Forest of Nought

Nought

If you wish to enter the forest of Nought, be kind to the fog that creeps along the edges of your path.  It waits for nightfall so it can spread without fear of beams of sunlight piercing through and evaporating its mist.  It does no harm and only curls against your ankles as a way of saying hello.

Do not fear the trees that bend downwards, their branches heavy with their purple blossoms; they do not reach out to you unless it is to guide you to safety.  Inhale the air around you, it is fresh and sweet and gentle.

Be sure to stop when you see two trees bent away then back towards each other, forming a teardrop doorway.  Do not be afraid to enter, the vicious fairies do not dwell in the forest any longer.  By now, I’m not even sure if the good ones are still around.  Fairies do not stay in one forest for many centuries before moving on.

Through the teardrop doorway, there sits a glistening pool of deep blue water. Tiny streams trickle down to it from every direction, causing the only disturbance to its surface.  Cast your gaze upon it, for if you are to enter the forest of Nought, you should know the things this pool can show you.

I have looked many times.  It does not show any reflection of you.  It does not show your desires or your future or any such thing that could drive you mad.  The pool is a storyteller, and the stories are of the forest in a different time.

It shows a girl with bare feet and freckles on her nose, planting saplings with tight purple buds.  Around her, the tallest tree is maybe as high as her shoulders.  There is so much blue sky above her.

It shows an old couple standing close together with smiles on their faces, holding hands as they watch children play with chipmunks and rabbits.  If you gaze hard enough, you might hear a faint echo of their laughter.  The trees are tall but slender, a grown man could warp his hands around their trunks.

The pool shows an acorn with the prettiest yellow ribbon tied around it, laid carefully on a moss-covered tree stump.

It shows little creatures with wings that look like leaves and eyes that look like mischief peeking out from behind mushrooms.

It shows a young man with wire-framed glasses and a leather-bound notebook, telling the trees their names in a language far older than he had a right to know.

It shows a ring of mushrooms, still and silent in a carpet of petals.

It shows a man with thinning gray hair and a cane of twisted wood saying goodbye to an ivory-colored unicorn.

It shows a sapling poking through a loop in a faded old ribbon.

The forest of Nought is old, and you are not the first to walk through it, though it may feel that way now.  I have heard some say it feels so full of life, more than what they can see, and I know they did not stop to gaze upon the pool.

Yes, I tell them, it is full of life.  It has collected life for as long as it has grown.  It has changed; but if you look hard enough, and if you know its past, you will see the echoes of what used to be still lingering.  Making it what it has become.

If you wish to enter the forest of Nought, please enter.  It welcomes the new.  It cherishes the old.  It loves to see more life.

Do not be afraid.

If you take the time to look, the forest is not difficult to understand.

Summer

summer

It is midsummer and my hair is sticking to my neck.  The air is a living thing, and when I wave my hand through it, it dances between my fingertips.  Cicadas are screaming in an unearthly harmony, loud but invisible.

I’ve only ever seen a handful of them in my life.

I’m walking through the meadow that stretches behind our property, wading through overgrown grass and blooming purple sweet clover.  The sight of their blossoms puts the taste of sugar on my tongue, but never strong enough to linger if I think about it.

Summertime is like the springtime it came from, but slightly off.  Slightly mysterious.  Slightly more.  But only if you’re looking hard.

Only if you pay attention.

Afternoon thunderstorms are when you notice it the most.  Time travels in a funny way, blurring the lines between attentive and dreaming.  Lightning flashes leave with the impression that you’ve seen into another world, but the memory has already fled.  The scent of rain is cleansing, but what it has cleaned I can never put my finger on.

I think there are things hidden in the cracks of nature.

The sun’s warmth is settling into my bones, burrowing into the very marrow, like it’s getting stored away for winter.  I can’t remember feeling cold, but I can picture a tall glass of water with ice cubes clinking against the sides, and the way it fills me after a day in the sun.

I think there is more to discover than I’ll ever live to find.

Summer nights are alive, and they pull at me when I start for bed.  Sometimes, when the night is full and my heart is restless, I will sit outside in my pajamas and watch for shooting stars instead of sleeping.  It is a different kind of rest.

One that is full of wishes.

Cicadas are screaming, the air is alive, and the taste of sugar haunts my tongue.  Summer is here, and it promises forever.

Under the sun, it is such an easy thing to believe.

Cottonwood Trees

cottonwood

Summer sky full of the deepest of blues,

I’m under cottonwood trees without my shoes.

White fluff falls through the air real slow,

I feel the kiss of cottonwood snow.

 

Distancing myself from noise that’s amassed,

I can sort through my crazy mind at last.

A layer of white, soft beneath toes,

I kick my feet through cottonwood snow.

 

I take hold of each thought and weigh its worth,

Keeping some, and tossing the rest to earth.

I close my eyes as the sun treads slow,

Dancing barefoot in cottonwood snow.

Button Man

pexels-photo-3100401

I live on the busiest streets, selling matches for a copper a bundle like so many other kids like me.  We don’t make much, but it’s something.  I’ve been saving my something for a long, long time now.

Today I stray from my normal streets, crossing the city under the cloak of early shadows.  The overly large shawl I wrap around my shoulders is the warmest thing I own, and the years it’s known have not been kind.  Still, it holds together and protects me from the biting pale morning.

