Forgotten Art: Meadow-Dove 2

A reply to: A Letter from Dove Singer

meadowwrite07

Dear Dove,

You wrote to me! Thank you!

I was so happy to get your reply to my letter. I always feel a little self-conscious after I send letters. I forget what I’ve written, and I know that when my fingers hit the keys, I write all sorts of wild things! I often feel my mind is bypassed and the words come straight from heart and soul, just like Jena’s nonsense stories when she’s feeling happy and free.

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Then, after I send the letter, my mind kicks and says, “Hey. Did you really forget to consult me when you were writing that letter? What did you write, anyway?” So, yeah. There’s all sorts of feelings of social awkwardness that kick in after I send anything I write!

But you wrote back, so I guess I didn’t mess up too terribly!

Thanks for the kind things you said about my family. I agree that they are amazing. I recognize that I come from privilege: my family is well-educated and prosperous, and any fatal flaws my family members might possess have always been well-hidden from me. I find them perfect. My brother Norman says I look at the world through rose-colored glasses, and he might be right. But I know my vision isn’t 20-20, and if my prescription calls for rose-colored glasses to correct my sight, so be it! I like the world I see through them.

meadowex07

My dad passed on a few years ago, and my mom a few years before that, so now it’s just me, my brother Norman, and my uncle Jasper. And Jena, of course.

You asked about basil: I don’t know if you get to Windenburg often, but I’ve seen quite a bit growing in the meadows here. In summer, when it blooms, the bees flock to it! I’ve always wanted to eat basil-honey! Do you think it would taste spicy? Or savory?

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That’s so interesting that you’re intrigued by modern folklore! Many of my classmates focused on urban legends, and yes, accounts of extraterrestrial-sightings were a hot topic.

I keep an open mind. I’ve never met an extraterrestrials, as far as I know. In college, a lot of my friends claimed to be “Star People.” What they meant was, as they put it, they weren’t “from around here.” They had the feeling that they’d lived past lives on other planets in other solar systems and even other realms of being and this was their first time to incarnate here. I think they were looking for ways to account for the sense of alienation that is so common in my generation. Personally, I don’t think this has anything to do with an alien heritage and everything to do with the isolation and pervasive global fears that permeate life in the 21st Century.

I feel that alienation sometimes. And I also feel very firmly attached to this earth. I know I come from here: I belong here. Maybe it’s because I grew up roaming the meadows and fields.

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I can tell that my daughter Jena feels alienation. It’s not surprising, considering what she’s experienced in her two short years. I’m hoping that by growing up here, surrounded by loving people, in a home nestled in the sun-warmed hills, she’ll come to feel that she belongs, and she’ll lose that sense that one heavy sigh of the earth will shake her off into the void.

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I do have an interesting extraterrestrial story, though! My own urban legend! When I was little, my dad took me with him up to a ridge where he was installing the wind towers. There, we looked down onto crop circles in the fields below. He asked me what I thought could make them. I said it must be God, feeling bored and wanting to draw. He laughed, of course. Then he went through all the possible explanations. He refuted them all, except the extraterrestrial explanation. “Space craft,” he said.

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So, who knows? My dad was ever the rationalist, and he believed what logic told him. I believe my heart, and my heart tells me that this world is vast and the universe beyond, and the universes beyond that, are even more vast!

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Can you tell me more about what you’re exploring as a scientist? What do you need basil for?

Thanks for letting me ramble on to you! I can’t wait to read whatever you want to share with me about your life and your interests! What are you reading these days?

Most of my current reading comes in the form of a picture book with very thick pages!

meadowex03

With love,

Meadow

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Shift 15: Wildcraft

Ted got home the morning after my birthday. I found him sitting at the kitchen table, having eaten two pieces of cake. He said he liked the strawberries.

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I had woken up with cramps. I didn’t want any cake.

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I went outside and lay on my belly on a granite slab that had been baking in the sun all morning. The warmth felt good.

I thought about what I’d learned last night. Cramps aren’t personal. They’re part of being in a female body.

The warmth of the rock soaked through me.

As I stopped resisting, the pain shifted to discomfort. Pretty soon, it felt like heaviness or fullness. That was all.

I still had an icky stomach, though.

When I got back to the cabin, Ted fixed me a cup of tea.

After I drank it, my stomach felt settled, and I felt good enough to eat my two slices of cake.

“What was in that tea?” I asked Ted.

“Black cohosh, white willow bark, and wintergreen,” he said. “Good for when the dreams in you are full and need release.”

“How did you learn about this?” I asked him.

He handed me a wildcrafting book.

