Susan's Blog

Thursday, January 25, 2018

The Caregiver

There was once a woman who lived in a castle. She had everything she wanted, everything she needed — the finest food, plentiful drink, bountiful silks, warm woolens, the softest leather shoes. Her castle had tall windows cut into pink rock, and they lined the strong walls, curving around the towers and drawing in sunlight from every angle. The woman was known far and wide for her learnedness, her ability to understand even the most difficult of problems, and to solve them for the people of the land in a gentle manner that made them feel both cared for and empowered at the same time. She was beloved by all.

The woman had a son who was as fine a young man as could be, having grown up with her warm attention and beautiful, comfortable surroundings. He was tall, with hair the color of summer meadows, and eyes as blue as the azure sea that spread below the cliffs. He was as handsome as a prince, and upon meeting him girls would sigh with a longing they had never felt before.

And yet the youth was alone. He had no friends, because he could not speak, other than the strange sounds that came out of his mouth. Nor did he look at anyone. His eyes looked just beyond them, as if only interested in something far off. This caused much discomfiture in those who met him, and so that once people spent time with him they would eventually feel their hearts turn away, their eyes searching for an opportunity to move away from him. They learned from one another to smile at him even though he never responded. If they needed him to pay attention, if some danger were imminent, they would touch him gently on the arm. Only then would he look directly into their eyes, but for a flash only.

In that brief moment, people could see something, but they did not get a long enough look to understand what it was. The baker described it as a dream he’d had, where he’d felt happy upon awakening, but knew not why. The miller described the look as the moment the light shifts from winter to spring. People nodded at her description, satisfied, for they understood the importance of that time of year, that softening of air, the unfurling of something wonderful but unseen.

And yet, this sliver of the young man’s mind was so fleeting that it only caused more sadness and frustration among the villagers. And none so much as the boy’s mother.

It may be that her heart was too deeply entwined with his, or that her great mind grew clouded and gauzy with what she wanted so badly, but she simply could not teach him to talk to people or to listen. This felt like a profound failure to her, and this sliced at her soul like a dagger. And yet she forced herself to carry on and to show him how to do things. “If he cannot speak, and cannot think,” she said to herself, “at least he will be able to feed and clothe himself, and to ply a trade.” For her biggest fear was that he would have nothing and no one to look after him when she was gone. And truly, how could others, when they understood nothing about him?

Still, though they found it difficult to witness his strange eyes and hear his coarse sounds, they tried very hard to welcome the young man into their shops, their homes, their gatherings. The mother helped this happen by using her great wealth. Every day she would come down the castle steps with her son and no matter what she was feeling, no matter how tired or sick she might be, she took him into one particular shop or another. She would always take care to greet the proprietor warmly and to ask if he or she might allow her son to stay there, and perform any task for them, no matter how great or small. In return for their patience, she would pay them with a sack of gold.

The son could be seen carrying the heaviest loads of wood, and stoking great fires for the baker. Or he would be walking slowly across town with a set of fine crockery in his arms, careful not to break anything. Or he would be down on his hands and knees scrubbing the dressmaker’s shop till it shone. And he would do it but he would grunt the entire time.  He merely worked like a farm horse, sweating, chattering loudly like a squirrel and never smiling.

He never seemed to remember from day to day what he had been taught the day before. This tried the townspeople’s patience, but because they needed the gold, they tried every day to show him once more what he had done for them only yesterday. “He is a good boy,” the shop owners said to each other, but they really did not believe it. He was simple, useless, except for the tasks they would show him to perform every single day. Though he was a man, everyone saw him as a boy because he knew even less than their own infants.

One night the mother fell deeply asleep. A fairy came to her in her dream and said, “I will give you that which you desire most of all, but you must give up all of your worldly goods. But you will have your heart’s desire.”

Though the mother was asleep, her mind was still working and her heart was still soft and pliable. She knew exactly what she wanted: for her son to be able to take care of himself when she no longer could.

The mother nodded and said, “Take it all. Give my son intelligence so that he may look after himself one day when I die. Maybe he will be a baker, or a miller, or a husband, or a farmer. For every day I have had others show him how to take care of things, how to clean, to cook, to fetch wood and water. But each day he is once again a blank slate. He comes home, eats dinner I’ve cooked and goes to bed without even being able to wash a single plate.” She poured out her heart to the fairy, years and years of anguish over her son ebbed from her, enveloping them in a cloud.

