A brisk breeze floats off the Lake, sending chills through those assembled to hear my story.
As I take my place at the center of the town square, I’m thrilled to see that the crowd has grown from last year. It’s no big surprise; the Festival of the New Year has grown steadily as time has passed. Still, though, my spirits soar as I take my seat. It’s the rocking chair from my porch at home, a saddlebag hanging from the right arm and a lumpy cushion on the seat.
“Welcome, welcome,” I say over the din of the gathered crowd, settling into the lumps that have developed just so from the years I’ve spent gazing over the heads of those who listen to my stories. Heads of children, hanging onto my every word as they look up at me, eyes wide with wonder. Heads of adults, nodding as fond memories of years past reach them as the same words from their childhood grace their ears once again. Heads of wheat, black in the evening sun as I sit rocking, looking past my porch railing, past the rolling cropland, at the mountains, beyond which lay the very story I’m about to recount.
The real hush doesn’t take the square until I remove a worn notebook from the saddlebag at my side. “Ah, we know who really holds the stories, do we?” A smile spreads across my face. “Well, seeing as my voice is considerably louder than this old book’s, you’ll have to make do with what I have to say.”
Even those in the back smile, and I settle into an easy rhythm, rocking my chair forward and back as the words begin to flow freely. I gesture to the small garden behind me. “You all know we can only grow the Black Wheat in these parts. I see some unfamiliar faces, though, so let me let you in on the secret. It’s the snow. I’ve never heard of anywhere in this world that gets as much snow as we do. Something to do with the lake and the mountains, though I’m no expert. What I can tell you is that without the snow, there’s no Black Wheat, and no Black Wheat means a whole host of bad things.”
I let them wonder about that one for a few moments, opening the book and tenderly leafing through it. “I’ve read every page of this journal no less than five times, most parts considerably more, and still I get chills when I think of what they risked. Everybody nice and warm?” It’s a real question, and when I see the people decide they’ll be comfortable for a while, I begin.