Tucked away amongst rolling hills and winding roads, just off the edge of a charmingly cobbled-together town, there’s an old dirt road overgrown with weeds that leads to an abandoned cottage. Looking back, I’m surprised I noticed it when I happened by.
I turned my feet down the old road and walked up the slanted front steps to the empty cottage. It only took opening the front door before deciding it was home.
The place was fading into creeping vines and dripping branches, its inside covered in dust-settled sheets and curled autumn leaves. The air was silent and open, filling the rooms in a way that hope fills the chest– not yet fulfilled, but ready.
Out the back door was an overgrowth of vegetation with a lining with trees. A garden hid within the chaos, unnoticed until I found myself stepping on a tomato, and recognized a vine of beans climbing up a sapling. I started there, searching, weeding, assessing. It was like a scavenger hunt, with prizes scattered everywhere and small curious creatures watching from a distance.
I’m not sure how big the garden was when it had been planted; once abandoned, the plants seemed to have taken up a mind of their own, going wild with their strange new freedom. I found tomatoes climbing up old corn stalks, carrot roots wrapping around rocks, and zucchini plants crawling over everything. Two apple trees framed the back door, standing like protective mothers over clusters of wild onions.
Back inside the cottage, I found stairs to the attic. I thought it would be empty.
I was very, very wrong.
Each box seemed wrapped in the melancholy of being set aside with no intent of being taken out again. I opened each one gently, wondering who put them there and never returned. What had this home been before?
Pins and buttons and needles and thread. Fine china and quilts and baskets and jars. Sewing patterns. Lace curtains. A pair of bright red slippers. There was a typewriter boxed up with folded handkerchiefs and stacks of loose papers filled with poetry.
Bit by bit, I carried them all back down and filled the empty shelves and cabinets and drawers. I gathered the white sheets that covered the furniture, washing them and hanging them outside to dry. I took out the pins and needles and thread and placed them on the table. I dug around until I found a pair of sheers, and then I brought in the sheets with determination in my step.
I hadn’t done much sewing, but I knew a bit and I had time to learn, and there were lots of sheets to practice with. White scraps of fabric had invaded the house by the time I tried on a dress that fit. Fluttering sleeves fell over my shoulders because I couldn’t figure out how to make any other kind of sleeve work. It was the lightest I’d felt in months, wearing that dress. I made a few more, each one with a bit more patchwork than the last as I ran out of big pieces of fabric.
In the evenings I would wander down the overgrown dirt road until the trees overhead parted and left me with the open sky. Wearing a pair of red slippers from the attic and my white patchwork dress, I would watch the evening sky seep into a dark backdrop, and wait for the first of the silver stars to appear.
If I told you the stars bathed the road in shimmering light, would you believe me? Not in the way the moon lights up your room if you forget to close your blinds, but like stardust glinting from a thousand silver fires.
You don’t have to believe me, I only ask you to imagine it.
Imagine red slippers softly treading over packed dirt and sleeping weeds, dancing with the stars. Imagine a wisp of a breeze swaying the trees, bending their elegant branches like a ballerina’s arms. Imagine looking up at the glittering stars and breathing deeper than you usually let yourself, because the air is clean and the night is big enough to convince you that you aren’t suffocating.
Now loosen the tension in your shoulders.
Here’s the truth: If I hadn’t weeded behind the cottage and searched, I wouldn’t have found a garden. If I hadn’t been willing to cut the sheets, I wouldn’t have made my dresses. If I hadn’t gone through the attic and carried things down, the house would have stayed empty.
Here’s the truth: I don’t even know if the stars truly bathe me in fantastical light. Maybe my life is normal and my imagination has run wild.
Either way I’m dancing under a starlit sky with a smile on my face.