“It shall be so,” said the fairy, and then she flew away. Upon awakening, the woman remembered only that she had had some kind of odd dream. She moved to raise herself onto her pillows to think some more, only to find that she had no pillows at all; she had only a straw mattress on the floor. And the floor was not covered with fine rugs, but was merely packed dirt. She stood and walked the small area within the hut, cold because the hearth had no fire. There was no more castle with pink stone; she had walls of wattle-and-daub, just as everyone else in the village. Her clothing was but one worn gray dress.

“What have I done?” cried the woman. “That fairy tricked me!” She thought immediately of her son, who was still asleep on a pallet on the other side of the room. The morning sun lit up his beautiful face, but it only made her wring her hands. He would have nothing, because of her stupid belief in an evil spirit. “Now I have no gold to pay for my son to learn work!” At that moment, her heart filled completely with so much black sadness that it broke in two. She was overcome with the pain and fell to the floor unconscious.

When she awoke it was nighttime, but several days later. She felt her stomach growl in hunger, and all of her worry returned. She found she could barely lift her head. Though the two halves of her heart could still beat, most of their energy had drained out. She was filled with terror that she might be dying then.

Suddenly she heard a strange sound and turned over slowly, so she could see what it was. Over a flaming hearth stood her son. He was grunting and cawing the way he always did, but something was in his hand. It was a ladle. He looked at it for a very long time; he seemed to be thinking very very hard. Finally he lowered the ladle into the big black pot.

His mother could hear something sloshing around in it. She watched as he stirred, very slowly at first, and then speeding up. When he was finally satisfied, he dropped the ladle on the floor. His mother could not help but sigh in disappointment. But then he stared at the ladle and again, seemed to be looking at it as though he were trying to remember something. Finally, he picked the ladle up off the floor. He put it on the table. Then he looked back at the spatter it had made and once again he stared at it for so long his mother thought he had gone into a trance. At last he reached for a cloth and bent slowly to wipe it up.  He rubbed and rubbed at the floor. Although he had forgotten the soup, he had made the entire floor clean and smooth.

The mother was by now wide awake. The pain in her chest was nearly unbearable. Her stomach growled loudly, so loudly that the son looked up from where he had stood staring bewildered over the black pot of soup, trying desperately to remember something. The noise from her stomach was a sound he recognized and he snapped into awareness, reaching for a bowl on the shelf. He poured the soup carefully, slowly, sweating with the effort to concentrate. But he filled it and then he carried it over to his mother. He set the bowl down next to her, sat down at her side, and stared at her for a very long time. Right into her eyes.

She gasped and then laughed, even though she was so near death. For there, in his eyes, was that sliver of him that showed so rarely. Only this time, though it made him tremble and struggle to breathe with the effort, he continued looking into her eyes. His tears came and dropped onto her hands. He babbled some more and turned away, reaching for the bowl.

He slipped an arm under her head as carefully as a doe tending her new fawn. Ever so gently brought the spoon to her lips. She could feel his body laboring to hold onto his focus. She tried to find him in his eyes again but he could not look again.

But it did not matter. He spooned the soup into her mouth, cradling her in his arm. From time to time he noticed the drops of soup on her chin and eventually remembered how to dab at them with his sleeve.

When she was finished eating, she felt that her heart’s pieces were full but that her spirit was beginning to make her head feel light. He tucked the bedclothes around her, and slowly brought the bowl over to the washbasin. Again, he stared for a long time at the basin. “The time is drawing near, my son,” she said so softly it sounded only like the evening breeze.

But he had heard her. He walked over to her and took her hands. He once again looked deeply into her eyes and showed his tiny light, though it hurt him to do so

She shut her eyes for his sake, but she was suffused by joy. For she knew that the fairy had not lied after all. It had not come the way she thought it would, though she had tried to teach him every trade there was. But he was not a miller nor a baker nor a handsome husband, nor a farmer. But he was enough. And even though he was as slow as the years, he was indeed able to take care of himself.

 

 

 

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The Mandolin

Dear Readers, I have improved this story. See what you think.

Many years ago, in a small village across the sea, there lived a woodsman and his wife and their infant son. Every day the woodsman went into the forest to cut wood and then shape it into bowls, plates, and anything else that was needed, and sell it to the people in the nearby villages.  The woodsman loved his wife very much and would carve for her small things out of the wood scraps.

