(Author’s Note: This read is less than five minutes, just in case…).
On Mondaymorning, while olive oil heated in her favorite skillet, Mary broke a white, pasture-raised egg into a glass bowl, picked up her whisk, and froze. She was hungry. Did she want two eggs? Deciding she did, she whacked the second on the edge of the bowl.
Her hand slipped.
The top half of the shell fell into the bowl with the first egg. The other half, the half with most of the egg, dropped onto the counter. The yolk broke and bled into the sticky whites which slowly dripped onto the floor.
She grabbed the bowl with one hand and held it under the dripping egg while she scooped the slimy whites, yolk, and shell into the bowl with the other. Then she grabbed a cloth and wiped the counter.
“What a mess,” she thought.
She reached into the bowl to fish out the shells….
Mary stood in front of the stove with an empty skillet in her hand. She set it on a back burner and poured approximately one tablespoon of olive oil in the pan. Then she turned the gas under the burner on low, and went to the porch to retrieve the egg carton from her refrigerator.
While the olive oil in the skillet heated, she broke a pasture-raised white egg into the glass bowl, stared at it for a moment, then decided she wanted two eggs. She whacked the second on the edge of the bowl.
At that moment, her hand spasmed.
One-half of the shell fell into the bowl with the first egg. The other half dropped onto the counter. The yolk broke and bled into the sticky whites which slowly dripped onto the floor.
“Sheee-it,” she said.
She grabbed the bowl and with one hand, held it under the dripping egg….
Mary sipped at her coffee wondering what to cook for breakfast….
The coffee finished dripping. Mary reached for her favorite mug. It was in the sink with yesterday’s grounds. She squirted a drop of Dawn Antibacterial Apple Blossom scented soap into it. She did not wait for any hot water because the soap claimed to be antibacterial. She quickly scrubbed the mug, rinsed it, and dried the outside before she filled it with coffee.
She sipped her coffee as she walked to the refrigerator to grab a carton of eggs, which she set upon the counter before grabbing a small iron skillet. She set it on a back burner and poured approximately one tablespoon of olive oil in the pan. Then she turned the burner on low. While it heated, she cracked one egg into a small glass bowl. “Should I eat two eggs,” she said to absolutely no one….
Where had the days and nights gone? It was already Friday and Mary couldn’t remember a single event except the broken eggs on her counter. Oh. She was tired and hungry.
She oozed out of bed, wondering why in the world she should be so exhausted. She slumped to the kitchen and filled the water kettle. She pushed the switch to heat the water, grabbed the small French press on the counter and measured exactly three precisely filled scoops of Peet’s French Italian dark roast into the small thermal press.
While she waited for the water to heat, she wondered if it would be fun to mix it up this particular morning. Maybe pancakes would be more fun than a couple of fried eggs would. She walked to the back porch hoping she still had a bag of Bob’s Redmill Gluten-free pancake mix.
She hunted both the cold box and the freezer units. There was no pancake mix, so she grabbed the carton of eggs, walked back into the kitchen and set it onto the counter.
The water pot clicked off, so she filled her press and set the timer for four minutes to brew the dark roast.
Grabbing her favorite skillet for frying eggs….
While Mary lay in bed, she thought about the weekend ahead of her and hoped….
When I woke in the morning, I could feel it. A miracle was coming. My heart wanted me to see the full eclipse of the super moon in Scorpio. I looked out my window. Overcast. I would see it only if the clouds in the sky moved on. I wished with all my will for a strong breeze to push them along.
As the day slipped by, my anticipation grew. Something would change tonight. I felt sure of it. Whether I witnessed it or not would be another story, but if I couldn’t see it with my own eyes, I could still sit under the canopy of the sky and feel it…maybe.
Ghrian set late. His orange arms wrapped the sky for one last hug as he slipped beyond the Pacific horizon.
Ghealach lan was exasperatingly slow to rise. I did not know the exact location she would appear, and I didn’t want to miss anything so I did not wait on my property for a chance to see her through the branches that umbrella my yard. Instead, I walked up and down the hill trying to glimpse her from a view that was not obstructed by tall trees.
My cats wondered what I was up to and sat on the front stairs watching me crest the rise, disappear, and then reappear.
My neighbors must have wondered, “What’s up with her,” because ordinarily I keep to myself. This moon was drawing me out, asking me to venture forth, to witness…something. I had to go.
I made several trips waiting…waiting…waiting. Would she rise above the Sierra Nevada in time for me to see this event?
Finally, the imperative to walk away from my property to a place up the street paid off. Ghealach lan rose slowly, peering through the trees which sat on a higher point of the hill to the southeast.
It took forever to show her entire face. I sat and prepared to wait. People were out. I could hear their voices, but no one came down the road upon which I sat. The sky was clear. I was a grateful witness.
My faithful black cat, venturing out of his territory to check on me, wondered what I was doing sitting in the road. I pulled him into my lap and said, “I am safe. I can’t go home. I have to be here.”
Time stopped as Ghealach lan floated higher against the black sky. Purpose obscured her light. She looked like a dull, orange marble floating in a black sea. I felt her stealth, a wolf taking her place as guardian of the pack. Her energy increased, though her light did not. She prepared for something….
Slowly, she inched toward the zenith until she settled within the ‘v’ between two trees.
As I gazed, my heart reached toward her. Blood stilled in my veins. I held my breath. Even the twinkling stars fell quiet.
Shadows trembled around me, rising one by one.
“Come,” said Ghealach lan. “Your time here is done.”
Releasing their hold on Earth, shadows slowly rose at her bidding. They swirled through the air, catching zephyrs as they followed an inescapable impulse to join her.
My bones loosened. I felt my energy sink into the Earth. Shadows long wrapped around me let loose.
“Come,” said Ghealach.
My shadows drifted toward the heavy darkness that swirled toward the moon. She gathered them one by one, accepting each as a long lost child. When she grew heavy with their darkness, she silently slipped away, leaving the sky and my heart to grieve her disappearance.
Intellectually, I know what happened in that brief instance, but I prefer the magic. I could no longer see her or feel the comfort of knowing she was there, hovering watchfully above us. In my heart, I saw her release each shadow to the Universe, Itself a willing swallower of sorrows. As the shadows slipped from Ghealach’s grasp, her face, a mere promise of orange against the matted sky, became visible to a sharp eye watching for her.
I breathed a prayer, “Thank you, Seanmhair.”
She had willingly taken my shadows from me.
They had answered her command.
I heard her say, “From this moment, your life is forever changed.”
I folded my hands against my heart and took a deep breath. Then I bowed as I felt the gravity of that.
Slowly, her dull orange face glowed brighter.
I slipped back whence I came, to the shelter of my trees and my home.
As the world increasingly challenges our senses of stability and well-being, an intentional daily recharge of spiritual, emotional, intellectual and physical batteries is a necessity. Most of us have ways of making our lives pleasurable and happier, but we do it far too tight-fistedly. Often, we indulge in seeking to recharge only when the Universe presents us with an opportunity.