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The information in that book excited me. It’s just like I thought! The universe really is our grandmother. We have here everything we need for our health and well-being, growing right outside our homes, in the wild green places.

I asked Ted if I could live with him, forever. For good. I feel safe here. I want to stay and learn wildcrafting. I want to be here where I hear the wilderness’s whispers when I walk outside the door. I want to stay where I’m cared for.

He said I couldn’t. I had to go back into the world.

“You can take refuge here,” he said. “But you can’t stay.”

“But you stay,” I said. “If you stay, I can. It’s not fair.”

He explained that he hadn’t always lived here. He’d had a wife and kids. He worked on fricking Wall Street. He was part of the world, before he left it.

I thought about his words while I carved the wood.

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“You can’t drop out before you’ve dropped in,” he said. “Your life hasn’t yet begun. Sure, you’ve had some challenges. And your life hasn’t taken a typical course. You don’t know it yet, but that’s your gift. That’s your grace. You stay here, and you’ll never know that. You’ll never take that grace and share it.”

He told me I had to go back first, so that I could see if what I learned could stand the test of the world of people. If I could integrate what I knew into daily life, then I’d learned it. If not, then it was merely the first knocking of the spirit.

“Let’s see if you’ve got what it takes,” he said. “See if you can go back and keep what’s been given you. Don’t let that world rob you of it. You do that, and then maybe the world will discover that you, Little Starshine of the Universe, has something incredible to offer back.”

He made it sound important, going back. He made it seem like it was part of my path. Plus, he said I could come back next summer and spend the whole summer up here.

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The last day, before I left, I couldn’t figure out how to thank him.

I thought back to who I was before I came up here, how I felt like I was just a kid struggling to find a place, and now and then, I had a hope that maybe I belonged in the big scheme of things, but that I always treated that hope like it was a little kid’s dream or wish. I thought my ideas about the universe being our grandmother was make-believe, and I let myself make-believe it because I was so alone, and that little piece of imagination was the only thing that kept me going, the only thing I could cling to when things were the toughest.

And now, I don’t think it’s make-believe.

Now I’ve felt that it’s true. The Universe is our Grandmother. And we’re all cousins. And it’s both personal and not personal, all at the same time. And I don’t have to make up my mind and I can be everything.

“Thanks, Ted,” I said. “I can see why Deon loves you.”

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He wrapped me in a big hug.

“Do you know what love is?” he asked. I said no.

“Better than peanut butter,” he replied.

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“So, come back next summer,” he said, “and I’ll teach you wildcrafting. If you want to learn, that is.”

I do!

He said he would be interested in hearing all about my year at school and what it’s like for me to come back to the world of people after living here, in the real world.

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I gained a home, that’s what I realized when I hiked back to where Deon was going to meet me. You can think of it as being a place. But it’s not an actual physical place. Or if it is, it’s too vast to fit inside of any one thing, and it has to fit through and around everything. That’s where home is. And I’m taking it with me now when I head back to the people world.

But there’s one sure thing I decided on my hike back, I might be returning to the people world, but I wasn’t going back to Oasis Springs. There’s no way I was going to be that kid they call Stink at Oasis Springs High. I don’t know where I’ll stay or what school I’ll be in, but I won’t be at that school where they called me Stink.

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Shift 13: Heaven

It took a few days of searching. I finally found that passageway that Deon told me about, the one that leads to the high country.

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Walking into the crevice, I felt I was leaving behind all the bad stuff that ever happened.

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And I emerged in heaven.

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I never saw blue before, until I saw that sky.

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Rainbows rode the waterfalls down into the pools

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Granite crags line the meadow. It’s safe here.

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I followed a western tanager up to a rocky crag, and I looked out below, across all the mountains, over the foothills, out toward the desert.

I’ve left it all behind.

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Lying on a slab of granite, feeling the sun warm my face and the radiating rock warm my back, I found freedom.

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I want to live here forever, where nothing can hurt me, where I can see forever.

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A land full of rainbows must be where happiness is born!

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Near the pool at the base of the waterfall, I found a ring of campfire stones and built a fire.

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Then I heard laughter. First, I thought it was my imagination, because I was happy. Then I thought it was an echo from the waterfalls, ringing through the valley.

Then I turned around, and there was an old man.

“Are you Ted?” I asked him.

He was. I told him I was Deon’s friend.

“Then you’re my friend, too,” he said.

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We talked for a while. But he didn’t ask me any questions about who I was or what I was doing there. He talked about seasons. He talked about a tree that was growing old, and another young tree that was reaching up and would fill the space that the old tree left, after its branches lost their leaves, dried, and got blown off in storms.