The woodsman’s wife was a beautiful young woman known far and wide for her beauty and for her healing powers. It was said that her green eyes, so unusual in color, could look into a body and see the sickness. Even though she was so young, she had cared for and cured many, many people, young and old, for miles around. People spoke reverently about her knowledge of herbs and plants and her great mind, and her all-seeing eyes.  Sometimes a person could simply catch sight of her coming up the walk and they would feel something ease inside them. For her success with sickness had become so well known that the very compassion that shone from her lovely face also aided in their recovery.

The one person she could not cure was herself. She would have bouts of sadness that were so heavy and black they blotted out the light in their small cottage. She would take to her bed for days and days and there would be a silence throughout the town as if everyone else was also feeling this great sadness. And indeed they were; such was the deep love they had for the young healer, and their sorrow that they could not return her care.

The woodcutter loved her most of all and when she would have her spells, he would become desperate to help her. He would think about all of her favorite things — flowers, trees, and plants — and these he would carve into the darkest hours of the night. His warm hands and his tears would soften and shape the wood into miraculous, intricate likenesses. When he gave them to her, there would be a brief tremble across her lips, the beginnings of a smile. And though it would just as quickly disappear, he knew she had felt momentary joy and would soon feel better.

But one day the young wife fell into a sadness that was deeper and darker than any she’d had before. The air in the town became cold and cruel, sending the townspeople indoors for days and days. The snow fell unceasingly and all activity came to a halt.

The woodsman was the only soul who dared venture outside during this time, because he desired nothing else but to find the perfect bit of wood and create something very special to help her. He walked for a long time but never lost his way, even with the deep white disguise of the snow, for he knew the shape of the forest as surely as he knew his own heart.

He was searching for one particular tree, a rosewood, and finally came to the small stand of rosewoods by the distant edge of the forest. There, in the center of those red-brown trees, stood an exquisitely curved rosewood. It had been cleaved in half by lightning yet was still upright. “Ah, this is the tree,” he said with a certainty that surprised him. It was as if someone else were speaking. He chopped at the heart of the tree and it was as if someone else were holding the axe. The tree trunk fell away easily and gave up its center, where its wood was newest and of the rosiest hue.

The woodcutter returned home and began whittling away at the bark. But again, it was as if someone else had hold of his knife. He did not know what he was making, but worked away with the help of this unseen power. What he did not realize was that it was his own life force that he was pouring into his work.

When he was finished, there before him lay a beautiful mandolin. It had a delicate neck, a curving top, and cut into the body of it were two hearts, to let the sound out. He went to his wife and awoke her. The moment her eyes opened they caught sight of the perfect instrument and she smiled instantly. She reached for it but noticed her husband’s arms trembling. She looked up at him and instead of her strong young husband, an old man stood before her. In an old crackling voice he said, “Play it, my dear.” Terrified, she began to play. As the melody curved above her head, she closed her eyes, for she had never heard such an intensely beautiful sound. It was the sound of springtime, of growing plants and blossoming flowers. She played and played, and her heart rose like the sun in the sky. The snow stopped and it was daylight.

When she opened her eyes, though, her husband was on the floor, dead. Her heart burst inside her chest and she fell to the floor next to him, weeping and dying.

************     ************

Now it happened that a stranger was traveling through the forest in search of shelter. He came upon the clearing in the woods where the woodsman and his family lived. His hands trembled and his feet had lost all feeling. He was about to knock on the door when he heard the most beautiful music. It rose and curled around him like the warmth of a hearth fire. It lulled his aching heart and warmed his numb limbs. When the song ended, he rushed into to the cottage to find the person who had played this incredible music. But when he opened the door all he could see was the old man, and the young woman with her arms around him, and he knew they were dead.

He sank to the floor in despair for the poor people, who though ill-matched in age, clearly had loved each other. Just then the rising sun shone a light into the corner. And there he saw a cradle — and it was rocking. He went over, looked at the baby, and inhaled, breathing in the sweet scent arising from its breath. Then it opened its eyes. They were the most astonishing green he had ever seen. And now, right next to his sadness, was a bubble of laughter; this was because his wife was childless, and he had been searching far and wide, across the sea for a healer. Instead he had lost his way in the snowstorm — and ended up here.

Looking out the window now, he saw that the snow had stopped, and there was daylight spreading across the horizon.

What a strange and wonderful gift he had been given. He knew he had to act swiftly. He slipped his large hands around the child, but as he lifted him out of the cradle, he felt that the spine of the child was lumpy under his fingers. A shadow behind the full daylight fell across them. Quickly he bundled up the baby and fashioned a knapsack to hold the child at his chest. He whispered a prayer of thanks to the couple, and knelt to scoop up the finely carved mandolin as well. Perhaps he could sell it for a good price. The baby slept peacefully against his body.