I want to throw down a challenge. Spend at least 66 days making a conscious decision to do things that recharge your batteries.
When I was a working person I intently focused on my job, I focused on being a single parent providing for a family, I focused on maintaining my place within my community; I did not focus on myself, nor did I take care of recharging my metaphorical batteries. When I retired in June of 2020, I kept the pace, because my primary reason for retiring when I did, was to give myself more energy and time for writing. Admittedly, I enjoy writing, but I was used to working at 120%, many times beyond my energy reserves, so I pushed myself.
I forgot what fun was for me. I didn’t know how to have fun. I resigned myself to thinking I was a person who just didn’t have fun. I tried to trick myself trying to find the fun in my new “job” of being retired. However, I soon suffered the effects of “burn-out.”
I had to stop to rethink this.
When one has had a long life of working, especially in a career of service to others, it is hard to stop.
Stopping became my goal.
I lazed around for weeks.
At first I felt worthless. Then, something magical began to happen. I found activities that, while not productive, were extremely enjoyable. I began to let go of my taciturn seriousness, to experience tiny frissons of joy that bubbled up from time to time. They were delicious.
Eleven days ago, I accepted a 30-Day Challenge to Fill My Cup. The idea was to do something that made me excited and energized every day, to find things to do for myself that made me feel happy and satisfied with life.
The first day, March 21st I drew pictures from memory of someone I love. It pleased me. The images didn’t have to be perfect because I was drawing from memory, and I really wanted to do it. The project made me excited. That excitement colored other things I did that day.
The second day I baked cookies for breakfast. Then I treated myself to a movie – Pitch Perfect. It was ‘perfect’ because it reminded me how much I used to love singing “a cappella.” I found things to love about the whole day.
The third day, I drove country roads on my way to a tax preparer’s appointment. The scenery was breathtakingly beautiful. It set the mood for a meeting to discuss a subject about which I was worried, this being the first tax season as a non-salaried person with a home-based business. I was so relaxed from driving that the meeting was wonderful and I didn’t have to pay extra tax fees.
The fourth day I foraged my yard for greens. Being a Reluctant Gardener, I had to try what nature was offering. I can assure you “lawn eating” is enjoyable and satisfying. I also began to notice something else. Little things that used to bother me, no longer bothered me.
I was getting used to sitting on my stump to meditate. I had the pleasure of watching ladybugs hunt together. So interesting.
I continued the practice of “filling my cup.”
I’d to share a couple of stories:
On that Friday, five days into the practice, I woke somewhat disconnected with Earth and still very much in that weird dream state between waking and sleeping. I couldn’t let go. I needed to let go because I had a “date” with some artist friends to work in an open studio situation. I love to work with others. I had to release the disassociated state I was in so it would be safe to drive. I was somewhat successful. When I got into my car, the battery was COMPLETELY dead.
Oh no. There was no time to deal with this.
Truth be told, I wasn’t completely sure it was safe for me to drive. Maybe this was the Universe’s way of keeping me off the road. I called one friend to explain my situation. She was sad, and suggested I call another for a ride. Then she amended her statement and said, “Of course, I will understand if you would rather take care of your car.”
Hell no. I didn’t want to deal with my car. I wanted to draw. With people. In an open studio. Chatting about life.
Why was this happening?
Wait a minute. I don’t have to put up with this.
I called another friend.
“Hey. Have you left yet?”
“Yes,” she replied. My heart sank.
“Where are you?” I timidly asked.
“I am at the end of my drive.”
“I’m calling because I don’t think I’m going to make it today. My car is dead.”
“I’ll come pick you up.”
Oh, thank God. I wanted to fill my cup with time spent with my art friends doing art, and telling stories.
“Oh, thank you,” I said. And then I added, “I don’t think I should be driving today anyway. I am having trouble letting go of Elsewhere,” which I knew she understood as me unable to release a state of being not quite in the world.
“I’ll be there in a few.”
I understood I needed to call services to get my car fixed, especially since it was Friday, but I just didn’t want to. I wasn’t ready to face the hassle, and I thought, who cares. I’m retired now. I can wait until Monday. My old self saw this as extremely irresponsible and for a moment, I wavered. Fortunately, my new, cup-full self was extremely excited to forget about the car and go have some fun.
Then magic happened after the art session later that afternoon.
On our way home, my friend and I joked about the car. “You should try to start it before you call anyone. You know how you are.”
I did. When I was working in an office, no one would let me use the copy machine because somehow my energy always shut it down. So, it was possible that my being in a dissociative state could shut down the car. That is magical thinking, but it was worth contemplating to avoid the hassle of finding help for a dead battery. We laughed.
The first thing I did was try the car. Nope. Battery stone cold dead. Oh well.
Instead of calling Triple A, I called the local mechanic’s shop because the week before this one, my daughter had a car break down and the local mechanic wasn’t taking cars for about a month because he was so busy. There was no point calling for a jump-start or tow unless I had somewhere to take the car to replace the battery.
The receptionist answered. “Yes. We can see you right away. Let me check if we have a battery.” She came back to the phone. “We have one battery left. You are in luck. Come on in.”
“Wow. Thank you.”
I had to call Triple A. My daughter’s experience the past week was that Triple A couldn’t come until the next day. I was calling late on a Friday afternoon. It was possible there wouldn’t be a driver available. I would find out, and then call the auto shop to make an appointment for another day if needed.
“Yes. We can send someone within the hour,” the receptionist at Triple A said.
“Wonderful.” I felt very lucky.
Then she said, “We will let the driver decide if you need a tow or not. That way, your tally for services isn’t affected.”
“Thank you,” I said, amazed at her generosity and feeling very cared for.
I called the auto shop to confirm whether or not they could see me in an hour, and if not to make a plan for a drop-off. I received a go-ahead. Within five minutes, the Triple A driver confirmed he was on his way and expected ETA was fifteen minutes.
Wow. Events were lining up.
I opened the car to raise the hood.
When he got here, he attached the charger, and told me to turn on the car. As I did, the horn began beeping. Nothing we did turned it off. The driver disconnected the charger, then frantically hunted for the circuit to the alarm. He found it, disconnected it, and the annoying repetitive blast of noise went away. However, the lights continued to flash.
The car easily charged, indicating the alternator was okay. I drive a Honda. Repairs can get expensive so this was a welcome relief.
“You can drive to the auto shop now.”
“The flashing won’t matter?” I said.
We exchanged pleasantries and he started to leave. I jumped into my car.
I could not engage the gearshift.
I thought, “Oh my god. I must have jammed it when I put it into park. My hands just aren’t strong enough to disengage it.”
I jumped out of my car and attempted to wave down the driver. He did not see me and crested the hill. Where was my mild state of panic? I ran though I am not a fast runner.
A car pulled over the crest of the hill coming the other way. The man inside saw me running, madly waving to the Triple A driver. He honked and yelled to the driver of the tow truck. I heard him say, “That woman is trying to get your attention.”
The driver came back.
This was becoming a huge, weird, and exciting synchronous adventure of collaboration.
