Scattered

forgot

I’ve forgotten something.  Something important.

It’s not a foreign feeling to me, but it’s not something I’ve ever gotten used to.  I desperately want to remember.

My room is littered with half-finished projects and open books.  I don’t recognize half of the titles, but the pages are dog-eared and underlined.  I’ll finish them someday, the notes in the margin will trigger my memory.

Sticky notes frame my mirror, covered in phone numbers and dates and a grocery list from two years ago.  Flour, bananas, chocolate chips… I’d planned on making banana bread.  I’m not sure I ever got around to it.  Banana bread sure sounds good to me about now.

I reach for one of the many notebooks on my desk, flipping through the pages with the hope I will remember whatever it is that’s so important.  A half-finished poem, some notes from a conference, and a list of random words that look pretty.  I pick up a different notebook, and flip through pages of doodles and sketches.  Every page holds a glimmer of memory, a rough look at moments I wanted to remember.

Photos hang on my walls, barely giving room for me to see the faded wallpaper behind them.  I can’t forget them, not one, so I keep them where they hang to remind myself.

Perhaps it’s an important date.  I look at my calendar, hanging near my door.  It’s two months behind, despite keeping it where I walk by every day.  I flip it to the correct month, looking at all the boxes filled with my handwriting, marking events and birthday reminders I usually forget to read.  Today is blank, and so is tomorrow.  I can’t figure out what I’ve forgotten.

But it’s on the tip of my tongue.

I run my hands through my hair as I turn in place, hoping my eye catches on something that triggers my memory.  It feels important, it feels obvious, it feels . . .

Mreow?

The cat!  I turn around to see my gray tabby peek around the door frame.  She stares at me with question marks in her yellow eyes, and I wonder if they’re just reflecting the look in my own.  I’d fed the cat, hadn’t I?

She follows me with her tail up as I go to the kitchen and check her bowls.

I did feed her.  Sighing, I sit down on the floor and let her walk all over my lap.  I thought I’d figured it out.  Tabby rubs her face against mine and purrs as I absently scratch her head.  Whatever it is I’ve forgotten, I suppose it will have to wait.

I can’t remember.

I wish I could.

Child of the Sea

pexels-photo-143688

My father used to tell me I was a son of the storm, born with the sound of thunder in my blood.

My mother told me I was a son of the sea, the first breath coating my lungs with its salt.

I say I am both.

Ocean storms are electricity under my skin, wind in my hair, crashing waves against my heartbeat.  The sea is tides pulling at my soul, sand and pebbles beneath my feet, the smell of brine and sand and fish in my chest.

I walk the beach in the rise of morning, still bleary-eyed from rolling out of bed.  The tides are low and soft, waking me slowly with its murmuring.  The sky is blue and pink and gold, and in the growing light I search the ground at my feet.

I look for shimmering rocks, for lost sea glass, for shells that softly sing.  They wash up onto the shore with the sadness of the ocean’s depths, the longing of the tides, the wishes of the stars.  When I pick them up they cling to me, whispering their stories, raw and stumbling and rushed together because they’ve held it all in for so long without a soul to listen.

The waves bring them to me, gently nudging them to my shore.  It knows I will find them and take care of them.  It’s known since I was a child, when a shell slipped from its grasp and found its way to my small sand-covered hands.  I’d sat with it cradled in my hands as I listened to its story, letting the waves lap at my feet like a worried mother.

I stayed there until everything was said, and then a little longer, sitting in silence before letting the restless ocean take it back.

I suppose the water saw my care, or perhaps the shell begged to go back, but I found it on the beach again the next morning.  The waves have delivered them ever since.

Today it is a scattering of sea glass and a shimmering rock the color of kelp.  They’re a chattering bunch, and I swear the sea shares a forbearing smile with me.

I carry them to my beach house and set them on my windowsill, where the sun will warm them and make them shine.  The wind chimes outside give them lighthearted music to learn, and the muffled sound of the endless sea lulls us all to sleep at night.

Every rock, shell, glass, and pearl have a place inside, lining my windows and shelves, the little ones clinging to each other as they fill vases and jars.  The new ones will still speak in rushed sentences and hurried words, but the ones that have stayed, the ones who have settled here for a long time, they know they have time.  They know I will listen.  The stories they tell are unhurried and old and whispered from deep, deep inside.

I am a son of the stormy sea.  My hair is stiff with salt, my hands are rough with sand, and my home is full of the depths of the ocean.  I know its secrets, and it knows mine, for there are some shells that ask to return to the water.

And with them, they carry stories of me.