When the man returned home after so many months he found his wife huddled in a chair by the fire, her face nearly shapeless from crying for so long. But when she looked up and saw not only her dear long lost husband but also a baby, she stood and ran to him, young and strong again. He loosened his knapsack and handed the baby to her and she cradled him in her arms. The mandolin slid off his back against the floor. A small crack opened in the body but neither the man nor the woman noticed in their joy. Eventually they remembered the pretty instrument but because of its cracked body, they knew they could not sell it, and so they hung it up on the wall over the fireplace. “It will cheer us on long winter nights,” his wife said, though they knew they already had so much to be cheerful about.

The man and his wife raised the boy with all the love in their hearts. The man taught him how to hunt, and skin animals for their fur. They told him nothing of his birth parents, for they knew nothing about them, and he was surely meant to be their own son.

As the boy grew up he wanted for nothing. The hunter and his wife loved him with all their hearts. But as he reached manhood, his parents noticed that he could not stand up straight. There was a twist to his spine, and his right foot dragged as he walked. He certainly could not run. The young man knew from a young age that he was developing an illness in his body, but he kept this feeling to himself and continued to work hard, like his father, at the furrier trade. But his mother, who was no stranger to sorrow, recognized how ill-suited was her son to this vocation. However, she had no knowledge of the healing arts, and she knew that he must have a livelihood, so, she sent him out into into the woods each day, with a bow and arrow on his back and a long knife at his side, and told him he must search the forest for prey. Her husband agreed, for they were simple folk who knew only a few trades to ply.

Because of his physical disfigurement, the young man’s sorrow grew with his shame. He found increasingly that he could not find any animals, or that whenever he struck down an animal, he also had the desire to stop its pain.

One day in early spring he saw a young doe. He drew back his bow to launch the arrow when suddenly the deer turned towards him. She looked right into his eyes and he saw that they were not the customary brown of a deer; instead they were the most unusual shade of green. His breath caught in his throat. He was stunned by her eyes, for they were somehow familiar to him. Was this an apparition? He felt frightened by this, but at the same time, he could see that she would make an easy kill. And because he wished so dearly not to bring shame upon his family, he drew back the string of his bow and took aim.

But suddenly the doe spoke: “If you spare my life, I will show you how to save other lives, for I know who you are. You are not a hunter. You are not a sick man. You are  a healer. ” She turned her back to him, allowing him the full view of her magnificent side. He knew he could easily strike her down, but he was so moved by her words, and curious, also. How could it be that he was not sick in his body?

The young man lowered his weapon and followed the deer into a meadow. As she walked through the glade she sang and the words of the song were not like human words; instead they were simple description and instruction. She would nod at patches of flowers and plants growing alongside them, and she would sing their names, and their powers. He knew that she meant for him to gather them.

He had walked for miles, and it was growing dark. The doe stopped and said, “You must hurry home now and think on what you have learned today. And you must kill no more.”

The young man turned to leave but he heard on last thing from the doe: “your healing wisdom will not come from your mind. It will only come with the song I have sung for you.”

Desperate to recall the song, the young man walked home as fast as he could, frustrated with his slow legs, his arms laden with the greens, his weapons weighing on his crooked back. Without a word to his parents he set his plants down on the table. He looked at their green stems, their myriad of petals and leaves, for a very long time in the silence of the night, willing the song of the doe to come back to him. But all he heard was the crackling fireplace.

As he stared into the fire and a spark jumped out, flying upwards like a lightning bug. He followed its path with his eyes and really noticed, for the first time perhaps, the old mandolin that hung there.

Where had it come from? He peered at it closely, his heart pounding in his chest. What a beautiful piece of art it was. Though over time it had become very dry, with more cracks, and its neck was separating from the body, the two exquisitely carved hearts remained intact. The strings were coated with dust. He blew away the dust and placed the instrument high against his chest, encircling the neck gently with his hand.

He found that the curvature of his spine was such that it arced itself in the perfect shape to hold the instrument. His throat filled with joy as he realized that for the first time he could enjoy his body exactly as it was. He plucked the double strings on the bottom. Its sound was small and splintered, like icicles breaking off of an eave. Then he strummed the heavy double strings at the top, and he heard its bright hum, It was the sound of early spring water breaking through ice. It was the song of Nature, the song of the doe. And now the bundles of herbs and flowers made sense to him, and each told their own story.

