - I could not believe I had not noticed it before - I realized the stars had come back to life, released from the cover of the snowfall clouds. I spun myself around upon the logs on which I sat to shade my eyes from the campfire's blaze. The sky was full of stars and as my eyes slowly became nightime eyes, the stars became more and more, a sea of stars. Ah! Look! A shooting star crashing in from the northern west, like a campfire spark descending ... a moving ember in radiant glory until its dying moment.
I noticed that when the stars come out on a freezing night, the freshly fallen snow seems to come alive - as if wintry angels had flown by powdering the snow with diamond dust. The snowfields looked like an enchantment had come upon them. The snowfield looked like Creation as done in wintertime, innocent, reborn, renewed, virgin purity waiting for the first footsteps of fallen man.
"Boy, the fire. Tend to the fire if you would." My grandfather's voice rose well above the quiet conversation. Apparently some time had passed while I was wandering through the stars for the campfire was now in its ebb. I worked three small logs into the fire, but they did not seem to catch the fire themselves. So I leaned inch by inch into the heat of the retiring fire and then let my warm breath blow first gently then more heartily over the glowing embers. With each breath the fire hidden in the embers rose back to life, more and more, until they had become a fire again.
In a most modest way, I felt like God.
Across the fire, the two old souls stood up. They seemed to exchange solemn, sacred words, that required them to become close and holy whispers. They embraced. Then pulled apart, but not to the point of losing touch with one another. One last wistful gaze, yes, it seemed to me to be THE last gaze they might ever share. A sad turn and with a sad look across the fire, I knew it was time to go. We left that campfire with only one look back.. The widow waved. We went on, traveling within our little overlapping circles of lantern light.
The further the campfire was left behind, the more the cold wind began to fight its way into our souls.