“No space goes empty,” he said. “There’s always something to fill every space.”

He asked me what I fill my spaces with.

I told him I didn’t know. I was happy now, and I felt quiet inside, so now my spaces were filled with the roar of the waterfall and the tickles of rainbows.

But I said this wouldn’t last, and something else would fill the spaces when this shifted.

He laughed and clapped me on the shoulder.

“Good answer!” he said, as if I’d passed some sort of test.

He asked if I was hungry, and he led me through the alpine meadows to the cabin where he lived.

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I looked at the wildflowers lining the path, the light coming from the windows, the front door that begged to open.

“Can I stay awhile?” I asked.

“For a while,” he said. Something shifted in me, and the space inside me was filled with home.

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Whisper 1.27

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“It’s Lamber! No, it’s a rocket ship! No, it’s meteor! Wait! It’s Super Lamber!”

I’m happiest when I hear Marigold playing while I paint, cook, or read.

She’s happiest when we’re playing together.

“Guess who’s my best friend!” she says.

“Lamber?” I ask. “Riley?”

“No, silly! You are!”

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Stray Dog has wandered off. We look for him everyday, and we keep expecting him. Every time we hear a dog bark in the distance, we think it’s him. It never is.

We mark the years with birthdays, hers in fall, mine in spring.

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The same crowd comes to every party: Frank, Arkvoodle, Joe, the Nixes, Hetal Anjali, Chauncey, Felicity and Faith, and whoever else happens to show up.

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I notice each year that our friends are growing up and growing old. And then one year, when I look in the mirror, I notice how gray my hair has become, and Lord! Are those crow’s feet around my eyes? Sure enough, I’ve joined the white-hairs.

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“Good party, huh, Marigold?” Frank asks. “You like that dim sum?”

Marigold, who has an athlete’s appetite, ate three helpings of dim sum at this party.

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When all the guests leave and Marigold is tucked in, I sit alone and rock. If there are things I want to do in life, I realize, it’s time for me to do them. But what else do I want? I want Stray Dog to return, but he never does. I’d like to travel a bit, now that Marigold’s old enough to enjoy a trip and while I’m still active enough for hiking and adventures. Maybe we can go to Egypt, so that Marigold can sample her favorite food, falafels.

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I book us a trip.

Soon, it’s time. We arrive in the early morning.

“Let’s go to the market,” I say.

“It’s awfully sunny here,” says Marigold. “Where are the clouds?”

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At the market, Marigold is so hot that she swims in the fountain.

“I need water!” she says. “I’m not a sun turtle!”

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We take a few day trips, the see the Sphinx and explore some desert ponds, but most of the time we spend at base camp. I learn the recipe for falafels, so I can make them at home.

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Marigold discovers a desert tortoise.

“Is he happy here?” she asks.

“Does he look happy?”

“Yeah. Do you think he’d like it back home?”

“With all that rain and snow and mist and fog? No. He’s a sun tortoise, and this is his home.”

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I meet other travelers, and I always wind up telling them about Dante, and they always end up bored, listening to an old woman reminisce about her lover who died while they were both young. Before I get to the part about how our love never died, they’ve stopped listening and are looking for opportunities to escape. I miss Dante and the red pulsing light of his heart.

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“We need to go home,” Marigold tells me. “What if Stray Dog comes back, and we’re not there?”

“Stray Dog will wait,” I tell her. “If he comes, he’ll come at night, and you know how he loves ghosts! Dante and Martin will be sure to keep him there until we return.”

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Marigold pretends she’s a king of an ancient kingdom.

“What decrees should I make?” she asks me.

“Anything!” I tell her. “Just decide what you want and make it so!”

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When I walk her to her tent that night, I ask what decrees she made.

“Just one,” she says. “I decree our vacation to be over so we can go home!”

“Good decree!” I tell her. “It just so happens this is the last night of our trip, and tomorrow, bright and early, we fly home!”

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Our home never looked sweeter than when we arrived.

“It’s raining!” says Marigold, and the mist settles over the mountains. “I missed you, rain.”

Even the gnomes celebrate our homecoming.

“Three cheers! They’re here! They’re here! The wanderers have returned!” shouts Snowflake.

“Hip-hip-hooray!” yells Bucktooth.

We are home, at the sweetest point of any trip, the coming home point.

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Whisper 1.24

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I’m making pancakes when the phone rings. It’s Serena, asking about Marigold. While I’m talking, I walk away from the stove for an instant, and when I turn back, it’s on fire!

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I grab the fire extinguisher, and finally figure out how to turn it on. Who knows how I manage to put out the fire, but I do.