Like me, he could not disengage the shift. Neither of us could drive it. The anti-theft device had turned on. He would have to tow it.
I am a person who loves to collaborate. I am energized by it. This experience felt like a storm when the electricity goes out. Everyone scurries to find and light candles and life goes on a little more exciting than it was before the blackout. That driver didn’t usually let patrons ride in his truck, but by this time neither of us was willing to let go of this adventure. Riding in that truck was a fantastic experience.
When we arrived at the auto shop, the head mechanic taught us how to disengage a Honda’s anti-theft device. Since I like driving Hondas and the Triple A driver has to frequently deal with them, we were both pleased to learn this.
Then the mechanic drove my car into the work area to change the battery. Amazingly, the dead battery was still under warranty. Not only was my battery replaced that evening, I didn’t have to pay for it.
Wow. Just – wow.
Within these eleven days, there have been several upheavals in my life.
For instance, I was so jazzed by the challenge so far, the next day I decided to pull inedible weeds from my yard. There were only a few: patches of foxtail (also dangerous for animals), inedible thistles, oat grass, tar weed (yuck). I worked too long, and because of the way I am built, dislocated two ribs. Normally, pain like this would send me down a rabbit hole of despair that lasted for weeks as I struggled to work and maintain a provider lifestyle while fighting excruciating pain. This time, I selfishly treated myself to complete convalescence. Instead of wallowing and worrying, I learned how to work around the pain by focusing on the ball of energy that roars like a small sun within my core. I did the exercises I had to do. I concentrated on relaxing the distressed tendons and ligaments. I thanked the pain for reminding about correct posture. I learned to appreciate spending time to care of self.
My ribs slipped back into place within three days, but I knew I still needed to be mindful of the way I moved because they weren’t completely settled into their sockets.
That night, when one of my cats wanted in, I opened the door for her. She ran through my legs. I carefully turned to watch her run through the house toward the sunroom where my cats eat and she sleeps.
“Oh good grief.”
A tail was dangling from her mouth. That morning when I went out to greet the day, I noticed a small liver under my feet before I stepped on it. I cleaned it up and found a tail to go with it. I didn’t mind because it meant the cats were keeping the place free of mice.
But this cat chose to bring one inside with her.
Normally, this would have sent me into a tizzy. However, my cup was full because of my practice of intentionally filling it. A dead or live mouse in the house was not going to intimate me.
As expected, when I got to the sunroom, she had dropped the mouse and was imploring me to feed her.
The big black cat was already in the room waiting for dinner. He was a renowned mouse and rat catcher. However, I guess he is respectful. It was the other cat’s catch. She had dropped it on the floor and was looking at me expectantly. The black cat sauntered over and sniffed the mouse’s nose. The mouse, whom I presumed to be dead, lifted his head and sniffed the black’s nose.
Then the black sat and stared at me, as if to say, “Well. This one’s for you.”
Oh dear. How was I going to deal with a mouse and not quite healed ribs?
I turned to the cat that had provided the mouse. “Thank you. Thank you so much. You are a mighty hunter.” I looked around me for something with which to catch the mouse. As I did this, the mouse jumped up and scurried under the hutch.
Geez. There was no way I could get on the floor to flush it out without disturbing my ribs.
However, the cats could.
I shut the door for the night, and went to bed. Okay, I know. Escapism.
Or recharging batteries.
Take your pick.
The next morning when I awoke, I expected to find body parts. I also knew I would have to clean the entire room. Was I physically up for it?
Huh. There were no mouse parts in the sunroom.
Both cats wanted breakfast. I quickly fed them. Both cats wanted out. I let them out.
I made coffee, resigned to hunting for a mouse. First, I was going to enjoy my warm morning, life affirming drink, meditate, get grounded, wake up fully – and I was going to fill my cup.
The big black wanted back in. I let him in. He quickly ran to the sunroom. I shut the door and returned to my coffee not ready to give up on my practice. My biggest fear was that the mouse had crawled under the refrigerator. I made mental plans about who to call if that was the case.
I loud clatter ensued from the sunroom. The mouse was still alive?
I went to check. The big black was chirping that strange little sound they make on the hunt. If he was right, the mouse was in the corner by the back door. I felt strong enough to move the small weight set, chair, and barrel that held my hiking, and walking sticks. As I moved items one my one, I thought, what will we do if it runs under the refrigerator. As I moved the barrel, the black struck. The mouse squeaked. I opened the door. The big black pranced outside with his catch. The skinny tail dangled from his mouth.
That cat was so proud of himself.
He was my king.
I was so proud to collaborate on a hunt.
My cup was completely full.
The hunt had totally recharged my batteries. I was ready to clean that entire room, which was necessary because the smell of mouse pee is very strong. It took me all day. Amazingly, sweeping and mopping the floor bit by bit actually popped my ribs completely back into place. Who knew?
I challenge each of you to find those things that recharge your batteries. People once thought that 21 days was enough to establish a new pattern. The new paradigm is 66 days. I plan to practice recharging my batteries every day for at least a year. I invite you to join me. What excites you? What gives you energy? What makes you want to get out of bed and get going? Do that. Do it often. Practice recharging diligently. I think you will find, like I did, that those things that once seemed so harrowing now seem like adventures. I think you will find your life bubbling with joy.
I look forward to hearing about your escapades as I continue to recharge my batteries day by day.
(Author’s Note: I originally wrote this piece in first person based on a dream I had in 2009. Published as a flash fiction called “Stop for Repair,” it appeared in an anthology called Wild Edges, edited by Monika Rose and F. Ted Laskin; Manzanita Writers Press, volume 6, 2010, pages 124-25. It is a story that is appropriate for the task before all of us today. I decided to rewrite it. As a writer, I wanted to practice writing in a gender-neutral point of view. As a blogger, I feel we must all be building and repairing bridges between each other. Let’s repair the bridges that span between us. Now is the time.)
Early afternoon rain tamped down any dust the wheels could have kicked up. Oak trees painted shadows that swayed across the road, which was more wagon trail than safe passage for a car. In front of Charlie and Sam, a rickety wooden bridge stretched across a bubbling stream.
Charlie stopped the car and stared at it.
Sam looked at Charlie; Charlie looked at Sam and shrugged.
“Well,” Sam said. “Do we turn around?” It was not the first time they had impulsively followed a rainbow through these hills, been stopped by some obstacle or another, to then retreat.
Charlie’s left eyebrow rose and a little smile wrinkled the corner of their mouth as they cut the engine. As Charlie slipped out to look at the bridge, the familiar twinkle of their eyes sparked just a little more. They scratched their head.
Sam watched warily as Charlie turned. When they caught each other’s eyes, Charlie’s expression did not give away any plan, though Sam knew the twinkle that resided there.
Charlie sauntered to the back of the car and opened the trunk. What were they up to?
They closed the trunk gently and stepped up to the passenger window.
Sam rolled it down.
Charlie said, “Come on. We have work.”
Work? What did they mean? That’s when Sam noticed Charlie held two hammers in their hand.
Sam glanced at the bridge. Hammers in the trunk – a coincidence? No way.
