The Marsh & Little Wood

Such a little wood can only drink so much rain. Its leaves of myriad greens droop from days of constant beating. Its dark, bulging roots lay drenched & gasping for air. The saturated top soil shifts & bubbles with the push of excess water flowing up from beneath it. So much water that a sizable pond has formed there, beginning somewhere in the woods & spreading out across the marsh, which slopes down from the tree line.

All around, the grass thrives in these swampy conditions. It has grown tall & vibrant green, needle heads poking out like patchy stubble across the surface of the water. Leaning in over the pond, the trees gaze into the shallow, shadow-speckled pool. When their reflections ripple with each drip from their heavy bows, they can imagine what it might look like to see their old bodies dancing under the soft grey sky.

Ducks & geese flying overhead make a stop to swim & snack on the spongey vegetation. One brave drake paddles all the way up to the edge of the woods, much closer than he might have dared if venturing across the marsh one clumsy step at a time. Now he floats effortlessly above it. Several of his friends, emboldened by his brave display, join him. They quack in a line back & forth, mocking the twisted darkness.

The scene—the whole of the marsh & little wood I look down upon from atop a neighboring hill—is full of movement & life. I want to throw myself into the middle of it, immerse myself in the grass-filtered water without care, my only thoughts those pertaining to the wondrous coming of spring.

 

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Anxiety

When I accidentally let it in, it sneaks in through a single breath—one seemingly ordinary breath in a normal rhythm—so I never see it coming.

In through the nose & out through the mouth, in through the nose &—oh God!—

Heaviness like the color black drops straight into my chest. The sudden weight shatters my equilibrium, sending my eyes & thoughts spinning into my head. All around the fizzing, dancing, pinprick lights, I see threatening shadows creep in from all sides, like a dark wave swelling over me.

Am I drowning? Am I falling? Is the top of my head floating away? No, no, it is only in your mind.

My body is frozen with a chill that starts at my ears, crawls down my neck, my back, my arms. I realize then that my mouth tastes like blood, but it is a phantom smell; I triggered a reel of “teeth falling out” dreams to play. The fear of losing control circulates in my brain. My heart jolts & then quickens; my eyes widen; my hands shake; my teeth clamp; my stomach twists itself in a knot like a fetal position; & I can no longer breathe.

How again do I breathe? In through the nose—no, I did that. Out through the mouth?

I let it all go. The panicked parts of me immediately start to balance out again. I know I should keep breathing, seek the balance, but I am scared to take another sip of air.

What if it is there waiting for me? I’m sure it was hovering just above me all along…

I clutch my chest & focus my eyes in front of me.

In through the nose

A normal taste, a normal rhythm. My heartbeat slows. A minute of even breaths passes. I sit up straighter in my chair.

Just as quickly as the anxiety came, it left, & the day resumes again.

I never see it coming.

 

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Prevailing Light

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Gray clouds slid down the windshield of the sky like a river of ash, aiming to shut out the sunrise. But how that golden wave pushed back, glowing in its righteous defiance! Its colors flushed richly with the strain of its struggle, orange burning at its cheeks.

Its light was so pure & good that it drew in the help of the gallant east wind. Quite unfortunately, the wind’s charitable gusts proved almost too enthusiastic, & the moment it heard the bitter, shivering mumbles of cold humans tightening their jackets against it, the invisible Titan mercifully settled.

But without the wind the brave little sunrise trembled & began to falter. And so the gentle moon, still watching nearby, just on the other side of the veil, came to aid the cause. It did what it could to pull back the stormy tide, but, as for all creatures of the night, the day is primarily for sleeping, & its assistance quickly yawned into absence.

Noble efforts as they were, the darkness continued to fall, & the golden glow dwindled. With both quivering hands pressed against the descending shroud, the dying morning looked down upon the earth with an apologetic flicker.

I stood in the window, staring into the rapidly fading warmth of yellow light until the heavy clouds pinched out the last line of color on the horizon. But I did not despair; instead I smiled gently at the hazy orb still rising behind its dreary oppressor. A dim but prevailing light illuminated the day.

 

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Rising Day

A subtle, rising glow of light breathes gently upon the foot of darkness; morning waits beneath the horizon, building slow anticipation for the wide & shivering faces already packing themselves into frosted vehicles to start the day.

The foaming orange wave swells & crashes against the receding purple veil, gradually washing away into the signature blue sky that blesses us in the daytime—but not before finishing its grand entrance, anything but routine, a new show every sunrise; it is the purpose & joy of the proud sun to perform for all creation, awing us with its brilliant displays of color & light & warmth, illuminating the stage & allowing the sky to be seen.

A thin break of red flashes just under the curtain, almost open, the final gesture of the prelude, which rolls into the next scene. The painted clouds freeze for a moment on the closing frame. The earth smiles—I capture a picture—& the colors slowly sink into the still blue.

