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It was spring in the mountains of Washington—a time of beauty and change. The heaviness of the snow was melting away, flooding the brooks and allowing the pines to stretch their branches once again after a long winter. Leaves were budding on the trees, no longer icy and dead. The whole world, it seemed, was slowly turning colors.

Anne was sitting in the majesty of it all, lying back upon a rock and watching the geese disappearing into the clouds over the distant horizon. There was warmth from the sun and splendor all around.

A woodpecker’s tapping, a firm rhythm, was the only sound in the silent mountains. The creek below slid easily by beneath her over the shining rocks lining its bed. The wetness of spring hung in the air, soft to breathe and alive with the scents of nature; there was wood and soil and moss. Tall grass waved in sprigs, jutting out of cracks in the rocks that tumbled over a steep slope. It was the place Anne called her Thinking Place, where all was peaceful.

The Thinking Place sitting alone in the mountain
It was Anne’s last spring in the mountains

There was much thinking to be done that spring. It was Anne’s last spring in the mountains. That very day she would be leaving the years behind, shedding them, and departing her aunt’s house to rejoin her family in California. She had been staying to finish the sixth grade while her parents readied their new home, but the signs of approaching summer—the fresh greens and budding flowers—signaled that it was time for her to go. Anne drew a wrinkled and fading photograph from her pocket, where it had been since she arrived at her aunt’s house. It showed her and her parents, with their home and the mountains in the background. She was eager to return to them, but they were like the flowers of summer—seeing them meant new beginnings, and new beginnings can only follow an end. Anne willed through the stillness of the forest that her aunt would not call her back too soon.

There was a presence beside her. Anne glanced to her left. It was another girl, with black hair and soft blue eyes that were quietly staring at her. The girl met her gaze gently and turned back to the sketchbook on her lap to continue a drawing she was working on.

The stillness continued, and neither said a word. They sat on the rock together and let the magic of the place engulf them.

It was a long while before the time was right to speak. The first words came from Anne. Her question seemed not to cut through the silence but to blend with it.

“Is this your Thinking Place too?”

The other girl nodded and smiled, just a little. There was a piece of sadness, Anne realized, in the blue eyes. There was more silence. Then the girl’s question came, almost a whisper.

“What are you thinking about?” The eyes drifted to the tear still clinging to Anne’s jaw.

“I love this place,” Anne said simply. This was the truth, and it was all that the other needed to hear. A comforting arm reached around Anne’s shoulders.

“Me too.”

“What are you thinking about?” asked Anne, remembering the sadness in the blue eyes.

“My parents split up... we’re finding a new place somewhere.” Anne understood. It was her turn to extend a comforting arm.

So the two girls sat, each with a shoulder to lean on and one to hold. All was peaceful in their Thinking Place. The rocks stood firm on the slope, the grass waved about them, and the stream kept sliding by while the woodpecker tapped at its tree.

And slowly, the world was spinning... time was slipping by. The sun began to disappear beyond the curve of the horizon. It glowed pure and red, leaking its color into the sky. There was soft golden light enveloping the mountains of Washington, bathing the Thinking Place and the girls in its pleasant warmth. The very dome above them shone with the glory of the setting sun. The whole world, it seemed, was turning colors.

The girls leaned against each other and the orb sank lower, its color dappled by faint clouds. Then that sliver of scarlet disappeared, and there was a flash of brilliance. The girls couldn’t see it, but they felt it in their hearts... the assurance that the sun would return to glow over the Thinking Place—that the end of that day would make way for a new sunrise.

*          *          *

The voice of Anne’s Aunt finally cut through the silence. It was time for Anne to leave the mountains of Washington. The girls stood together and gazed out over the rocks and the brook and the forest.

The Thinking Place two girls meeting in the mountain
A bright sun dappled the entire page in a hopeful gold

“Here.” The girl removed her drawing from the notebook and handed it to Anne. “Remember this moment.”

“I will,” said Anne. She placed the photograph of her family in her friend’s hand.

“Me too,” said the girl, and closed her fingers around it.

Then Anne turned away from their Thinking Place, towards a future in California. She glanced back at her friend, standing on the rocks in the mountains, then examined the drawing. It showed the magic of their friendship and the Thinking Place in swirls of brilliant color. A bright sun dappled the entire page in a hopeful gold.

Walking through the forest toward her aunt’s house, Anne turned the sheet over.

There was a telephone number written on the back.

The Thinking Place Katie Mercer-Taylor
Katie Mercer-Taylor, 13
St. Paul, Minnesota

The Thinking Place Abigail Schott-Rosenfield
Abigail Schott-Rosenfield, 13
San Francisco, California