Charlie pushed the larger hammer toward Sam, who grabbed it, then fumbled and dropped it onto their hipbone. “Ouch.”
When Sam looked up, Charlie was walking toward the bridge.
Suspicious, they got out and followed them.
Charlie ambled across it, testing their weight here and there while Sam stood watching; waiting. The bridge rang an old song with each of Charlie’s steps. Charlie bent over and slammed the head of their hammer onto a board.
“Come on,” Charlie said, and began to pound nails.
Sam stepped onto the bridge and squatted to look for nails. The hammer dangled in their hand as they glared at Charlie. Would the car tires have fallen through the decking? The two of them could have chosen to walk across with no danger. Why did they stop to repair it?
Sam whacked the head of a nail below them. They heard a voice in their head ask, “When did these nails start loosening?” They hit another nail. Protest rose up in them. Sam wanted to argue…but words, suddenly erased from their mind, left them wondering. They looked at the brook dancing beneath the bridge. Was this bridge so old and tattered, it was wearing out? Was it dangerous?
Sam smacked another nail into place. Did Charlie see this bridge as their relationship: old, comfortable, and worn? Was it wearing out?
Was this relationship in danger?
Sam attacked loose nails in earnest.
The two worked together, pounding nails into an old bridge that needed tending.
The sun gently warmed their backs as they hammered, repairing that old bridge nail by nail.
As Charlie stopped to wipe sweat from their brow and lashes, a scrub jay swooped, surprising the two bridge tenders, scolding their noisy adventure.
They both jumped and then, laughed.
Each subsequent strike of a hammer pulled them closer, mending something indefinable. They tapped each board into place until the bridge, safe and sound, spanned comfortable between them.
As Charlie pounded the last nail into a weathered plank, Sam smiled.
Charlie smiled back.
Together they sat side by side in the middle of the bridge, dangling their feet over the edge, admiring their handiwork.
The sky blushed in rich golden reds. A silky evening breeze clattered through the leaves in the oak trees on the other bank. They stood and walked back to their vehicle.
Before settling in, Sam caught Charlie’s eye across the top of the car and smiled. Today was a good day.
Charlie nodded affirmation, and then threw Sam the keys.
What is the difference between being and non-being? Is it possible not to be? Virginia Woolf once described ‘non-being’ as unconscious living. For her it was “the cotton wool of daily life” that became unconscious living. Since daily living is mundane, I can see how it feels like cotton wool that shrouds one moment to the next, unmemorable, unnoticed, forever passed, never to be regained. What happens to us when we are conscious every minute? Is it even possible to hold onto conscious consideration every minute? Perhaps it is in paying attention to those moments that are magical that we find consciousness, or being, the easiest.
Virginia Woolf’s first memory of ‘being’ was as a child looking at a flower. As she studied it, the flower seemed to her more than flower, it was Earth as well and by looking at the flower she was also looking at all of the Earth and feeling her place as part of it all.
Could I pinpoint a definitive time when I realized the difference between “being” and “non-being?” Was there a first moment when life opened and I felt complete, part of the whole?
As a child, there are two possibilities; times I remember well enough to create a blog post. The first is a day when I was nine, and I put on prescription glasses for the first time. Trees were suddenly more than two-dimensional, giant green shadows. They had leaves, which intellectually I knew of course, but I didn’t see well enough to count their separateness until I saw individual leaves on individual branches as we drove past them on the way home from the optometrist. My mother graciously stopped the car so I could focus completely upon them. I saw separate lines of shadow, pulling each graceful branch into three-dimensional existence. I saw birds. I saw the movement of the wind as it rustled past all that was within a tree. Each tree was different, unique. Trees were amazing and everywhere. Life was miraculous!
The second time that I remember was the day I truly understood “being.” I had an encounter with a cricket….
My maternal grandmother’s yard was an adventure. It encircled her home, a reclaimed chicken coop rebuilt into a house by my grandfather’s love. Nestled in the middle of a quarter of an acre within the city limits of Stockton, California, it seemed to go on forever.
Innately aware of feng shui, my grandmother created room after outdoor room with unique fencing, hedges, gates and trellises, or simply turns of the building. The result was living art, and dreamlike. At fourteen, and labeled a magical thinker, I spent a lot of time outdoors appreciating her creation. Her yard was Wonderland within which a imaginative child could find freedom and peace.
One day, as I was sitting on the back steps leading to the innermost courtyard, I saw a cricket. To look at him, I may not have recognized him as such, but he scratched his wing with a back leg and created that familiar chirp that comforted me to sleep every night.
As I watched him chirp, and wave his antennae, I swear to you, he spoke to me. “Admire the geranium next to you.”
What? The geranium?
I looked to my left at a few squatty, plain green bushes. To my right, beyond him, was a leafy plant with a brilliant red-orange blossom reaching out of its foliage on a long straight stalk. What a pretty color, I thought. I didn’t know what a geranium was at the time, but the flower was beautiful and it was nearest the cricket, so I admired it.
At my side, the cricket chirped, his beautiful bell tone adding magic. Suddenly the slightest of vibrations frizzled around the edges of each blossom, a glow of dark that seemed to soften the solidness of each petal in the stark contrast. It was as if the petals were only a vibration of possible structure rather than coherently in this world. This caused the petals themselves to glow even more brightly as they seemingly strove to hold my attention.
Riveted, I no longer heard the cricket, or any other sound for that matter. I was totally absorbed as the geranium vibrated with red, with life, signaling a magnificence I could not at that time fully understand, except I knew a moment had opened a window onto life, how it manifests and comes into being. I sat in wonder at how beautiful it all was and how grateful I was to be witnessing it.
My grandmother knocked on the door before she opened it gently. I jumped when I felt it lightly touch my back.
“Time for lunch,” she said, quietly. Then she shut the door.
I didn’t look at her, though I could imagine her smiling at me as she shut it. Instead, I looked for my cricket friend to exclaim my discovery and to thank him. To my dismay, he had crawled into silent invisibility.
But that flower!
I didn’t forget that experience, even when adulting took me away from observing the world with such an open eye. Like all of us, the hustle of living during this time in the United States, and perhaps anywhere, stuffed cotton wool into my brain.
Later, when life slowed as it does as one ages, I began to see those vibrating edges again. I pointed them out to my art students, my math students, really, any student that took to staring at the geranium blossoms next to the entrance to the school for which I worked. Some of them claimed to see it, others didn’t. I hope someday they do.
I hope someday they can see the shadow where a fig tree plans to set fruit, or the joy that glitters around their dog, or the insect that lights up when a bird spots it. I hope they see the light around the people they meet, and smile because it is so beautiful. I hope they understand how beautiful they are.
This world is amazing. I hope each one of us takes a moment when a cricket insists we admire a geranium to watch as life vibrates around each petal’s edges where it meets the whole of Creation and says, “I am.” That is a moment of “being.”
I just noticed that last week’s title was about breath. We’re doing a lot of breath work in California right now.