That night the young man learned the healing arts. He realized that indeed he was no hunter: he was a healer. Renewed with a sense of purpose, he set out from his parents’ home and roamed from village to village, and began healing the sick and the sad with his herbs and his music. Soon word spread of the great skill and the strange way he summoned it, crouched over the old mandolin.

The young healer never learned of the origins of the mandolin, nor did he understand why he was able to play it so beautifully. All he knew was that he himself had been healed in his heart that night, all because a strange beautiful doe had given him her trust and her deep wisdom, and a mandolin that sang with her voice.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

The Reflection

There once was a girl who was born ugly. From the very start, everyone thought that word when they looked at her, and some even used it in her presence.. But what did it mean? No one could say, but everyone felt they knew. They’d heard it from others before, so that is how they knew what ugly was.

The one thing everyone knew was that ugly was bad. No one would ever want to be ugly.

In the case of the young girl, her face did not please. Her jawline wavered, not firm and straight. Her nose was graceless, long and bumpy. Her skin was mottled gray and bruised pink. Although she could speak, her words came out strange. She did not seem to understand what was being said. She was also clumsy. Ugly. From the start.

She learned that being ugly meant there was nothing that was just for you, nothing but what other people in their clay-like hearts felt like they could spare. The people around her believed that she should not get anything, because she didn’t deserve it. Her face, her body were the things that closed the door to having anything of her own.

As an ugly being she learned to become a benign white cloud, and to float around, unnoticed. It wasn’t that she could fly or swim, it was more that she simply did not show up in a group. Nor could anyone hear her. She learned also to stand very still, with her neck slightly bent, eyes on no one, eyes disappearing into her doughy face. This way she let everyone know that she knew she deserved her invisible, unnoticed place — although it was hardly a place. She occupied a disturbance in the air, but only in the way that a cloud might suddenly change shape with the breeze, meaning nothing. She dared not mean anything because she could not bear an even deeper dislike that might develop, from the sneering eagle faces that surrounded her.

The girl grew into a woman because her body could not help changing. She would have given anything to prevent this from happening because it meant that someone would notice her. And indeed, one day the girl wandered into the forest and there she met a man. He was tall and dark as the trees around her, and he smelled faintly of pine and cold air. She did not mean to see someone else and certainly would have gone the opposite direction, but it was too late. He did see her. He looked at her for a long time, his dark brown eyes stared, unflinching. Her gray skin flushed pink; she could not help it.

He looked her right in the eyes and she froze. And his spell was cast. She felt herself being chipped away, like an ice sculpture. Her arms whittled slender and straight, her lips and mouth cleared out, smoothed into the shape of an opening rose. Helpless, her insides turned to water under her thin sparkling icy skin. And she became beautiful.

The man’s eyes returned to their normal state, brown and hard as tree roots, but they would not look away from her. The appraising look on his face gave way to a pleased surprised that caressed her like loving hands. And because she had never experienced this sensation of fiery eyes on cool bare skin, she gave herself up to him. This is love, she told herself. This is love because it is powerful and transformative. This is love because I am no longer ugly.

She found, however, that it felt best to walk with his arms around her. Her legs were shapely but they could not move much. They hurt with each step. The man held her up and she closed her eyes to the pain, and at last she was able to leave the woods. When she came back to the village, there was a roar of excitement, a rush to look at her, and the handsome man by her side. They looked at her and they smiled their relief that they no longer had to feel her shameful ugliness.

The young woman basked in their soft new feelings towards her. She started to move among them with a new palpable presence, they made room for her, they allowed her to stay near them. They talked to her and she found she could speak to them. But her words were not her own, they came out fully formed with clever and witty phrases she herself did not understand. Yet she saw that they delighted those around her. She continued to experience hot and cold, pleasure and fear, and polar opposites, all the time. Her head was always strangely light, but her heart was constantly squeezed into a knot. For she knew she was paying a price for her new beauty: she lived in a constant state of fear that she would lose it.

The man would appear suddenly, but she never knew when or where. Sometimes he showed up at the foot of her bed, golden with sunrise. Sometimes he appeared in her dreams, and bore her away to strange and wondrous lands, holding her by the hands as they flew through the night skies.

He whispered that he would never go away, but at the same time, every time he turned his head for the smallest distraction — a bird in flight, a breeze carrying a flower petal, a maiden on her way to the market — her insides would freeze, buckle, and crack a little. For it was his attention alone that made her beautiful and she knew it was not her own. And once she had tasted it, she felt she could never go without it again.

