I sat on a log, which was once a tree, and now was becoming a part of the forest floor. It is quiet, except for the occasional rustle of branches, high above, bowing out from trees not yet ready to surrender to the earth. Nothing moves. It is still, except for the rising and falling of my breath. I stare, thoughtless, into an open clearing, covered with fallen needles and moss and browning, curling leaves.
I turned, startled, as a tornado-like whirl of colors burst through the trees in a spinning rush of energy. The whirlwind reeled to an abrupt stop. In its place stood a young girl, elfin yet statuesque. She stood motionless for a moment, then knelt, winding herself into a smooth, round ball.
As suddenly as the little dancer had ceased her movement, she began again. She sprang into the air like a kitten, leaping and reaching, dashing and darting, after some invisible playmate whom only she could see. Silver-blonde ringlets chased after her as she twirled, they played leap-frog across her nose, and bounced from ear to ear when she ran. At the edge of the circle clearing, she paused, then plunged into a graceful cascade of backward flips, rounding, as though in a single sweeping movement, the open forest floor. Her feet and hands scarcely brushed the ground and nearly skimmed the tree limbs above. The field was like a buoyant trampoline beneath her, propelling her weightlessly toward the sky before she even touched the earth. She looped so rapidly through the air that her arms and legs seemed to criss-cross and blur into one. The little dancer’s clothing swirled into ribbons of purple and red and pink and orange.
At the other edge of the forest, she pivoted and planted her feet firmly upon the ground. She held her chin high. Her shoulders were narrow, but square. The dancer’s slight stature belied the powerfully trained muscles, hidden beneath her oversized sweater and trousers. She stood, still as a statue, slightly turning her ear as though listening for a soundless upbeat to reanimate her, to cue her back onto her private, forested dance floor.
In the next instant, the dancer’s body relaxed. She turned and walked soundlessly into the forest, then reappeared seconds later, holding something in her hands. She dropped to the grassy floor and pulled her feet, crossed, beneath her. I watched as she slipped a pair of thick glasses onto her face, then pulled a book open in her lap. For the first time since her performance began, I was able to see clearly the little dancer’s soft features.
Her face was round as a pumpkin, and a row of dainty, pink freckles bridged a path from cheek to cheek, across her slender nose. Even the thickness of her glasses could not hide her enormous, golden-brown eyes. As she tipped her head down to read, her glasses slid to the end of her nose. She scrunched her nose into folds, coaxing her glasses back into place. Her chin seemed to blend into the fullness of her cheeks, which pouched like those of a chipmunk with a jawful of nuts.
The little dancer had been transformed into stillness and serenity. I hardly recognized her as the same, lively figure which had flown and spun through the air, just moments before. I wondered who she was and what she was like. Disrupting her peace seemed wrong, so I quietly slid from my hidden perch on the mossy log and stole, invisibly, into the forest, leaving the stillness for the little dancer to know.
©Janet Mitchell, October 2011