I had a dream that I was sitting with my dead sister and my dead brother
and I was describing to them the way that Dennis the Menace park in Monterey had been dismantled, destroyed and abandoned
which was strange because the park hasn’t been, it’s still there and functional
but I told them in detail the way that the train had been melted down
and the big slide ripped out
and the tables were burned
and as I told them, in my dream, it never occurred to me that they were dead
and when I woke I felt the pieces come together and the picture fell apart
because somewhere between a group of kids playing at the park and an almost-forty-year-old man having a dream
some dreams were lost, some dreamers woke, some nightmares came true
and I massaged my temples for at least twenty minutes while my wife slept and the darkness changed to dawn, my head and neck and shoulders aching and refusing my request to slip back into sleep
when we were kids we would play and laugh and it never mattered if we got hurt because we were going to live forever
In loving memory of Ruane Richardson and Ethan Eayre
They talked about what was lost, what had been taken away
They cried about broken trust and they poured out their rage
I sat in the circle wanting to fix them, not speaking
They took turns revealing wounds and scars and falling to pieces
They saw each other as safety, recognition of shared experience
I cried quietly and wanted to undo their past
They looked at me and asked the question
I couldn’t speak
I couldn’t share
I hadn’t lost anything
I could still see the untouched, innocent, pure picture of me, in my head
I couldn’t reach him, but he wasn’t dead
So I didn’t tell them I understood, because I didn’t
I didn’t spill my hurts, my pains, my betrayals,
I was scared that they could tell the difference
If I showed my wounds
They would know that I hurt so much more for theirs
If I told my story they would hear the disregard I held for myself, they would know that I could see the hurt, but not feel it, I could remember the pain but never touch it, I could still hear the little boy crying and screaming in my mind but I couldn’t reach him to offer comfort,
So I didn’t say anything, in that room where five teenage girls explained how they were abused, and I never explained why I was there.
I kept my words inside and I never thought much of it,
I couldn’t feel how hurt that boy was,
I could feel the pain of those girls and my sisters and my friends and all the girls and women who had been hurt, I could see how they would suffer without end, and I was a boy turning into a man, I had no time to fit suffering into the plan, whatever I felt was moss growing on the other side of the wall, I know that it was there but I couldn’t reach it at all
But I could have spoken up in that room
I should have
That little boy deserved some respect
There’s no cheat sheet for life. We each get our own instruction manual when we’re born, but it’s written in a language we have to learn.
I can remember a story about a boy, he grew into me. That memory is meaningless in my life, despite being the only foundation I have to define myself.
What I know of myself today is that I am capable of things I never expected. I am talented and strong. I am expressive and openly emotional.
Those few things don’t define me.
I am mid-way through a life expectancy, and I have yet to figure out how I belong in my own life, beyond a very strong attachment to my current situation.
I choose to let my emotional reactions to experiences be the prow of my ship. I cut the waters of my journey with how I feel. I direct my path by what feels right to me.
I am secure in this choice. It suits me.
I have been faced with opposition to my choice for as long as I have existed. Close or distant, family or friends, I have been told how wrong I am, over and over.
I have not, I will not allow anyone else to choose my path.
My path must be travelled by my feet. Nobody else is required to live my life.
I don’t know you, and I don’t know how you have chosen, and with all due respect,
I don’t give a damn what you choose.
Your choices may impact my life.
Mine might impact yours.
We are not solitary islands, separated by oceans. We are interactive and interdependent in this reality. We are pieces of a global machine.
My choices will be mine, and yours will be yours, and that is just fine with me.
So give me your indifference, in this difference.
We have our own lives to fuck up.
The sunlight through the clear stone was warm. The cub moved the stone side-to-side and watched the light change color. Red, yellow, green, blue, the cub lay on his side and pushed the stone with his paws.
As the light turned yellow again, the cub heard something from above. Looking up into the trees around him, he spotted the falcon from the willow tree sitting on a branch high above the forest floor. The falcon watched him, unmoving.
Their eyes locked and the cub felt something pass through his body, warmth spreading from his chest to his legs. Time seemed to stand still as the wolf and falcon gazed at each other.
Pain shot through the wolf cub’s paw and his eyes darted quickly down. The clear stone had light shining through it, and where the light fell on some fallen pine needles, a bright red burst of heat was growing.
Jumping back, the wolf cub watched in horror as the flame consumed the needles and started reaching up the nearby tree. The heat grew intense, billowing out from the flame and leaping up the tree trunk.
One burning tree became two, then three. The fire seemed angry, lashing out at all of the world.
The wolf cub ran.
The fire chased.
Reaching his pack’s den, the cub started howling and barking at his family.
“Go! We must go!”
His packmates looked at him as though he were mad and started yipping at him.
“Why?” “What happened?” “What’s wrong?”
“What did you do?”
The last question was growled from the throat of his sire. A huge black and grey wolf, the pack leader stood a few paces away, hackles raised.