Then I rush to Marigold’s room to check on her.

She’s talking to Riley, as if everything is all right in the world.

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I bring in a fan even though the air in her room doesn’t smell smokey. Before I head back to clean up the kitchen, I pause for a moment to listen to her sing.

“Little rain, little flower.
Grow, la, la, la,
Grow, la la.”

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Later in the day, even though snow blankets the valley, we head out. I’ve noticed that we both start feeling a little fussy when we spend too much time inside.

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Marigold says, “Pretty snowflake!” She reaches out to touch them.

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I watch her greet the world with wonder and acceptance. Everything is new for her, and everything is as it is, as it should be.

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My little bunny, growing up in this misted valley, with precipitation 335 days a year, and glimpses of the sun few and far between, with werewolves, vampires, witches, and fairies as her neighbors, friends, and teachers, all of this will be normal to her. This will be home.

I spend the early part of the winter grieving my abandoned dream of my “normal” life–a warm-blooded husband, a houseful of kids, neighbors and friends that are like me, not supernaturals. It helps that Marigold embraces this strange world of mystery with love and awe. Once the old crumpled dream blows free, maybe I can join her in claiming this magical world as normal.

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I invite Frank over to meet Marigold. He goes to her instantly, his eyes twinkling.

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He’s a natural with kids, and they become fast friends.

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I’ve never seen Frank with a bigger smile.

“I’m the uncle, right?” he asks me. “Uncle Frank.”

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While they rock together in the rocking chair, I reflect on what a simple thing it is, holding a child, and what warmth it brings to the heart.

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Marigold, too, learns that she can trust those who come to our home.

A few days later I throw a party so more friends can meet the little bunny. Arkvoodle gives her the traditional blessing from his home planet.

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She flashes him one of her crazy grins.

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Mara persuaded me to pick up a stereo, and with indie music blaring, she and Beatrice perform a dance routine.

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They’re having so much fun. I remember how, with every party I’ve thrown, we’ve had young people and old people, witches, werewolves, fairies, vampires, humans–and the differences are no big deal. It’s who we are, not something that gets in the way.

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Watching Mara and Beatrice dancing with joy, it dawns on me: this is the essence of my dream. This is what I’ve always wanted. The externals don’t matter: it’s the experience that matters.

I’ve always wanted one Big Love that would transcend time. That’s what I’ve got. I wanted to give a mother’s love to a child. That’s what I’m doing. I wanted to garden in a beautiful valley, surrounded with mountains, rivers, and lakes. I wanted friends that appreciate and celebrate each other and a community that’s vibrant and diverse. I have what I’ve always wanted. It’s simply more miraculous than I, in my humdrum imaginings, could have ever conceived.

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It’s cold and snowing, but in my heart it’s spring.

Marigold spends the party taking her toys out of the toy box and setting them down, one by one, in the kitchen, the living room, the TV area. I guess she figures they want to party, too.

As the guests begin to leave, I find her with her little sheep toy sitting out on the porch.

“Was it too noisy in there for you?” I ask.

“Lamber wants hay,” she says.

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Felicity finds me on her way out. “I’ve been talking with trees,” she says.

I’ve known Felicity for a while now. We’ve become good friends.

“Have you learned Plant?” I ask her.

“I’m trying,” she says. “All those vowels!”

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As I walk Frank out to the porch, we pause to watch a deer go by. We don’t exchange a word, but I feel chills running up my arms, and when I look at Frank, his eyes are moist with tears.

“So beautiful,” he whispers.

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Marigold and I read until it’s late. I haven’t been doing a good job keeping a regular schedule with her. We eat when we’re hungry, sleep when we’re tired. Once we get into a book, we’re usually so engrossed that we keep reading until we finish, no matter how late it is or how sleepy we are. I know I might regret this lack of setting a schedule for her later, but for right now, it works.

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For one thing, sleeping in the day lets me be awake at night, when Dante comes out.

The night of the party, I find him in the back garden with a Reaper snowman he made.

“Dante!” I cry. “It freaks me out to see you with the Snowman of Death!”

He laughs. “You know Grim and I go way back. Besides, I’m not afraid of the hereafter, especially when I get to spend it with you.”

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We talk all night. I can talk with him forever, and when I tell him that, he says it’s a good thing. “We probably will be talking forever,” he says.

In the morning, while Marigold takes a nap, I rock in the chair and let my eyes close. I am too tired for dreams, but not too tired settle into peace.

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Whisper 1.22

I arrive home late at night to find Dante and Martin hanging out in the living room.