I always get excited when I can share my blog space with other artists and writers. Lynnea Paxton-Honn teaches presence and oneness in meditation. An avid horsewoman she bridges the Tao of horse with the Tao of human. Her compassion is boundless, yet she considers herself a student. She joins me today in response to the title of a new song by Shari Anderson, shared on the evening of August 9th at our meeting of the Women Writers of the Well.
Lynnea Paxton-Honn, 8/9/2021
Sitting in meditation
Inhale and exhale,
Stretching exhale into silence,
Jump starting with inhale.
Is it me that is breathing?
And what part of me?
How often do I
Breathe with awareness?
Not near as often
As my body
As the changing weather,
Breathe my body,
Lungs attached to
Passing breezes, passing winds.
Only in full conscious awareness
Do I know I breathe
With the cosmos.
When we breathe consciously, of what might we be capable? Life is magical. Even when there is a probable, logical explanation for any given event that happens in this three-dimensional existence, it is always more fun, and many times, more impactful to embrace serendipity and enjoy the magic that unfolds. Breathe with consciousness. Who knows; someone might find the way home.
Nighttime Miracle, based on a true story.
AnaValarie, (remembered lines from Shari’s song: breathes in the light, travels through darkness, breathes out the light.)
A little boy woke up screaming.
As usual, his mother woke, was out of bed, and by his side before she had a chance to breathe out the dream she was in and breathe in the moment. “Shh, shush. It’s only a dream,” she crooned, smoothing the hair off his face.
“No,” he wailed. “Look. There.” He pointed to a shadowy darkness in the corner nearest the closet.
If she squinted, she could almost believe something was there. “Hush, Darling. It’s just a shadow.”
“It’s not. He’s, he’s talking to me. It’s a monster.” He hid his tear-stained face in his pillow. His shoulders shook, his breath labored. Worried that her little one wouldn’t sleep the rest of the night, and quite frankly, neither would she, she said, “This is what we’re gonna do. Sit in my lap.”
The boy climbed out of bed and grabbed her neck. She wrapped him into her arms. “You know how much I love you.”
“Bigger than the Earth? Bigger than forever?”
“Yes. Bigger than all the Earth. Bigger than forever. Let that big love fall right into your lap and hold it there.”
The little boy’s tummy expanded and then tightened as breath filled him with remembered love.
“When you let the air go, blow all that love right into the center of that shadow.” She pointed to the blackness near the closet.
The little boy’s breath whooshed outward as he stared into the shadow, blowing with all his might.
“Let’s keep doing that together; remembering our love, letting it fall into our laps, and then blowing that loving energy right at that monster.”
They hugged each other tightly.
“Stare right into the shadow and think about how much I love you and you love me,” she reminded him.
As they sat together, breathing love into a monster, she felt warmth build between herself and her son. A strong connection had always been there, but she perceived that this was a special moment. She stared at the shadow and pushed that feeling toward it, mother and son breathing in love, breathing out love, sending it to the shadow in the corner by the closet.
The shadow began to quiver.
Must be a trick of the eyes, she thought but she held her concentration, thinking only of the love she had for her son, and offering that love to his monster.
Slowly, a glow of light began around the edges, diffusing its darkness. Suddenly, bright white light flashed in that corner by the closet and disappeared.
She blinked. The corner looked normal again.
“There,” she said, “All gone.”
She couldn’t let on how mystified she felt by what just happened.
“Mom, Mom. It went home. It belongs with angels.”
“Yes. I believe it did,” she replied. She looked into his bright eyes. “That’s what happens when you send monsters love instead of fear. Can you sleep now?”
“Yes,” he said. He climbed off her lap and snuggled into his bed.
His little boy snores greeted her ears by the time she reached his door to return to her own room. What were the chances that someone had flashed car lights in this quiet cul-de-sac at the exact moment a little boy and his mother needed comfort and strength?
She sat on her bed and replayed the event. She was not aware of hearing a car’s engine roar to life, or tires against the gravely road, but…she shrugged. Snuggling under her own covers, she lay content that for this night, something happened that made life a little easier and a little more magical.
Plants are teachers. Their lessons are as subtle as their language; lesson that are easy to ignore if one isn’t mindful, and time moves so slowly for them, requests never seem urgent.
I felt the Liquid Ambers’ threats. Occasionally I would feel a slight shudder when I walked under them. I envisioned one or both crashing to the Earth. If that happened they would take out fences, smash windows, perhaps hurt animals, or gods-forbid – people. The Chinese Hackberry needed a trim, as did all the trees on this property, but I felt I had time. I made a decision. I would tend to this in January, after leaf fall. It was healthier for the trees.
The trees had another plan.
I was minding my own business when I received a call from a neighbor. “Have you eaten?” He often does this.
There have been times I forget about food. When he offers, I accept with deep gratitude because I am creative and become too caught up in whatever it is I do to deal with simple acts of three-dimensionality like eating.
That day I remembered. “I just ate,” I said.
“I’m bringing it over, anyway. You can reheat it later.”
I said, “Okay.”
Perhaps I should have refused him.
Since moving here less than two years ago, he has hated my trees. I am the crazy tree lady. For him, my yard is an eyesore. There are too many trees. When oxalis and three-corner leaks spread underneath the trees in the spring, the yard looks wild and unkempt. He hates the seedpods that the Ambers drop. Leaf fall upsets him. The trees obstruct his view of the corner above us. But, what he really hates is the shade in his yard. He worries it will kill his grass. There hasn’t been a single time that we have spoken across the fence that he hasn’t complained about my trees. Usually, it seems like banter, a conversation opener, a place to meet in the middle.
However, that day when he brought over the food, he very cautiously informed me that he had called a tree specialist to get a diagnosis for my Chinese Hackberry. It was very sick and needed to come down before it killed somebody.
I was puzzled and said, “My arborist didn’t notice that. Why wouldn’t he tell me that?”
I then explained to him my worry about the Liquid Ambers. They are fragile trees and have grown quite tall, but arborists don’t like to trim them because it makes them weaker. “I plan to deal with them in January.”
“Well that front tree is very sick. It has ants.”
Around here, all trees have ants. “I think my arborist would have told me if there was a problem,” I said.
“I knew you would be like this. You are so irresponsible.”
“Why do you have to be such an immature baby about this?”
Ego raised one eyebrow.
It suddenly occurred to me that this had been a plan before he bought the house next to mine. He intended to get rid of the tall, offensively shading trees next door. Wow! Was it possible he shared food with me so that he could wear me down? Was he thinking I now owed him? Did he expect I would cut my trees for him because he had fed me so often?
Ego insisted, “Give the food back. Right now!”
I tried. It was sad letting go of Nori sprinkled rice with pickled plums, but I pushed the dish toward him.
He backed away. “Just take it,” he shouted. “Take it.”
My mistake occurred when I said, “Oh, I see now. This was a plan. Well it works for you, doesn’t it? You have wanted this since you moved in.”
The instant the words left my mouth, I felt my mistake.
He retorted, “My house isn’t made of cardboard. It will be expensive to rebuild, and I will be suing for it.” As an afterthought he added, “It will be way more money than you have.”