On the southern side of town, if you go under the cobblestone bridge and turn right at the leather shop, there’s a little forgotten street called Thimbleberry Way.  Even in the cold of a barely started spring, the street is cheery with hints of color.  Painted window boxes hang off their buildings with barren soil, ready for flowers to be planted inside.  The street is made with flagstones of different earthen shades.  Rich browns, clay reds, burnt yellows, pine greens.

Someday, this is where I will live.

On either side of the street, just starting to open up their wares, stand the Thimbleberry shop carts.  Not one of them look like another.  There’s one made of woven branches, selling chestnuts and pine nuts and hazelnuts in bunches.  The best you’ll ever find.  Some people say they were brought from the fey world, because ours can’t make nuts like that.

I pass by a cart built from red cherry wood, with a wildflower meadow carved into the side.  It is full of silken flowers, each one so delicately beautiful and detailed, I could swear they were alive.  Next, I pass an old rustic cart that smells like campfire, selling little iron hooks and pegs and fire pokers so pretty you’d never forget to stoke your fire.

Then there are two carts, one on either side of the street, and they are owned by two sisters.  One is made of smooth mahogany, selling shiny daggers with jeweled handles, while the other is made of twisted oak, selling shoes that look like they belonged to forest folk.

I pass them all, though I look lovingly at their wares as I go.  Someday, I will have a strange little cart, and I think I will sell brightly colored marbles.

Ahead there is a sleek little cart made of pine wood, hundreds of ribbons tied around the handle.  The owner is a kindly old man whose hair is the color of fluffy white clouds.  His eyes are dark, dark, dark; I think they once used to be brown.  When they catch the light, I see them twinkle like a night sky.

His cart holds thousands and thousands of buttons.

Big buttons, silver buttons, and tiny, tiny square buttons, along with every kind of button above, beyond, and in between.  Some have four holes, some have two, some have a tiny ring on the back.

I say good morning to the button man, and he pulls a little box from under his cart as I sit on the street beside him.  He says, Mornin’ chickadee. Which is what he’s always called me.

I say, Morning, Mister Button. Which is what I’ve always called him.

I pull out my right arm from my shawl, showing him the rip on my sleeve that goes from my wrist to my elbow.  He whistles as he opens his box and asks what the other guy looked like.

I smile and tell him, pointy and sharp and a lot like a nail.

The button man pulls out some silver thread and pokes it through the eye of a needle.  I watch a few people wander down the street as he starts mending the tear.  All my clothes have little X stitches in different colors, some of them holding patches in place.

The first time I wandered down Thimbleberry Way I’d had a terrible rip in my shawl, and the button man had asked if I would sit a minute so he could fix it.  When he’d finished, he looked me in my eyes, straight to my soul, and said, it’s okay if it tears again, come to me and I will always sew it back.

He’s very quick with the needle, and only squints a little to see his stitching.  Someday, I’ll buy him a pair of spectacles to wear.  Good ones, with frames of twisted silver.

He double-knots the thread and snips it with a fine pair of iron scissors.  I feel the thread with my fingertips and walk over to his cart as he puts his things away.  Someone walks by holding a new pair of brown and green shoes, they look like they’re made of leaves.  I plunge my hand into the buttons and reach as far down as I can, wondering how long the ones at the bottom have waited to be seen.  My hand comes back up with a fistful, and I open it slowly.

There’s a coin with four holes drilled through, a button from a soldier’s uniform, a large circle of wood with floral designs burnt into it and two holes in the middle.  There’s a button made from a seashell and a button made from stone, but I let them all fall from my hand as I pick up a button made from a pearl.  It was a large pearl, carved to look like a lily, with a small hole poked sideways through the bottom for sewing it on.

I take it to the button man, and he smiles at my find. Add it to my tab, I tell him, and tell me where you found this one.

He pulls out a different box from under his cart, where he puts all of the buttons I pick out.  Someday, I will buy them all.

But he sets it beside him and lets me hold the pearl button while he tells me about it.  He has a story for all of them.  Whether they’re true or not is anyone’s guess, but I believe they are.  He’s old enough to have lived them all, and he’s got a very good memory.  I bet he could tell the story behind every tear he has mended for me too.

The button is smooth in my hand. This one, he tells me, was from a chest full of pearl buttons I found in a dragon’s lair.

I glance up just in time to catch a twinkle in his eye. The chest was studded with sapphires, sitting in a pool of diamonds.

I wonder if I will ever find dragon treasure, and I ask, What did you do with all of the diamonds?

He smiles a little and looks up at the street. I paid them to someone to tell me how to find an elusive little place called Thimbleberry Way.

I’m glad you did, I tell him, and I hold out the button to be dropped into my box.  I would pay a pool of diamonds to live here, if I had them.  To live here, to have my own cart, and to buy a pair of good spectacles with twisted silver frames.

It’s time for me to go.  I don’t have diamonds, but I don’t need them to find my way here.  I have matches to sell, and a pile of coppers to make bigger.

The button man waves as I leave. See ya, Chickadee.

Thimbleberry Way fades behind me as I go back to the busy streets.  It’s okay if it takes me forever.  I’ll have more stories by then.  Maybe someday a little matchgirl will find me; an old woman with cloudy white hair and a strange, colorful cart.

Maybe I’ll tell her about hoarded treasure made of copper pennies.