“Cathy!” says Martin. “We missed you! Glad you made it back safe and sound.”

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After Martin leaves, Dante and I sit together on the love seat.

“Was it wonderful?” he asks.

“It was. I missed you.”

“So, you’re a world traveler. What’s next? Asia?”

“I don’t know. I like it here.” I tell him that I’ve been reflecting on how quickly time passes. Soon I’ll be old, too.

“Time’s stopped for you,” I say. “You’re not getting older. Will you still like me when I’m stooped and gray?”

He laughs. “You heard the love machine, all those years ago. Our love lasts, sweet.”

I tell him that it feels strange to think of how quickly life goes, not knowing exactly what I want or how to get it.

“I’ve got a feeling you want family, something normal,” he says. “Is that it?”

“I don’t know,” I confess.

“I can’t give you a child. Or at least not a normal one. I wish I could. I really think you should adopt.”

“A cat?”

“A kid.”

“But then I’d be a mom.”

“You’d be a great mom,” he says. “And I’d love the child like it was mine. Maybe, through time, it kinda could be. In spirit, at least.”

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So I pick up the phone the next day and call the social worker. He tells me they’ll do the background check and then put my name on the list.

“Don’t get too excited,” he says. “These things usually take time.”

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But this time, it doesn’t take time! Two days later, I get a call saying they’ve got a child who needs immediate placement, and a few hours later, this man who looks like a kid himself drops by. At first, I think I’m adopting him. He looks like he’d make a great son. But then I see he’s carrying a basket, which he sets down with a smile.

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And then he’s gone, and I’m lifting a little bunny in a balaclava out of the basket.

It’s my daughter, Marigold.

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And the moment she looks in my eyes, I melt.

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I’m halfway panicked and halfway thrilled and two-thirds delighted and one third petrified. What have I done? And what is this miracle? And will life ever be the same?

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And the answer, of course, is no. This little bunny has changed my world.

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It’s the coldest night of the year so far. All the plants in my garden will be snipped by frost. Summer is long forgotten.

But in my heart, a sun rises and shines so bright. I think I will never be cold again.

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Three Rivers 13.1

Thirteenth Sim of Thirty Sims at Three Rivers

13. The painting that expressed how she truly felt

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Red–the pain slashed through her womb when the door slammed. Leave. Take a piece, leave her behind with a gap where the strongest healing can never reach.

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Red. So dark it’s black. A single rose petal lay on top of the armoire, dried black. Touch it. Pick it up for safe-keeping, and it crumbles. Red to black. Crumbles to dust.

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Indigo. Blue. She thought the door would open again. He would return. Texts unanswered. Messages spinning through the air. She walks suspended through the days. This pain tethers. How long before she knows the door stays shut for good?

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Red to black to blue. Forgotten, while the babies cried and dishes filled the sink and bills came due and the door stayed shut. Blue. To abandon hope. The door stays shut.

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That year left its mark deep within. She felt it still, that tear inside, where he ripped her in two. She thought love was in the heart. But it was her womb that ached. It ached for her, and it ached for those two babies. Abandoned. She knew where abandonment was felt, deep in the womb where families are made.

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Where families are made, like the parlor where her brother played the guitar. Like the kitchen where her mother baked the casserole. Like the dining room where the children gathered after school with books and jokes and stories and laughter.

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Red to black to blue to green. A path stretches back from there to here. Laughter flows from gaps and fills the space with green.

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Where homes are made. Where families reside. Her son grabs his cousin in a bear hug.

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Her niece sings purple songs, and the sink fills with bubbles that birth rainbows.

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Red to black to blue to green. Yellow.

The bills were due and the babies were crying and the dishes piled in the sink and her mother called. “I’m coming. I’m bringing you home.” Hope returned. He was gone, but hope returned.

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And now her daughter learns from an aunt how to use her mind, how to be strong, how to grow to be a woman that can’t be torn in two.

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And it’s all right. It all worked out.

Red to black to green to blue, and yellow follows through, and the pain, still there, recedes until it’s something new.

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Gratitude. Green spills into gratitude. For a mother and a sister. Brother and little cousins. For a daughter and a son. And even for you. Gratitude even for you.

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For you live in them, the daughter and the son. And the pain does, too.

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Gratitude. You live in them. The daughter and the son. The door slams shut, the womb in two. The pain resides where the family grew. Red to black to green to blue. Gratitude?Look again, on a day that’s new.

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Red flows to black flows to green flows to blue. Follow the path to the center, through.

Cousins and a brother. A sister and a mother. These two gifts of babies that look like you.

Red to black to green to blue. A yellow arch in the center, the door to home we walk through.