Act Two.
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Second Breath

That evening, in the blue light of a shrouded winter twilight, I saw falling leaves suddenly begin spiraling upwards through the trees.

I rubbed my eyes, reassessed my mostly empty—second or third—glass of dry red wine, &, with the slight squint of my dreamy eyelids, made the walls of the glass disappear. I stared at it curiously, slowly licking my tingling bottom lip. The opaque liquid left behind seemed to sit like a pool of blood in my tender & innocent palm.

A strong gust of wind shook the warm cabin logs, which turned my amused state of attention back to the gravity-defying phenomenon bustling outside in the woodland air. As the leaves continued to mysteriously climb & dance, I could hear their brown, crinkled flesh whispering prayers of returning again to the impossible place of their youth. Together, like a fabled lament of the forest, they told the longing story of May, June, & July, swaying high up in the branches, wearing the color of vitality, drinking light & life so abundantly.

I watched them. Up & up they soared, desperately reaching, twirling & chattering like lost fairies of spring & summer.

But suddenly there was silence; the breathing sky inhaled & all that floated in the treetops began to fall once again. I scooted my body closer to the window, captivated by how magical the switch appeared. It seemed to me then that it was not gravity that had previously been bent, but time; it was as though time reversed & resumed with the push & pull of the mighty, reigning wind.

It is common for an individual to experience multiple moments in life when time seems to slow or stand still, but I am quite sure it takes a much rarer trick of perception to be convinced of time moving backward. It was indeed a first & thrilling sight for me in this instance—but I am also sure that wine is & was a significant factor in creating the proper conditions for such a time-reversing illusion to occur.

I took another hearty sip of my drink—this finished the glass—as my gaze followed the leaves rocking silently back down to the winter ground. Somehow I knew the wind had not really gone; it was only just recharging. As I waited for its return, my empty cup was, without request, refilled by the familiar hand of my beloved. I found him standing in front of me, in the soft orange light of the cabin, his face feeling flushed as he met mine for a gentle kiss.

I cannot recall the precise amount of time that passed after that moment, but, regardless, & as surely as I predicted, the tunnel of cold air did come again, roaring back through the shivering valley, scooping the paper leaves off the forest floor for another—perhaps the last—ritual attempt at regaining the lives they lost.

“Abandon your mourning to this second breath of life,” I whispered to them, &, like a toast to good health, clinked my full—third or fifth—glass against the window, “for we can never go back.”

 

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What Strange & Resilient Things

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Oh, all the strange & resilient things that don the old trees in the wet winter forest.

On the weathered faces of those sleeping giants, clever mushrooms appear like five o’clock shadow. Their roots, stretching out across the plush carpet of decay like callused & twisted toes, are graced with fuzzy green socks of thick moss, rich in color. And around every naked trunk, wrinkled & leathery like roughly aged necks, are fashioned snug scarves of ivy vines.

High up, the wizened branches may crack & creak, like ancient bones in cold discomfort, but down below, damp leaves, like blankets of freshly shed skin, silently compress into fresh fabrics for spring clothing.

 

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For Our Good

What words could fully incapsulate this human experience? I’m fairly certain there are none. For example, none that could describe such a mix of worry & disgust at my failings, yet simultaneously explain the undercurrent, the electric, jittering pulse of giddiness I feel about my hilarious carelessness & unjustified rebellion when I indulge in drink.

None of this matters! I… I should have left a long time ago! No—no, I’m sorry—
Indeed I think I meant it, & I’m glad I finally said it—
HA!
—you are so upset! I wish you could see how ridiculous you are being, dear.
You 
do know I don’t mean a word of it…

The verbal & written language is so peculiar. It’s all we have, really, to attempt to share this experience in the most explicit way. Yet even as we torture ourselves with trying to write it down “just so,” it always falls short. Even the wordless language of art or music, generally accepted to be universal… No, no medium can inject you with the exact same madness of emotion as I am experiencing at the moment—or any moment of one’s current fancy or otherwise

That’s why I’m certain there is a God. Nothing we create can truly translate this thing to one another. Yet I know deep within me I am wholly understood by something or someone. It’s all innate, don’t you think? We just feel it, we know it—when it really comes down to it—that we’re not as alone in our thoughts as we melodramatically think we are sometimes.

This visceral existence. This constant, fearful wonder yet infected with this unpredictable strain of emboldened pride, the force that compels us to keep fighting against the truth, the heavy, subconscious knowing we are but mere specs of dust.

What a paradox! I do love the mystery! Bless me—I am terrified & in awe! Bless me–I am hopelessly, fabulously intoxicated & full of joy at the moment, with the realization that I am pathetically human. Human & therefore perfectly, beautifully, a disastrous mess-of-a-thing.

