Welcome to an excerpt from Installment the Seventh of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel, in which a reminder is given of the meaning of wonder.
It would take them near a week to reach Svarthol, and Penelope felt her nerves grating against each other when she thought of all that time. She wondered how many of their neighbors and friends had also fallen prey to the wasting freeze, and she burned with anger at the way Denagon had perverted the beauty of winter into something that could only be understood as unforgiving and brutal.
There is a harshness to winter, it is true, but there is also a stillness that prepares the way for new life. To acknowledge one and reject the other is to rob winter of all its fullness and remarkable grace.
Yet, hearts often grow dismayed during the long stretches of winter nights; Penelope Grace watched it happen to those she loved and had fought against the sharpness of despair herself. She felt a growing desire to defend, not only the beauty of winter itself but also the hearts of all who struggled to find joy during this time of year. She wanted to fight against Denagon’s attacks and keep him from succeeding in his destructive work.
Uncle Alex had said she was created to weave joy and delight – wonder – into people’s lives, and now, when so many lives were at risk of freezing straight through, could she do any less than what he said? No matter how impossible, she must try, and with this thought fueling her, Penelope Grace walked purposefully through Ellura, hardly seeing the beauty of the world around her through the first day of travel.
Aira watched her closely. She feared what determination might do to the girl, for she had seen for herself the way that a desire to save could undo a human. But she held her tongue for the moment, watching still, but patiently.
On the second day of their journey, she separated from the company, believing that a particular grove was nearby and that such a place might spark something different in Penelope’s heart. By evening the wolf returned, her supposition proven right. As the sky darkened and countless stars winked into sight, Aira and Penelope left the campsite and wound their way through the forest.
“Aira, where are we going?” Penelope asked, wanting only to rest after two days of unfamiliar exertion.
“Hush, child,” the wolf replied, her tone kind but firm. “You’ll scare them off.”
Penelope Grace tried her best to remain silent from that point on, but the snowy ground had turned to hoar frost beneath her feet, and each footfall betrayed her with a loud crunch. Despite her own difficulties, Aira somehow had no trouble walking silently through the snow, and Penelope thought to herself how grateful she was that the wolf was not her enemy.
After some time, they came to the edge of a small grove, one that Penelope would have certainly missed for the trees were quite close together in this part of the forest. Carefully now, she tiptoed to the edge of the grove and peered beyond the branches, hurrying to stifle an awestruck gasp as she did so.
The plants, grass, and trees themselves – every inch of this wintry grove – were all covered in beautifully crisp frost. This sanctuary in the heart of the forest was cloaked in blue light, though Penelope Grace could not find its source; it seemed to emanate softly from everything and everyone present as if they were reflecting the light of a silver-blue sun.
At first, she could not discern details, but soon Penelope noticed beautiful small figures gliding through the air.
She thought that frost fairies populated the grove, but when she leaned down to quietly ask Aira, the wolf corrected her. “Snow sprites. Similar in nature, but with a beauty quite their own. Now, look.”
Penelope edged as close as she dared to the smallest of gaps in the trees where she might see the snow sprites more closely. To her delight, several were beginning to swirl through the snow as they circled the grove, and they flew quite close.
Each snow sprite wore beautiful, deep blue gowns, etched with frost and shimmering with the clearing’s light. Their hair was silvery-white, and their skin a pale blue. There seemed to be hundreds of them, and as they all flew about the grove, they began to hum the most enchanting tune.
You can almost hear it, can’t you? Like the melody from a favorite music box that you can’t quite remember, but nevertheless, remains with you.
Penelope listened, not daring to make a sound.
The snow sprites slowly gathered around a frozen pool in the center of the grove. The sound of their melody stayed soft as each took their turn in gliding across the pool’s frozen surface, leaving behind a precise etching in the ice. As every snow sprite made their simple contribution, they left the grove behind them, and they continued in this way until the frost-covered sanctuary stood empty.
Penelope looked questioningly at Aira, and the wolf gave her a slight nod, indicating it was safe now to enter the grove. She stepped carefully through the small gap and approached the pool, gasping to see the impossibly intricate snowflake traced into its icy surface.
“Their winter dance is a yearly tradition of the snow sprites. They travel from all across Ellura to make their contribution to the snowflake.”
“It’s beautiful, Aira. But why do they do it?” Penelope asked.
The wolf looked up at her intently before answering. “It is a celebration to honor the One who made them, to rejoice in the delight and wonder of being created.”
Aira fell silent, but then met Penelope’s gaze earnestly. “You see, Penelope Grace, it is not so much that you are living in wonder. It is Who you are living in wonder of.”
At this, the wolf turned, and Penelope Grace followed, feeling once again the conviction that she had just heard words that were worthy of remembering.
What are you in living in wonder of, reader?
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