Ego snapped. An avenging tree angel took over my voice. I have no idea what it said, but I know it called him out.
“I knew it,” he said as he stormed back toward his house. “You are crazy. God-damned fucking crazy.”
I felt crazy.
Shaking and dazed, I called my tree specialist. He came that evening.
“This is probably the healthiest Hackberry I have ever seen,” he said.
I knew this but…, “I need proof. Something in writing from an expert that says my tree is healthy.”
“Who are you doing this for?” he asked.
“My neighbor wants to sue me.”
He shook his head, but he called in another specialist who came later that night who confirmed what we all knew. My tree was healthy. If I wanted to trim it, I didn’t have to wait until leaf fall. He understood my misgivings about the Ambers. He said they could wait until leaf fall, or come down right now. Either way, I was right, Ambers in general weren’t suited for this climate or in such close proximity to houses.
Would my neighbor approach the City with a complaint about my trees while I waited for leaf fall? Would I have to take them all down? Would the unprecedented heat of California cause some unforeseen disaster? “Will you write a report? I need to protect myself,” I said.
He had to drive to the Bay Area that night, but he promised to write and send it when he arrived.
I received it that night.
Two weeks later, my Ambers felled and Hackberry severely trimmed, acts that bring pain and tears even today, the neighbor had the nerve to write me a thank you letter for fixing my trees for him.
Ego awakened again and said, “Shit.”
How does one shut up inner dialog when every step onto the front porch reminds my poor little Ego that it no longer has the protection of three loyal trees? How can I stop anger when I see my burned roses, and dead blackberry vines no longer sheltered from the brutal sun? How can I stop the tears as I watch my generous fig tree that has lived its life as understory burn away in the heat?
A few nights after that tragedy, I went to my weekly meeting with the Women Writers of the Well. Driving there, I promised myself I wouldn’t write about this event. It was time to let go.
Who was I kidding? I couldn’t find equilibrium. I didn’t know who I had turned into that day. What kind of person blindly lashes out after downloading information that should have remained a hidden knowing? I wish I could have quelled his fears instead of adding to the insanity of his accusations.
Then, one of the writers shared this prompt: a big hole.
A door opened. My pen flew across the page.
I picked up Ego, along with Anger and threw them into a big hole. I watched them fall, until darkness sucked them up.
Like all things, Valarie, they didn’t stay in that deep oblivion. As I turned, Anger grabbed me.
“Fix this,” it growled.
“No,” I said, fully prepared to kick whatever crawled out of that hole back into its depths.
“Where is this going?” Ego pleaded.
“Back into the hole, with you,” I shouted, pointing an angry finger.
Shaking my head, I stormed off. Sometimes it’s best to turn your back on a thing.
As if reading my mind, it shouted, “Not true. I’ve always been there for you. You need someone to protect you, guard against that world out there that doesn’t understand.”
I flashed a middle finger at it. “I can protect myself. I make good decisions. I don’t need anybody telling me how to run my life. I have rights, you know. I deserve to be free of the likes of you.”
“Oooh. And you’re gone,” I said, shoving at it, hard enough to knock it back into the big hole.
It wouldn’t stay there. I knew better than to expect that, but I didn’t want to listen anymore.
“You need me,” I heard it shout from a deep, deep place. It wasn’t going to leave me alone until I grappled with it.
“Dammit!” I hate when Ego whines like that.
Sometimes it is hard to see a train wreck coming. Sometimes we can’t step out of the way. So, here I stand in front of the computer, grappling with the story I started during a writer’s meeting a few weeks ago; writing and rewriting, wondering if it will ever be smooth enough for a blog. Time will tell.
In the meantime, does anyone have a shovel I can borrow?
I am delighted to share my blog space again, with another writer from Women Writers at the Well, Dianne Chapman McCleery. She is a talented essayist, and her fiction always explores the depths of relationship no matter the era. Usually, her stories have a western theme, such as her novelette, Seeking Solace, about a woman who lost her significant other, her trusted horse, and her peace of mind all at once. I will post a link to this book at the bottom of this offering.
Lately she has been shining as a flash fiction writer. Flash fiction stories are the same as any story be it in short story form, novel, or any designation in between. The difference is they are typically only 100 to 1000 words long. This story is 183 words, yet it is perfectly delightful and paints a full picture. You will not be able to forget it after you read it because it will have touched your heart, which most of her stories do.
This was prompted by our opening meditation on April 12, 2021. I was so enchanted I wrote to her afterward (we are still meeting on Zoom) and asked, “Please, please, please, may I share this?” Immediately, she responded, “Yes.” Thank you, Dianne!
She presents to you:
Tiny Balls of Light – Dianne Chapman McCleery
For as long as she could remember, they were there, tiny balls of light, sometimes so many she couldn’t count them, but at least one kept her company at all times.
If she were sad, many showed up, tickling her so the sadness couldn’t stay. If she were happy, usually three would circle around her, joining in her joy.
As she grew old enough to go to school, they hid in her backpack, snuck into her desk, and at recess hid under her hair.
For some reason, she knew never to mention them to others. Somehow, she knew that not everyone, maybe no one, had balls of light as friends.
She grew older, wiser, and surprisingly, happier. Eventually, her thoughts and her gaze turned to boys. She held herself apart, never really knowing how to interact with other girls, much less boys. Then one day in English class, sitting behind Brian, Brian of the blue eyes and friendly smile, she saw a tiny ball of light peek over his collar and disappear again. She realized that finally she might have found a friend.
A petite, tow-headed, ten-year-old girl slumped in the last pew in the dark corner at the back of the old Methodist Church. Her feet didn’t touch the ground, so she curled against the bench as a shield against the physical discomfort of having to sit there quietly. Today’s sermon had already lost meaning for her. Instead of sitting inside a building listening to old words that in her mind had little relevance, she had to leave, to find solace under the sky, to sit under an oak tree by the creek that meandered through town. Making herself as quiet and as invisible as possible, she slipped out of the pew. She could feel the Pastor’s scowl with the entire left side of her face and body, though she steadfastly ignored it as she walked out the door, down the steps, and into the light of freedom.
It didn’t take long to get to the creek. She sat on the bank near a deep pool watching water warmed by the summer’s sun bubble past rocks. Her mind wandered and she closed her eyes. Sound, scent, sensation washed over her. Usually, her inner eye opened onto a similar scene, one from a past that felt like hers alone, though she had recently discovered that it was an ancestral place of prayer. This place was nestled in a wilder valley, its creek shadowed with heavy vegetation. There she listened to colder water burble over rocks, listened to different animals than the ones in her town rustling the foliage on the far bank, watched birds flutter from branch to branch. She found comfort when a sharper wind brushed past her, making her fine hair float around her head. Sunlight played against nature’s surfaces with a soothing exchange of color. This mental place was where she felt close to her concept of God. This is what she thought: Just sitting, listening to nature was more informative than stale words written by humans.