“What did you do?”
The cub shrunk away, fearful of his sire’s anger. He had seen many times his sire challenged by other wolves, and every time the challengers had limped away bleeding, or died.
“Fire,” the cub whined. “It comes.”
Sniffing the air, the pack leader stared the cub down. “What part of this do you own?”
“The clear stone, it let’s light through, and-”
A sharp growl cut off the rest of his words, and the pack leader leapt toward the cub. Bowling him over with a shoulder thrust, the great Wolf leaned in close and snapped his massive jaws at the young wolf.
“Your fault. You, with your games. You have never been what you should be. This ends, now.”
Lunging toward the young wolf’s throat, jaws gaping, the big wolf was surprised by the younger wolf’s shoulder in his chest. A fierce push set the bigger wolf back on his heels, and the two started circling each other.
“So, the pup wants to play,” the older beast spoke with derision. “Come at me, then, pup.”
Feinting toward the young wolf’s face, then snapping at his flank, the big jaws ripped a gash along the young wolf’s side.
Falling back, then quickly jumping toward his sire, the cub bit down hard on the big wolf’s front leg. Blood filled his mouth as he shook his head, and he heard a cracking noise as the leg broke in his jaws.
As he let go, the bigger wolf turned and closed his jaws on the young wolf’s neck, just behind his shoulders.
A sharp scream filled the air then, and a grey blur from the sky became the falcon, swooping down and burying her talons in the great wolf’s eyes. As she pulled away the older wolf snapped his jaws up at her, and found purchase in her leg. Stabbing with her beak, the falcon ripped the great wolf’s face open as she flew out of reach.
Wounded grievously and blinded, the great wolf snarled and snapped his jaws aimlessly, hopping in a circle with his broken leg lifted.
The young cub closed quickly, sinking his jaws into the soft throat of the old wolf. Clamping down and shaking, the cub tasted his sire’s life passing through his jaws.
Motionless on the ground, the great wolf died with a small whimper, and the young wolf backed away.
Looking around, he spotted the falcon on a branch above. Bleeding from her leg, she looked down at the blood-covered wolf. She gathered her strength and leapt into the air with a short squawk.
The smell of smoke and the crackling of flames consuming the forest got the cub moving. With a final glance at his deceased sire, he raced after the falcon, through the forest.
You are Curiosity
Seven moons had passed since the cub found the strange tree-thing in the clearing. He had grown strong, almost as big as his sire. Learning to hunt had made him fast and agile.
However, the cub had a tendency toward being distracted easily. His sire and packmates were often displeased by the cub’s flights of fancy.
Your first duty is to your pack, his sire would tell him. Chasing butterflies won’t fill your belly, or your pack’s.
Roaming far away from the pack’s den, the cub had found many things that he did not understand. A half day’s walk from the den the cub found a great expanse of sparkling rocks and water that stretched forever.
For hours the cub would walk through the rocks, listening to the murmur of the water as it caressed the stones. Each rock was different, an array of colors and shapes unlike anything to be found in the forest. Gray birds flew over the rocks and landed at the edge of the water. The cub would chase them into the air, then run away as they screeched at him and dived at his heels, swooping down where he had been. The cub thought it great fun to see the surprise in the bird’s eyes when he would stop and snap his jaws at them. The squawking and sudden changes of direction filled his heart with mischievous joy.
At the end of the sparkling rocks a huge stone sat, with a giant willow tree growing over the top. The cub would sit under its low-hanging branches and stare through the leaves, for some reason the place filled him with peace and a small sadness.
On this day the cub crept quietly under the canopy of willow branches and heard a soft crooning sound. Looking up, the cub saw a falcon sitting alone in the highest branches. The bird stepped side-to-side and made the soft sound with eyes closed.
A small chuff escaped the cub’s throat, and the falcon’s eyes opened quickly. Staring down at the cub for a moment, the falcon slowly extended her wings. A small shake off her beak startled the cub back on his heels, then the falcon leapt into the air and flew away.
The cub watched the graceful flight, feeling a deep sense of envy for the effortless way the falcon swept through the sky.
To be so free…
The cub stayed under the willow tree until sunset, hoping the falcon would return. As the sun dropped into the water he started for home. As he reached the edge of the sparkling rocks a glint of light caught his eye. Sitting half-buried in the sand under the rocks was a stone unlike any the cub had seen. Gripping with his teeth, the cub pulled the strange stone up then dropped it on the ground. Perfectly clear except for a small mark on the center, the stone caught the light from the setting sun and made colors dance on the other side.
The cub picked his treasure up and started running for the forest. His sire and packmates would not understand, but the cub had to see what else this light-stone could do with light.
At the edge of the forest, the cub paused and looked back at the willow tree. He saw the falcon flying over the branches, seemingly looking towards the forest.
I wonder if she can see me…
The cub sat silently, watching the strange thing in the field.
