As my Grandfather went for the lantern, my eyes returned to the owls above. They answered my gaze with a slow-turning gaze of their own, pouring the golden blaze of their eyes upon me. They blinked twice, together.
You would think this would ignite fear in a young lad's soul, but no, it sent signals of peace to that place so deep within that it feels like warm comfort, through and through, all the way through.
The added light of my grandfather's lantern sent the owls back into the shadows above. "Grandfather, there are owls up there!"
Lifting his lantern, "So there are. So there are. We must not tarry too long." With that, we moved on.
Have you ever noticed how a lantern carried in the night makes the road reappear? Steps that before were carefully placed into the unknown ahead, now become strides made in new confidence along the little light-filled future that comes into view. Yet the abounding darkness is still there, merely pushed a few steps further away. The monsters of unknown still may lurk out there, and the world of darkness still stretches long and far. But I suppose that is in the nature of all enlightenment -- at best, it lights but the next few steps, and for we mortals that seems sufficient enough.
The rattle of the wood planks beneath our feet suddenly became that powdery crunch of snow giving way to the weight of one's steps. The path turned to follow the course of the creek, westward. The sound of the creek was there to be heard, though because of the ice, it was but the sound of an intermittent trickle, the sound of melting waters.
And we walked on, maybe one thousand steps, one step at a time, talking, listening, then thinking, back and forth, the old voice of many, many years, and the young voice of many, many years to come.
We talked of the maples and how we remembered the enchantment of working in the steaming, boiling, out-deep-in-the-woods-far-from-home maple sugar shack, eating snowballs flavored with that sweet, sweet syrup.
We talked of the stars that played hide-and-seek among the tree limbs and how the stars always seem brighter when the air is frosty cold, when the air seems filled with crystals.
We talked of the flagstone fences and how in the passing of time, they come into being, pulled from the good earth by the farmer's plow, and how they never seemed to fall down, in spite how haphazard they seemed, unordered, unplanned, simply gathered and placed.
We talked of snowflakes and snowdrifts, even snowballs, and how they are of the stuff eternal, the inevitablefascination of every generation of mittened young ones, probably back to the dawn of them all. I asked if it snowed in heaven. My Granddad said, "I suppose it might, if you wanted it to."
We talked and we listened and we gave it all some thought, as we made our way along the path lit by the light of forever, cast by swaying lanterns in the hands of two, one old man remembering when he was young, a young man imagining when he would be old.