 

Attic

dust.jpg

There are moths in the attic.  Hundreds of them.  No one comes up here because of them, because they hate the powder that falls from their wings when they land on them like dust.

I don’t mind them.  It’s quiet, and they keep me company as I sit in an old rocker with my notebook and pencil.  Everything here is calm, and it forces me to be calm too.  If I move quickly or suddenly, it upsets the moths and the dust, and I end up sneezing long after I leave.

Today, I hold my notebook open to a fresh page, my pencil tip inches away from touching.  The room smells like paper and moths and jasmine.  I’m looking around, slowing my breathing, paying attention to what I see.

A large globe sits in its stand, waiting to be spun by curious hands.  Boxes line against the wall, some filled with books and pictures and memories, some I haven’t explored yet.  There’s a rocking horse in the corner, and a few of the moths are resting on it, keeping it company until it is needed again.

A small table stands off to a side with little chairs around it, ever ready to be set for a tea party.  The dolls and stuffed animals that used to sit there are packed away, stored in one of the boxes to avoid the moths and dust.

Sometimes I get them out so the table doesn’t look so lonely, but then I’m always missing the little girl who serves them tea, and I end up putting them back.  The little girl hasn’t been there for tea in a long time.

I have her in a notebook though.

In an old one, when my handwriting was big and clumsy and I couldn’t spell.

A luna moth lands on my armrest, fanning out it’s broad green wings that taper into curling tails.  I smile as I finally lower my pencil to the paper and start to sketch it.  I’ve probably already given this one a name, but I never try to remember those things, and so today I call it Pearl.  It sits there for a long time, content to be drawn and in no hurry to be elsewhere.  I sit there a long time too, content to draw and observe.

When I’m happy with the sketch, I start writing around it.  I put down the name ‘Pearl’ and write ‘luna moth’ right next to it.  After that, I just write about whatever comes to mind.

How light it gets at night during a full moon.

The way dust floats in the air.

My favorite kind of tea.

The silence around me is calm, settled, waiting.  It is full of longing, memories, possibilities.  It is light enough for my imagination to soar, and heavy enough for my thoughts to go deep.  I doodle on the edges of my page, little flowers and stars and a string of pearls to go through them.

When the page is full and my nose gets stuffy from the dust, I shut my notebook with a sigh and slowly rise from my seat.  The floorboards creak under my weight, the only other sound up here besides my heartbeat, and a few moths flutter in response.  I don’t really want to leave, but I’ll be back tomorrow.

Until then, I think about the empty tea-table and the waiting globe, the luna moth and my rocker and how the dust looks floating in the air.

There is something about that place.  Something sad and hopeful and enchanting.

I love how it makes me think.

Wolves

pexels-photo-632078

There are three things you need to know before reading this.

I am a child.

I am a child.

I am a child.

There are people screaming and running past me, but I am standing still on the bridge watching as the wolves approach.  They aren’t charging, they aren’t pouncing.

Not yet.

They are snarling just enough to show their teeth.  Their fur is standing on end.  Their giant paws are landing softly on the ground, still ever the silent predator long after they stopped caring about sneaking up on their prey.

They know they will win.  They see the people fleeing.  They hear the sound of panic, of voices crying out it wasn’t supposed to be like this.  The people running past me can feel the ground crumbling beneath their feet, and I understand their panic.  They grew up on solid ground, they were told it would never shake, and so they never saw this coming.

My first steps were made on this trembling ground.

Like a sailor used to the roll of the sea, I am steady on my feet as the world falls apart.  As I watch the destruction approach.

As I stand in its path.

My hair is caught by a wisp of wind, escaping my red oversized hoodie.  The approaching wolves are close enough to notice me now, and they pause.

They don’t know what to do with a child.  In their packs, the children are gathered by the elders and carried away from danger.  In their packs, the children follow when the others flee.  In their packs, the children have not yet learned how to fight.

I am not from their packs.

I was born screaming, ready to fight for a breath of air.  My parents held me, they taught me, they showed me their love for this world whose downfall they mourn.  I have barely begun to know my surroundings.  I have only just started to understand this home of mine.  But I am not willing to hand it over to the wolves without a fight.

And I am not alone.

Hunter ambles to my side, his father’s wood axe held loosely in his hand.  He looks over to me and smiles, and I return the look, for this is how we bare our teeth.

Isobel stands behind me with books in hand.  They used to laugh at her stacks of books, but paper can cut deep and hardcovers are heavy, and the words she collects are sharpest of all.  They don’t laugh anymore, but she does.  She can still see the beauty in fire.

Jack walks up with his sister Ellie.  Hand in hand, they wait beside me.  Their icy blue eyes take in the chaos and do not look away.  You might as well chip away at icebergs than take them on as an enemy.  They have each other, and that is all they need.