It had been there for two days, not moving. The cub watched, sniffing the air for the scent of danger, as his sire had taught. Two days and no movement, yet the cub waited.
A soft breeze ran through the field and the tall grass bent down around the strange form. The cub saw a small movement then, a limb raised slightly, then dropped.
Creeping forward, the cub approached the strange thing, ready to run away at the first sign of danger. Drawing near, the cub saw clearly the strange thing, an animal with no fur. A green light flickered in the animal’s torso, and a dark liquid dripped from its mouth.
The cub, about three paces from the creature, tensed as its eyes opened and fixed upon his own. Soft words escaped the bleeding mouth as its hand stretched toward the cub.
“Come, little one.”
An unfamiliar feeling gripped the cub’s mind, a pull toward the strange thing. His paws moved of their own volition as the outstretched hand beckoned. As his nose came close, the thing’s hand reached toward the flickering green light in its chest. Clenching around the light, the hand pulled what seemed to the cub to be a large leaf from its chest, then extended it to the cub.
“Eat, little one,” the thing said. “You are Curiosity.”
Compelled beyond resistance, the cub leaned forward and bit into the glowing leaf. As his teeth closed on the light, it pulsed violently, and became mist. The cub inhaled sharply and the mist disappeared into his throat.
Warmth spread through the cub’s body as he stood motionless. His skin tingled under his fur as the warmth spread to his extremities.
A movement caught his attention and his eyes focused on the strange thing. It was changing, its flesh becoming wood-like and stiff. Its arms and legs became branches and within a few seconds, a fallen tree lay where the animal had been.
The cub turned and ran away from the field, suddenly afraid of what had occurred. Darting through the forest toward home, he leapt over a small pond, then stopped in his tracks.
Turning back to the water, he saw the sky reflected in the water, and something unusual. A small wolf peered out of the still water at him, blue eyes shining. The cub reached toward the wolf in the water, then recoiled as the other reached toward him at the same time.
Jumping toward the other wolf, the cub opened his jaws to bite. Suddenly wet, the other wolf was gone, and the cub had a mouthful of stale water. The surface of the pond rippled as the cub pondered this event.
“It’s me,” the cub thought. “It was me in the water. The sky and me in the water, and not in the water.”
A sharp yelp from behind the cub startled him, and he turned quickly.
“What do you do, here?” The great black wolf growled at the cub. “Come, now.”
A small bark of compliance came from the cub as he started walking behind his sire. He thought to tell what he had experienced in the field, but something held his words close. Walking through the woods to home, the cub started laughing in his mind.
“It was me, in the water. I wonder what else is in there?”
The Crafter placed the last mark on the statue with his blade, and stepped back with a sigh. Looking at the row of wooden mannequins he had built, a sense of relief washed over his mind. He had finished the Green Lady’s task, with a few hours to spare. The moon was full, and would reach it’s zenith soon.
Rushing to the large cabin at the end of the sand, the Crafter took off his hat as he approached her, sitting and staring at the water.
“My Lady, the work is done. I’ve finished.” His deep voice startled the Green Lady from her contemplation, and she looked at him with a smile.
She stood, thirty feet tall, her body appearing to be made of trees and flowers. Towering over the Crafter, she shook her head slightly.
“The work has just begun.”
She walked over to the row of fifty carved figures, as her arboreal arms reached for her sides. Reaching the first, the Green Lady tore a glowing mass of living wood from her body, and began to sing. A soft, wordless melody seemed to swirl around her hands as they placed the living wood against the chest of the first statue. Light escaped from the statue’s eyes as the piece of the Green Lady melted into its heart.
Now a living man, the carved figure smiled. The Green Lady looked into his eyes and said, “You are Hope.”
The glowing man nodded, and immediately turned and ran away from the beach, heading for the forest beyond the sand dunes.
She walked down the row, tearing pieces of her body away and placing them in the statues as she sang. With each new life created, she whispered identifying words to the creatures.
“You are Strength.”
“You are Love.”
“You are Laughter,
Magic, Time, Wonder, Loyalty, Truth.”
With each piece taken from her body she became smaller, until she empowered the last statue with a cringe, saying, “You are Sadness.”
Now only five feet, seven inches tall, her body slim and lithe, her long green hair danced on the ocean breeze. She turned to the Crafter, and said weakly,
“Take me back to the cabin, please, dear.”
The Crafter wrapped her arm around his broad shoulders and walked her slowly back to her home.
“Well, that’s done now, My Lady.”
She smiled at him again as he helped her down to the earth in front of her cabin.
Shaking her head once more, she looked at him and whispered, “One more.”
Reaching her thin hands toward her chest, she began to sing. She pulled a throbbing light from herself, and placed it against the Crafter’s chest. As it melted into his body, her feet dug into the earth, her body grew rigid as the Green Lady became a lovely willow tree, standing alone against a rocky outcrop, alone by the ocean. Her face disappeared as she whispered to the Crafter,
“You are Poetry.”