Shards from childhood.

As my heart clogged up with old pressures, I walked away from photo albums, but just could not shut them. I held treasures she’d worn or left behind, but couldn’t hold her.

We’d only been kids, but I miss her to this day. It lurks in shadowy closets and follows me up unfamiliar steps at night. I breathe it through my troubled heart, and it snags there. It tags along through strange towns, from state to state, driving me, digging at me, leaving me hollow. I hadn’t seen my confinement until M had come along. She’d been my first taste of living.

M had been a long-burning fuse, and the spark that had touched it off. She’d been the birth of imagination, and of everything real. With us it had all been about mystery, and miracles.

I stood in the threshold, peering deep into all that was churning, trying to imagine her as an adult, sitting in the golden haze of a late afternoon in the fall. I pictured a soft distant rustling, birds singing out of season, and a languid blue haze drifting high up in the land where clouds, and heaven, are made. I sat her on a tree stump by one of the lakes, huddled up against the brisk fall glory. Trying to imagine her bright and happy, finally at peace, I prayed to God to grant her all of this. Wherever she was. That sweet, beautiful, tormented soul had earned peace and beauty.

Instead, I saw her rocking into her own, or some shared misery, her arms wrapped around her, and I knew how distant I had grown from my core. M would manage to stay whole and intact in her brokenness, never back away from her truth. I’d rushed to bury mine at the first opportunity, close off to my walled-in childhood, turn away, slam it into some subterranean vault somewhere way far behind me.

M wouldn’t have done that to me. She’d still cherish each lost and happy shard we’d ever huddled over, treasured and polished together. Whatever it had been she’d so privately nurtured had meant far too much to abandon for a little peace of mind. She’d held it too dear. M had been closer to her roots. To the role we’d been meant to play together, though I could never find my script.

But then I had chosen to bail out.

As if I could.

As if the winds, and this mournful autumn bleakness would ever let me.

That poor sweet child had confided in me. She’d said, “People are always leaving me.” She’d sounded so buried in remorse, so convinced that it could never be any other way.

Then, I, too, had turned from her.

It had been so much easier than believing.

But now how would M fit in here? Into this sobbing forest; or this flirting, taunting homestead? Was this a place to end something, heal something, or begin something new?

She had asked me once if I’d planned to stay shut up inside, and I’d thought she’d only meant inside the house. Had she seen I was also boarded up in my spirit? Well, in this boundless, otherworldly forest I can finally see what M had always tried to show me.

Through that which has no barriers, any sized miracle can step in.

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