But today, when she closed her eyes to slip into the subtle world of her inner mind, she was on the top of a hill like the ones that surrounded the little town in which she lived. The hill was steep and the sky above was big. She found a stump to sit upon and looked up at the blue expanse above her. A flock of starlings danced in the air. They twirled in and out of fantastical, amorphous shapes like a gigantic organism responding to stimuli that pushed them one direction, then another.
She heard someone approach and looked to her left.
A youthful-looking, dark skinned man, dressed in a dusty, white tunic, tramped up the sharp incline toward her. His appearance was exotic, like he was from somewhere on the other side of the world. When he reached her position, he smiled and sat next to her, crossing his legs in front of him. He arranged his tunic and smoothed it with his graceful hands. He didn’t look directly at her. Instead, he watched the birds and their aerial display. She immediately felt a kinship.
Intellectually, she knew she should be alarmed, but she wasn’t. His energy was calm and focused. He smelled like sweet, wood smoke, and for some reason that soothed her.
He said, “Hi,”while watching the dance in the sky. His low voice seemed to rumble in his chest.
Alert, she replied timidly, “Hi.”
One of his eyebrows rose up as if he was surprised. “You don’t remember me?”
Something about him seemed familiar.
He sighed. Then, he bumped shoulders with her. “I want to tell you something,” he whispered.
She thought, Don’t tell me to go back to church. She turned to him with more than a little defiance and said, “What?”
He chuckled and said, “Not that. You are here to develop Self. That is why you came to this planet, in this Now. Do you know what that means?”
Of course she knew what he meant, she was smart for a ten-year-old. It was just that she was expecting admonishment for ditching. Furthermore, she was already a Self, like everybody else, wasn’t she? She spent a lot of energy trying to change that. Why would she want to develop it?
Intelligence had made her a target, so she was learning to hide it. Where she lived, smart kids were looked down upon. It was fine to be pretty, but not if you were smart. She worked to fit in: pretended she didn’t know answers in school, pretended to find humor in the antics of other children her age, pretended she was at least entitled to hover at the edge of the “it” crowd. Compliance was important for acceptance. Unfortunately, in her heart, she was as far from compliant as a person could get. All anyone had to do was ask her parents. Her entire Self didn’t fit in, and she didn’t like it. Why develop something one didn’t like?
Though she had not uttered a single word, he said, “I can’t say I disagree with your assessment, but that’s the problem, isn’t it? I would really like to see you develop who you are. That’s why you are here, to explore and grow your individuality, your Self.”
It suddenly occurred to her who she might be sitting with. “Have I died?” she asked.
He laughed and then he looked at her and said, “No.”
His smile was so warm, and his laugh so inviting, she decided that if she had died, she would want to go with him wherever he ended up going.
He shook his head and bumped her shoulder again. Still reading her thoughts, he said, “You won’t always feel so all alone. Developing your individual Self is what this World needs. I want you to do that, whatever it takes.” He shook his head, sadly. “Most people just stumble through life, never finding out who they are, what makes them happy, sad, scared, angry, ashamed. What makes them, THEM.
“What do you like, what do you dislike? Where do you want to be? Who do you want to be with? What do you like to do? When do you like to do it? What makes you happy? What makes you sad? What makes you, YOU?”
She crossed her arms in defense. He was asking a lot of a ten-year-old.
“I’m not asking, I’m telling,” he replied to her unspoken retort. He pushed the spot between her eyes with his forefinger. “That is your job. Develop Self. Individuality is everything.” He seemed like an authority on the subject. He patted her head and looked straight into her eyes. “I love you.”
She could see that love. She mumbled, “Okay.” It suddenly seemed like a logical thing for a child to do anyway, to develop who they were as a person. Who was she to question him?
He stood, brushed dried grass off his tunic, and sauntered down the hill. She watched as he disappeared into a beam of light and immediately missed him. Her soul felt deep longing for the first time. Her heart squeezed as if it was struggling to hold its shape, to beat the next beat, to keep her here on Earth.
She quietly woke up, sneezed, and sat up under the oak tree next to the creek that ran through town. She didn’t question what had happened. She believed it had happened. Now she just had to figure out what Self was and how to develop it.
Self is elusive. Finding It is still a struggle. This is what I think I know so far: It is not the same as Me. Self is something one holds inside as a pillar of assuredness and strength. It allows one to reach out to others without concern for Me. Me is the opposite. Me is wanting, Me has needs, Me is lacking, and it worries about what others think of it.
It seems Self is a journey, not a destination. It’s a practice: mindful, deliberate attention paid to as many moments as one can, a gathering of sensation, feeling, desire, and pleasure, with the understanding that even adversity is part of life and therefore a treasure to be experienced and gathered. It is not knowing, yet having deep knowledge at the same time. It is an act of generosity and a road to compassion. It is holding gratitude as a precept for life. Self comes in moments of clarity, flashes of perception that disappear as soon as one becomes aware of the ah-ha that comes with them because one has to live Self, not be Self. Self is weird.
However, as Self, life is FUN, especially on Earth. Earth is a playground, NOT a battleground. Filled with wondrous life, diversity has no boundaries. Surrounded by such breathtaking beauty and Light, it is sometimes achingly difficult to assimilate all the colors, sounds, and sensations.
When I, as Self, think about the diversity this planet offers, I feel joy, the bubbly, roly-poly joy of a playful puppy, ecstatically happy to see its person. I want to feel that all the time, but then Self disappears because I want to hang on to joy. Joy shatters my patience for a quest for Self. So each moment and whatever it offers, I refocus, attempt mindfulness, and open to the practice of awareness. Practice never ends. There is too much to learn.
Occasionally, like today, I remember the meeting on that hill and feel grateful that He caught me at a time when my questioning was clear enough to turn into Quest. This Quest has given me a compass with which to navigate life and a reason to share Story about that life.
Think about your quest for Self. Collect your joys, your troubles, your Story. Collect it all. There is Story unfolding right this very second. A story that becomes your Self.
Turgid clouds grumbled above me, stuffing the September morning sky with angry threats of rain. Ugh. I trudged down a tree-lined street of a new town toward school and ‘tremendous possibilities’. At least that is what my parents kept telling me. As the storm built overhead, I held back the tempest in my mind dreaming of horses. I wanted one, but that possibility was not on the horizon. I walked toward the nebulous future of fifth grade in a new school, and fantasized about riding free on the back of a horse.
It wasn’t that imagining carried me into fantasy land, though one could say that the very act of living in one’s imagining was the definition of that. I was reasonable. I paid attention to my surroundings and fit my dream into them. My dreaming was modest. There was no magnificent destrier to carry me past the dragons of life and into the arms of Prince Charming. Instead, my wish was simple, a friendly, little horse that fit me perfectly, and was a good friend. He would stand in my yard gleaming in the sunlight, even when it was hard to imagine ever seeing the sun again. It didn’t matter. I was a sun child, so that was how I colored the pictures in my mind.
A couple of neighborhood kids who I’d hooked up with over the summer, caught up to me for the last leg of the short walk.
“Got a horse, yet?” said Alvin, in a mocking voice.