Anna leaps onto the bridge’s rail, holding the cables to keep her balance as her long copper hair gets caught by the wind.  She looks down at the raging river below us then back at the wolves, raising an eyebrow at them, challenging them to be fiercer than the water she loves.  I’ve watched her swim against the current.  The wolves don’t stand a chance.

We are gathering at the end of this bridge, forming a line of defiance with still more coming.  This is where we have decided to make our stand, with abandoned cars and a stretch of pavement all that lies between us and these wolves.

The world fell apart to their claws within a few short decades, but that does not terrify us.  We were born into this chaos.  This is what we know.  The wolves are growling, uncertain, unsteady.  They are on our playing field now, and their balance is wavering.

I narrow my eyes at the leader and dare him to try to cross the line I’ve drawn.  They had better approach with caution.  If they were smart, they’d turn and run.  They should know from the looks in our eyes.  There are three things they should run from.  There are three things they ought to fear.

We are children.

We are children.

We are children.

Seamstress

Thread

Between the large town of Toska and the thick forest of Hiraeth, on the edge of the tree line and a distance from the main road, there stands a big, old, gnarled tree with a small door and round windows.

It is where I live, and where people come with souls that need mending.

The young ones are always timid, a bit embarrassed, telling me their rips are little; but they can’t stand them just the same.  Sometimes they’re right, and the rips are tiny, but they bleed and bleed and bleed, and they burn like fire.

Sometimes they are wrong, and the rips in their souls are some of the worst I’ve seen.  Those are the ones I spend days on, sometimes weeks, stitching with every different color of thread I have.

The adults usually wait a long time before coming to me.  By the time I see their souls, they are stiff with frayed edges, and the damage runs deep.

I always tell them to come back immediately if it gets torn again.  Sometimes they do.  Sometimes they don’t.  Whatever they choose, I know they’re trying to do their best.

I get paid many different ways; with coin, favors, food, books, herbs, clothing, and secrets, to name a few.  And a hedgehog.  He still likes to sleep on my lap or in my sewing basket while I work.

I look at the soul I’ll work on today.  The girl who owns it is in her twenties, a little older than I had been when I started mending other people’s souls.  My heart aches the moment I pick it up, and it burns like stinging nettles against my fingers.  This will hurt.

It always does.

My hands are calloused and rough from years of this job.  The first time I held a torn soul in my hands they were bleeding within an hour.  It took me forever to get it done.

But in the end it was worth every stab of pain, and I knew I wouldn’t stop.

So many lies have scratched this soul that their claws ripped it wide open.  She had spread plaster over the jagged tears as her own attempt to fix it, but the plaster had hardened and now pulled at the edges.  I know the soul underneath will be raw and bleeding.

I warm up some soothing oil in a pot and add a bit of lavender and chamomile.  Putting the soul in to soak, I make sure the temperature doesn’t get too warm.  It will need to be there a while before the plaster will peel away, and I don’t want to risk tearing the soul by prying it off too soon.

While it soaks, I select a thread and needle.  She had been right in one aspect when she tried using the plaster.  She knew that these rips and tears need something strong to fix it.  Something steady, something lasting, but something a little flexible, so it doesn’t pull once the tear becomes scar tissue.

My blue thread is the steadiest, my black is the most lasting, and yellow is my most flexible.  I run my scarred hands over the many spools.  Every color, every shade, all to mend souls from the toughest to the most delicate tears.

I pull out my dark moss-green thread.  It will hold, but also stretch and give with time.  It will stay, always, but it will fade into the past.  Hopefully, there will be a time when it won’t be noticed anymore.

Reaching into the warm oil, I start gently pushing the plaster off.  It is stubborn, and clingy, and slow to respond, but it comes off.  Beneath it, the soul is bleeding, and raw, and vulnerable and scared.  I take it out and lay it on a soft blanket.  It needs to sit for a while, so I start humming to myself as I clean out my pot, find my glasses, and thread my needle.

I sit cross-legged in my stuffed armchair and carefully pick up the torn soul.  My thread is double-knotted and my stitches are painstakingly small.  With as many rips as are in this soul, I know it will be late before I’m finished.  Still, I don’t rush.  I sew, and hum, and listen to the stories that leak out beneath my fingers.

My neck and shoulders will be in knots in the morning.  I’ll probably have a headache too.  I’ll need to soak my hands and wrap them before I go to bed.

But tomorrow, I’ll give back the soul with tiny green stitches all over it.  I’ll tell her to be gentle with it, and to come back if it gets torn again.

I will be here for when it does.