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.