And for God’s sake, do bless me! If you could just see me! I’m positively a-flutter. Admittedly, it is not just for the love of my God & the experience of this life that I am a rambling fool…

Can I tell you a secret? I believe I have been all but proposed to! Ah, but can I be sure? If he is under the same mist of bliss I am currently raptured by? Excellent question, my brain… Let’s think on it until we are rendered an anxious heap—the logical thing to do, undoubtedly, to be sure.

Oh, but if it is true… we should be engaged by the end of the year! And I shall not die young & unmarried as the wicked demons in my nightmares tell me!

What an effect this elixir has had on us this night, my love. But I trust our Father is working—working in all our ravenous sin & ridiculous impulses—all things together for our good.

I Dreamed I Had a Daughter

I dreamed I had a daughter.

She was dark-haired with big, searching eyes. She was small & quiet, quick & happy. She was the happiest when I was near her.

She loved to babble about the silliest yet the most intriguing things. She ceaselessly asked questions, danced goofy little dances, sang nonsense songs that meant the world to me.

I miss her. I hope I meet her one day. I hope she has a brother—oh! with my dearest’s sweet lips & strong hands… I hope I dream of him when I fall back to sleep.

Seasonal Depression

There was little reason for that routine evening drive to be particularly memorable. All I can think is that it was already late December, so by this point in the year I fully expected to be settled into the cold, desaturated world of seasonal depression. Upon my return to Ohio from a week in sunny Texas, I prepared myself to see nothing but plains of white twisted with varying lines of black, every scene frozen under a vast shroud of gray.

But all the way down that seven mile stretch of road from the highway exit to my heart’s home, I was blessed by paintings of gentle colors flickering through my car windows. The decomposing earth produced a grayish-green sea about the scattered islands of rusty leaves. The wet tree skeletons donned an array of plum & mossy browns. Hazy purples were thickly present in the damp atmosphere. The low sun poured out a sheer veil of soft, mango light over the prevailing winter.

The joy I received from this seemed to rise up slowly from within myself, like warmth radiating out toward the beauty around me & spreading over my skin, like a tide reaching up from the ocean to kiss the lover shore.

But just as the tide must always recede back into deeper water, so does joy in the wintertime.

It is January now, & I am still thinking about that drive, recalling the journey fondly as a blur of muted colors—my favorites.

The scenery now has entirely given itself over to a jumble of leftover browns & dirty white, & the sky has already faded into a ceiling of drooping gray.

I am by the window with my notebook, as is my preference during this evening hour, when the sun is warm & golden in its descent & casts a romantic glow over everything that is usually so painfully unremarkable. This is my favorite hour, my only happy escape from the tedium of the season.

I am waiting for the streams of gold to trickle out upon the frost. There. I can almost see it! Wait. No. No, not today. Today, the sun is not going to come. The gray ceiling has chosen to be merciless. Today it is truly solid, a thick, even coating of bleakness; it offers no break for the soft winter sunbeams to peak through for me.

With a numb scowl, I accept what is denied me but remain by the window until the filtered light is fully under the horizon. Only God knows if the ceiling will break tomorrow, or the next day, or the next day either.

I bitterly think that it would be best not to hope for things at all in these downcast months. So, I turn & resolve to expect no more moments of awesome joy from nature, or anything else, until the appearance of Spring.

 

 

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Broken Pieces

You cannot leave me—you are mine.

You are not?

I distinctly remember you calling yourself worthless, is this not true?

If I pick up a broken bottle from the street & call it mine, no one should object to me doing so—especially not the bottle itself crying out! And how peculiar that would be. Not only because of the obvious miracle of an animated bottle, but because it would be absurd for it to object to even the slightest change of scene. Come now. The bottle is discarded, empty, broken, essentially dead; it belongs to no one because no one wants it.

But in me picking the bottle up, calling it mine, choosing to keep it, choosing to want it – in that process I have given it a definite worth, given it a special meaning. What was once a nameless thing is now identifiable: it is mine. 

‘Love is as much a choice as it is something that happens to you.’

I have chosen you, my love. I have picked you up, every broken piece of you in this miserable state. Even after time & time again of cutting my fingers & lips on your splintered edges, even after your silly objections for me to place you back into the misery from which I plucked you out, I have chosen to keep you. I call you mine.

I see the possibilities! I see the glints of light in the glass of your eyes. I have hope that one day you will again recognize the beauty & brilliance of your substance, not slowly dissolve in the hopeless acceptance of your condition.

And I have hope that one day you will truly see me again, look directly at me again—not through me, like you have been, like I am the mere broken bottle I once was, too…

I am not a broken bottle anymore, am I? Someone out there wants me, has redeemed me in my brokenness, has found me worth saving, haven’t they? Oh God! Oh God!—

‘Love is as much a choice as it is something that happens to you.’

Oh, my heart, how I do love you. How I cherish every fragment of your soul.

If for nothing else you should always know that you mean something because you happen to mean everything to me.

I pray you are the one to treasure my broken pieces as I treasure yours.

 

 

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