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ELOWEN - ALWYN GORNALL


Her laughter and song would carry on the breeze and dance with the dawn chorus. With Cullen, she walked across these fields and through these woods lightly, following the natural trails; documenting the plants and animals and how they interacted and supported each other. That is how they worked their small area of land on the edge of the woodland: working with nature; being sensitive to their impact in this place.

The chrysalis moves in a quick jerking action. Cullen watches intently as the casing splits. A small crack at first, then longer and wider until it bursts open in a rainbow of colours. Everything is squashed together. It looks helpless, hanging from the leaf stem, waiting for the sun’s warmth. The wings slowly open and quiver. Cullen looks in wonder as the butterfly breaks away and zig-zags through the air, between the trees, following some imprinted map, until it is out of sight, and he immediately feels that recurring sense of loss.

It's always the same. The same as that devastating day when Elowen faded away as fast as a morning mist under a hot sun. As Cullen held her hand for the last time, he felt the pulse of life leave her. Since that day he wears the loss like a heavy woolen blanket.

Two years becoming accustomed to a new, solitary, routine. Up at dawn to feed the animals and inspect the crops – following their natural cycle of life and death. Repairs to fencing and buildings – watching their decline and renewal. Wandering through the forest – absorbing its energy, soaking up birdsong, breathing in the smell of bark, leaves, flower, and feeling the caress of air as it flows through time. Each day he became closer to nature and now he feels part of it. He stays for as long he can. He’s even made himself a shelter of branches, moss, and leaves, where he sleeps most nights during spring, summer, and early autumn.

Today, Cullen sits in the hollow between two tree roots that thrust out from the trunk of a great oak and plunge deep into the earth. A large chrysalis hangs from a sprig of ivy. Its outer coating is hard and rippled like goat horn. It starts to quiver and swing as the butterfly pushes against the hard shell. A split appears at the bottom then widens as it opens along the edge. It breaks away from the ivy, falling onto dry, compact earth. The chrysalis bursts open and a butterfly rolls into a dust hollow. It lays still, curled up into a tight ball. A breeze flows through the trees and a rain of dew drops falls onto the still body. There’s a slight movement and the wings start to spread – as they stretch out, they become slender arms; delicate fingers open to feel the cool forest air. The body unfurls and two legs stretch out. Elowen stands up with her back to him and shakes her head. Her hair streams out and tumbles over her shoulders, pulsating with a rainbow of colours in the dappled sunlight. Her skin shimmers with the green and brown shades of Mother Nature. She turns, smiles, and as she takes his hand; Cullen feels the woolen blanket fall away. She leads him through the trees, lightly; becoming one with the forest.

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