“Be quiet. You know I don’t.” He lived right next door.
“Leave her alone,” said Patsy, and added in the same mocking sing-song, “Are you a famous race car driver, yet?” She lived on the corner.
Alvin huffed at us and said, “I’ll see you there, slow pokes.” Then he ran ahead. I guess he wanted to get to school. More power to him.
The rain cancelled outside recesses. I needed to run and snort, to gallop free like a horse. Alvin and Patsy often joined me in the game, racing around the neighborhood, pretending to be herd of wild mustangs. Today I sat alone, in a corner with a book about the different breeds of horses. What would it be like to take care of and ride a horse in the rain? Did horses enjoy squishing their feet into the mud?
Another clap of thunder shook the room and a flash startled everybody. Would the horse be afraid? Did he run when lightning slashed the sky, or was he brave and wise? I hunkered down against the wall, and reread an entry that I’d read three times already, but hadn’t really seen any of the words. That kind of thing happened often. It annoyed me, but, what is there to do when your mind takes off into dreamland?
On the way home, I thought about my little horse. As I turned the final corner to my block, I held my breath hoping to see him in the yard, but then reality proved otherwise. I simply picked up the dream. There he was, grazing some grass. He looked at me sweetly as I approached and nickered, “Well, you’re finally home. Where have you been all day?”
I opened the gate, and walked to the side of the house facing the wide expanse of lawn that my father kept mowed to keep away the snakes. I sat on the side porch to finish my dream. “Oh, you need a brushing,” I said, out loud. Then I imagined brushing his coat, and actually sneezed as if dust flew into my nose. I combed his long tail and mane pulling tangles from the course hairs. When I was done, I ran my hands over the heated glow on his freshly burnished back and smiled.
“You’re so handsome,” I said.
“Ha, ha,” said one of my brothers, squealing to his twin. “She thinks Alvin is handsome.”
Alvin had just walked past.
“Leave me alone,” I said, reluctantly giving up the dream to chase after brothers.
Every day, without fail, I rehearsed the details of life with this horse. It didn’t consume every moment, but I spent enough time to alert my mother that I was dawdling. Finishing my chores, I dreamed. It wasn’t complicated, but real magic never is.
The autumn air began to chill. It would be nice to ride a horse to and from school instead of battling the cold on foot. In my mind, I put a foot in a stirrup while speaking calmly. I swung my leg over the saddle and settled down gently. I could hear the leather squeak, the bridle jingle. While walking home, the ripe leaves cascaded about us in crimson and gold. Interestingly, my imagining of riding ended as I came to the last corner and instead envisioned my horse flicking an errant leaf off his shoulder while munching hay.
Reality was always a harsh rebuff.
Winter came. I galloped home, sailing over puddles painted by the sky. What if my horse had arrived and needed a warm blanket and a bucket of oats?
Spring came, heralded by choruses of tree frogs chirping in the evening. Daffodils opened, reflecting promised sunshine. Birds twittered in the sun kissed trees. My horse loved Spring. The air was sweet and the grass was sweeter.
Summer passed with all its hoopla and star spangled madness. The horse was not really in the field next door, but I saw it there, startled by the loud raucous of summer.
School began again, and the wish faded for a moment until I understood what sixth grade wanted from me. After that, I let the imagining bloom. The air chilled, the trees began to shiver and drop their leaves to warm their roots. The wish warmed me as winter gusted in.
“Want do you want for Christmas,” asked my parents.
I thought, “Don’t you know by now?” However, preferring to be polite I said, “Anything is fine.” Surely, this Christmas, I would find a halter under the tree.
The evening before Christmas Eve, carolers on horseback jingled down the street. The clip clop of hooves sent their bells ringing. I sat on the porch watching them as they clattered past our house. When they stopped to sing, I sang with them. When they turned to go, I imagined my horse stamping his hoof. Did he want a cookie?
On Christmas morning, I threw on my coat and raced to the backyard. There was no horse. I ran into the house. My stocking held a tangerine and little girl cologne, but no promise of a horse. We exchanged gifts. I received a sweater set, which was lovely, two books, and a Barbie doll, which my younger sister immediately grabbed. For once, my mind could not dredge up any imaginings of a horse because my heart was too heavy.
There was one last package under the tree, a shoe-sized box. One of my brothers scrambled for it.
“It’s for her,” he said, and pointed to me.
“Santa must have left one more thing,” exclaimed Mama.
Was this it? The box was big enough for a halter, especially for a small, simple horse that would be a good friend. I held my breath, silently praying as my brother, acting as Santa’s helper, handed it to me. I slowly pulled off the ribbon. Carefully, I slipped open the tape on one end and opened the folds. I tugged the paper off the box.
Inside was a small, plastic, prancing gray with a removable saddle. I looked at my parents, still hoping it was a sign.
“We had to search everywhere for this model. Breyer horses are not easy to come by,” said Mama.
“Do you like it, Honey,” said Papa.
It was pretty, but it would never come to life. I knew how much it meant to them to make me happy. “I love it,” I said. “I can imagine what it might feel like to ride a horse like this.” Then I kissed them both on the cheek.
I played with it that day, and the next, but then I put the gray on a shelf above my desk, to take its place with the other statues that pranced there. I stared out the window, watching my real horse, the one that lived in my imagination, snort at them and their plastic foolishness. His breath frosted the air while he pawed the ground with impatience. “Me too,” I said.
Winter passed, rainy and dreary. The imagination habit continued but sixth grade was demanding. I was becoming a woman.
One day, in early spring, as I scuffled home, a warm breeze sliced the chill with a promise that burst into my heart. I couldn’t say what it was, but something had changed since this morning. I stopped for a moment to catch my breath when another feeling sizzled through me like fireworks exploding in the sky on the Fourth of July. I had to get home. With each step, the peal of change rang louder. My heart pounded and that frightened me. I reached in my mind to look at everyone I loved. Who was hurt, who was sick?
I rounded the last corner. I clamped my hands over my ears as the universe screamed, and at the same time, stared in wonder at my backyard. Munching on a flake of golden hay was a real horse. The dun-colored animal was shaggy with an unloved coat that did not disguise prominent ribs and backbone. The scruffy little horse looked up and snorted. I almost believed she was real when she nickered, “Well, you’re finally home. Where have you been all day?”
I stood at my gate, staring.
“Well, are you just going to stand there?” said Papa from the front porch.
“There’s a horse.”
“Yes,” he said.
I slowly opened the gate, stepped through, and closed it gently.
“Can I touch it?”
He said, “Well, I guess you had better. She’s yours.”
I walked toward the small horse, and reached for it. It nosed my hand. It was like moist velvet, and it tickled my palm. I patted the matted hair on its neck and sneezed as a cloud of actual dust flew off the homely, but friendly, little horse waiting for love. My vision blurred as fat tears zigzagged down my face. “Ooh, you need a brushing,” I said, as she horse leaned against me and bent her head to munch the hay at our feet.
My dream was now reality.
(Author’s Note: Names were changed, but this is a true story.)