Over time, the man became tired of her fearfulness — even though it was he who had created it. He grew bored and would make the girl sad, again and again, showing up in places where he should not be, and fading away from places where he had once lifted her to the heavens. And she still needed to have his eyes on her that way, for it was the only way to save her beauty. But now, every night and sometimes into the morning, she cried knowing that he was indeed leaving her. She was no longer enough for him. She was slipping back into non-existence.

Finally he stopped seeing her at all. Her silvery white beauty simply melted away and she went back into the gray of clouds. She was ugly again, uglier for knowing that the wonderful magic of his attention had disappeared. Uglier for knowing now what could be, but would be no longer. “Back,” she yelled, in her strange garbled way, meaning “come back!” Her heart twisted. The clever words and sweet voice had gone. The townspeople grimaced at the sound of her voice.

Because she could move on her own again, though her gait was clumsy, she took to wandering long distances away from the village, because now it was too hard to go back to invisibility and ugliness. People had seen her beautiful, after all, and they could not help looking at her now with scorn for no longer being cloaked in that beauty.

She would often find herself at a large pond in a meadow, so clean that in fact it was blue. She liked the pond because it would not reflect her image; its blue simply bounced sunlight into her eyes. But she found that this light soothed them. And with the sweet gentle afternoon light in her eyes came the slow realization that she had actually been burned from the man’s searing glance. The spell he had cast had altered her sight by its fire. She understood now that though she was ugly, her eyes no longer hurt. How sharply they had burned, but she had not noticed because of the intoxication of beauty. She had not felt pain and blindness in her eyes when she had been beautiful, but now she knew that it had been so; not only had her heart hurt all the time, but her eyes had been scoured by him so that he was all she could see.

And so she came back to the pond more and more frequently, for she could feel her eyes returning to what they once were, though they were plain dull gray. Something in her heart had unclenched, as if it were a separate being. She would lie on the ground, by the banks of the pond, and feel her eyes growing soft and her heart spreading gratefully in her chest.

One afternoon by the pond, she felt yet another change. Her head was no longer light the way it had been with the man. But instead of making her sad, she was relieved because after all, this was her very own head. It would never burn inside. It was no longer hot and floaty, carved from ice by the man. It was the head she was born with, the head she was meant to have. And she was glad. For she no longer had to be afraid that everything would be taken away. She no longer had to be afraid, or look longingly for the man. When she realized this, her heart expanded more, until it was outside of her, and was wrapped around her like loving arms.

Now she stood up, encircled by her arms, yet stunned by the sensation of having an external heart. She made her way to the pond, wishing to feel the water on her face. Wishing also to understand what was happening. But as she got to the edge, she saw that the blue color of the water had disappeared, that it was only a reflection of the sky that had turned it blue. And if the water was clear, wouldn’t it reflect her?

She realized that if she looked now, she would see herself.

Shivering from an emotion she could not name, she leaned forward and there she was, her face wavering in the soft ripples, her big body embraced by her heart, which was now as large as the rest of her. The sparkle of the water lit up her shapeless image, and she saw so clearly her mottled skin, her ungainly legs. The light from the water caressed her eyes, which were now entirely healed. She looked at herself and was able to say, “Me.”

And though she could hear that her voice sounded crinkly like a dead autumn leaf, she was filled with a soothing warmth. She was so happy, because all her pain was gone, all her fear vanished, because at last she was fully herself. She stood up and the air shaped itself around her. She was visible, lit up by the light, assured by her heart’s warm hug. She was free. She was herself. She was safe. She was.

And she understood then — with a relief that made her cry for joy — that in being, she was neither beautiful nor ugly, she was herself. She had no reason to fear, she had no reason to hurt. She could think her own thoughts (though barely speak them).

And she lived happily ever after.

 

Here

She could not stop smiling. Her face was so warm, she was inside-her-own-face warm. “Nobody rises” they were singing in the background. His voice was like smooth terracotta, round, earthy, just so right. They were all harmonizing yellow, again, just right. A springtime of yellow. The new shoots from the ground were her friends, she’d kind of just made them, the friends. It was no effort. She had only experienced that one other time, and that was with Him. The sweetness of it, sun-warmed chocolate, back-of-your-tongue thick.

These people, each better than the next, and all the next and before, so so so beautiful. They make music out of the smokey air of winter Cape. Smokey but no one’s lit a fire. Why does it smell like a fireplace? No one knows. She had stumbled into a whole garden here. Every favorite flower in there.

She was just softly happy. Summertime in January, pink and plump and sweet.