The graveyard is crowded with headstones and trees, rolling over hills and stretching for the horizon.  The late evening light is lining everything in orange as I run through the rows of headstones.  I hear the shouts behind me but can no longer see my pursuers.  They do not know these gray hills like I do, and with the long shadows and twisting rows, it is easy to end up running in circles.

Most of the stones here were engraved by the very people buried beneath, and the words they bear are more of a last confession and warning to the living than they are a comfort to those that come to mourn.

I brush stray hairs from my face, ducking behind a large oak.  Blue and yellow wildflowers are clumped beside me, closing with the fading light.  I always loved the patches of flowers that grew here.  They remind me of who I wish to be.

Color amidst gray.  Brightness against dark.  Softness in a hard place.

I was born in the height of spring, when the meadows were filled with blue and the trees were bursting with pink.

Early in my childhood I embraced the warmth of the sun, and I try to bring its light with me wherever I go.  It is my desire to share it with the world.  Yellow sweaters are my beacon, a ready laugh a sign of welcome, and my ear is ever listening for the dark cracks inside.  I want to reach out to others with sunshine in my hands.

They do not all wish for light.  I feel so fragile sometimes, when my efforts won’t work and I wonder if I am doing it wrong.  It is then that I wonder if I can stand trying one more time.  If it would be worth it.  I’m only one of many.

The headstone before me stares me down, cold dark slate edged with golden light.  The dates tell me that the man buried here died in his fifties.  I may not succeed, but I hope they will say of me ‘he still fought anyway’.

The shouting of my pursuers has gotten far away and bewildered.  They are forgetting their taunts and sneers with every turn they make, instead remembering their ghost stories and fears of dark places.  I stand up, brushing dirt from my jeans, and walk in the direction farthest from their cries.  This place has become a part of me, I do not fear it.

I was born in the midst of a storm, when the wind was filled with torn petals and the rain smelled like perfume.

I think the storm got trapped beneath my skin.  It is where I hold my stories, creativity, and words, words, words.  They simmer on the surface in chaos and I want to let them out, but they get stuck in my ribs and my lungs whenever I open my mouth.  I have to pry them out and guide them to my lips, and that means I have to be confident that they are worth it.  Sometimes I’m not so sure.

I stop for a moment beneath a cherry tree, most of its pink blossoms a blanket for the ground.  There is a small stone there that I go to see whenever I visit.  It may be the smallest headstone in this graveyard, but once I read its words it didn’t matter what size it was.  I could never shake it from my mind.  To all the dreams I had, I’m sorry for being afraid.

I was born amid the falling of hail, when the sky was filled with ice and the ground could do nothing but endure.

Sometimes my words are so heavy from being inside me, and they tumble out like the pelting hail.  I try to soften them into droplets, like a sweet summer rain, so that they might be useful to the ground they hit.  I was given these words for a reason, and it is my wish to use them.

Here’s a secret.  I do not know what I’m doing.

But if I am to learn, I must start somewhere, and for me to give up when I realize I don’t know is comparable to taking the wheels off my bike when I want to ride it.

The trees and stones around me have become silhouettes.  I climb the stone wall that guards the edges of this graveyard, and pause at the top to look behind me.  My pursuers are either jumping at the headstones in the dark or they have given up their search.  Either way, I have slipped out of their reach once again.

Here’s a secret.  I have broken, and I will break again.

Nothing hurts like anticipation, and once pain is felt there are so many paths people take to avoid feeling it again.  Listen closely, let me tell you what I know.  Those paths do not avoid pain.  Nothing hurts like anticipation, but regret is the one thing that’s worse.

Here’s a secret.  It does not matter that I have failed.

I am learning to see failure as a stepping stone instead of a pit.  Some days I fail in even remembering that, but that does not mean I stop.  I am still here.  I am carrying light in my palms and words under my skin.  I may not be as good with either as I would like, but I still use them to spread light and warmth and color.

Just try and stop me.



The world could swallow me whole if I let it.

The western countryside rolls on and on and on.  It’s such a change from the hugging buildings and crisscrossed streets and closeness of my home that I’ve been happily silent for most of the car ride.

I’m riding with my cousin, who’d picked me up from the airport.  Eventually.  Apparently he’d driven in three complete circles before finding the place where I was waiting for him.  It’s just over an hour drive from the airport to his house, and the landscape changed as soon as the airport disappeared behind us.

I’d forgotten how far land can stretch, hugging the curve of the earth with its bumps and divots.  Rows and rows of crops mesmerize me as I stare out the window.

There are lovely smells of grass and summer breezes and good dirt, and there are unpleasant smells of cows and manure and hot rubber on blacktop.

My face is an open book as we encounter each new thing.  I know I’m wide eyed in wonder at everything that is mundane to my cousin, but I don’t care.  It isn’t mundane to me, so I wrinkle my nose, or stare, or point out the eleventh barn we’ve passed so far.

There is wildlife just off the road, and I know they aren’t deer, but I also can’t remember what exactly they are called.  Their sandy brown coats and white bellies stick out just enough to be seen in the tall grass.  Black horns poke up from their heads, the tips forked at the ends.  They’re just standing there, two –no, three– of them, looking for all the world as if they own the land themselves.

“Antelope?” I ask.  I’m careful not to say cantaloupe, because that, I know, is a fruit.

“Pronghorn.” he says, barely glancing over. “There’s a loner that visits us every autumn.  The kids named him Alfalfa.”

I look out the window again, picturing what it would be like to have a pronghorn near my house often enough to name it.  I have to smile at that, because if just one of those visited my house it would drive the neighborhood dogs wild and freak out the Hendersons next door for at least a week.  Poor thing would never come back after that ordeal.

