“Sophia, honey, where are you going?”
My mother’s voice rises above the creak of the screen door.
“Outside,” I call back. The door slams behind me as I step out into the purpling spring evening. I smile. How could “outside” describe where I’m going?
Stepping off the edge of lawn, I run through the woods. Moss is thick and damp beneath my feet. Weeds grip onto my legs, friendly greeting hands. Trees rustle, in infinite patience. The sultry air fogs my glasses, and leaves drops of dew dazzling a spider web.
I walk across Jordan Creek, hopping from ancient rock to ancient rock. Water sighs its way down the waterfall, and then sings into a small pool, hidden by softly curling ferns. The water shines with a light from beneath its surface, dreamily glowing to an orchestra of crickets.
My feet squish on mud. One by one my worries sink into the mud; I grind my heels into their ghoulish faces for revenge. And I smile.
The ground shakes as deer leap through the forest. I watch them, their eyes constantly searching for something that never was, ears swiveling in anxious questions, tails held tense, stiffened with warnings and apologies and regrets. They lope out of sight, and I look ahead.
I’m almost there.
And then, finally, I’m there!
I relax into the constant tide of peace that splashes about my shoulders and sit cross-legged underneath a small maple tree.
The clearing is small, surrounded by thick-leafed trees. It maintains seclusion from the world, a secret place that time passes by, but still I can feel waves of energy whistling through. High in the slender, supple branches of a wild apple tree, a squirrel sways in her nest of dead leaves.
I close my eyes and suddenly I am that squirrel.
I can feel the dead leaves damply frail against my fur; feel the heavily lazy wind raking over the branches, spilling into my nest. I chatter my annoyance at a curious magpie that comes too close, and swell with aching pride over the nestful of innocently pink, squalling babies beneath me.
My eyes snap open. And I lose my thread of connection to the gray squirrel. I lie on my back, raise myself up by my elbows and gaze up at the dusk-thick sky.
A robin flies ahead and in a moment of looking I am that robin.
I can feel a twig roughly grooved in my beak, feel the sultry air straining against my wings. I chirp my joy for all to hear, and fester with impatience for the nest to follow the twig, the eggs to follow the nest, and the chicks to follow the eggs.
A blade of grass twitches against my elbow. I become folded into it. I feel my roots soaking up nourishment from the thawing soil; feel crowded by a thousand other grasses. I feel chilled by the lowness and am stretching, stretching, growing, growing to reach the sun.
I expand to my human size. Sighing, I stand up, and begin the journey home. Darkness is beginning to slash over the dusk, and Mom will be worried.
But I smile, straighten my back; swing my arms in uneven rhythms.
I am refreshed, rested, in all senses of those two words. I am ready to stare at the darkly ghoulish eyes of realities, and enter life again.