Billowing storm clouds are gathering, from white and fluffy on top to dark and flat at the bottom and so, so, big.  They fill the sky and make the rolling hills feel small, and me even smaller.  The air has changed again, and in it is the combined smell of dust and approaching rain.

I can’t wait to sit on my cousin’s front porch, his kids crawling all over us, to watch the storm blow in.  I can’t wait to breathe deep and explore this place.  The kids will want to show me everything that’s normal for them, if only for the sheer entertainment of watching my reaction.  There’s something vast and wonderful about going somewhere so different from home.

It helps me remember how big the world can be.

And that it’s waiting to be explored.



We live in the forest, but never far from the border.  Never far from open spaces and busy towns where the creatures won’t go.

You can survive them.  My parents would tell me.  I used to wonder why their voices strained with held-back desperation.  You can survive them, but you cannot befriend them.

They have fangs.  Sharp, hollow fangs, dripping with venom.  The strands of their fur are colored black or brown or red, sometimes a blend of all three.  Their little paws hold sharp claws inside, and their long ears can hear you tip-toeing over moss.  They have tiny gleaming eyes and a nose that’s always quivering with anticipation.  Often, you can spot them among the roots of the trees, under the thick of bramble, or inside the hollow of rotting wood.

Sometimes, if you look up, they are in the branches.  Sometimes, if you get too close, they spread their feathered wings and dive for you, their mouths an unnatural bright red.

Killer rabbits.

You can survive them, but you cannot befriend them.

My grandfather tried once.  He almost died from their venom.  I wanted to see.  He would always say.  I wanted to see the wings up close.

Now his legs are paralyzed and his hands shake.

My cousin tried.  She found a nest of babies and tried to take one.  Its shrill cries of fright would have had any adult bounding to rescue it, but in the end it was its own bite that caused her to put it down and flee.  You’d think the venom of a baby bunny would be small.  Diluted.

My cousin lost her arm and laid in a coma for two years.

My family knows the warnings, but they can’t seem to stop us.  Not all of us.  I understand the desperation in my parents voices now.  It runs in our blood.

They are dangerous.  I am drawn to dangerous things.

They can be survived.  I’m looking into its dark beady eyes.

You cannot befriend them.  It is staring back into mine.

The rabbit is watching me from across a small clearing as I sit cross-legged in the grass.  I have done this every week for months, my back straight as a ruler, my eyes bright as the full moon, my hands trembling with excitement.

I want to touch its fur.

My parents would be distressed if they saw me, but not surprised.  The rabbit is red and black, and it keeps returning every week to watch me.  I have made myself into a riddle, one that is just hard enough to keep wondering about.

Its ears point at me like two daggers, its nose twitching like aspen leaves in the wind, its predatory gaze full of malice.

It wants a reason to attack.

I am unraveling the knotted reasons why I am drawn to them.  Why we all are drawn to them.  Slowly, I am learning.

They are the dizziness of looking off the edge of a cliff and they are the held breath of swimming in depthless water.

More than that, they are the mystery of something that cannot be touched.

It is the game they play.  The bait they use to lure us.  They wait until the unknown becomes unbearable.  They wait until one of us breaks.  It is how they lure in lone dogs and stray cats and reckless crows.

But I think their weapon is also their curse.  Born to exploit their preys’ curiosity, they themselves bear a dangerous amount of it.  Dangerous enough to hold one back from attacking me.  Dangerous enough for it to creep closer with every encounter.

Dangerous enough for it to check itself and forget its venom.

Sure it can be survived, but I want more.

I want to touch its fur.



Tell me a secret.

I’ll tell you mine.

Are you thinking about what scares you?  Are you remembering something you’ve never had the courage to say?  Are you opening your closet and freezing at the sight of the skeletons?

Close it.

There are secrets no one thinks of when they’re told to turn out the pockets of their lives.  There are some things they never tell anyone; not because they want to keep it from others, but because they don’t realize it’s hidden.

Tell me those secrets.

Tell me about the items you’ve held onto, perhaps scattered around your room.  Maybe you’re not the kind of person who holds onto stuff, not physically, but some things stay in your memory nonetheless.

There is a softball sitting on my desk that my brother and I found in a field a long, long, time ago.  We fought over whose it was until I hid it in my sock drawer and left it there for years.  It’s old and cracked and there’s black duct tape over a spot where it had ripped, but I still like the way it feels in my hands even though they’re much bigger now.

I have an old library card from when I lived in another state, another time.  It hasn’t been useful for nearly a decade, but it still bears the faded marks of one of my first ever signatures, written in terrible handwriting because my hand was still a stranger to holding a pen.

There is an old calendar in my drawer from 1985 that used to belong to my grandfather, and it is waiting for a year when the days of the week once again match up with the dates of the month so that I can hang it on a wall one more time.

Tell me your secrets.

I’ll tell you mine.

I eat my pizza from crust to tip.  Most of my dreams are out of focus or not completely there because if I pay too much attention I wake myself up.  I love the smell of rose because it reminds me of eating Turkish Delight.  When I go up or down stairs I try to finish on my right foot.  I snort when I laugh because I loved the sound of it when I was younger and learned how to make myself do it.  When I read I usually have to cover up the next lines because my eyes like to skip down and catch spoilers before I can get to them.  I like to hit multiples of five when I adjust the volume.

I still think about the haircuts I’ve given that didn’t turn out.

I love boxes disguised as old books.

I miss the feeling of bare feet on grass.

Tell me your secrets.

I’ll tell you mine.