When I was young, I used to lie on the glistening blades of grass under a huge tree that soared above the landscape in the field at my father’s house. I would lay there on the lush emerald carpet for hours studying the leaves as they danced in the breeze and watching intently as the shades of greens would ebb and flow, momentarily becoming mildly translucent when in full view of the sun before darkening like a shade in a dusk-lit window.
As the days slowly changed into summer, I would persist in lying there even through the blades of grass had sharpened and dried in the summer heat and beaming rays pouncing relentlessly across the vegetation. The object of my obsession became the clouds as they swirled and danced across the sky, forever morphing and shape-shifting before my eyes.
In the fall, as the air chilled and the leaves broke free from their captor, I would trudge up the hill, rake in hand, and collect them all in a gigantic mountain. With reckless abandon, I would cast the rake aside like a pebble, get a running start, and plunge headlong into the leaves, giggling as I heard them snap and crackle in protest of my presence. A glorious storm of reds, yellows, oranges, and browns hinted at my stealthy return above the pile, now hopelessly strewn across the field and around the base of the tree like confetti. I would skip my way back over to the rake, kicking up bundles of leaves as I went. For hours, the sky would fill with laughter and crackling well into dusk.
When winter came, I would lament at the bareness of my tree that I had somewhere along the way affectionately named Fern.. although, she was far too tall for this moniker, for Fern was a monstrous beast of a tree. But Fern she became never-the-less. Even in her bare vulnerability in the winter months, her branches and endless off-shoots provided sufficient cover from the snow and wind that whipped across the hill without obstruction. Somehow there was beauty there in her ability to survive the ice, wind, and snow season after season.
Imagine my disappointment this past summer when my parents and I returned home from dinner, and we saw Fern, the once towering beast hulking above the landscape, lying on her side. Not even her roots were able to weather the ferocious winds that fell her. There is no good reference for size here to give you an idea about how big and wonderful Fern was, but if you look to the left, you will see the root clump that pulled up a nice section of earth with it. That clump was approximately two feet taller than I stand at about 5’8″. The top of the tree, laying on its side, mind you, was about three times higher than the cab on my sister’s truck.
It’s funny the things that being abused can take away from you, even if just for a little while. My life with Kevin had become so devoid of any meaning, I had forgotten how much I relished in these little things. And when I looked at my Fern stretched out across the field and I remembered how much this seemingly small thing meant to me, when I thought about how I had just started getting my life back, all the small pieces of my past began to fall away like shattered glass. I felt bare, exposed. I worried that I was losing everything, including myself, and I became fretfully angry in my heart because he had taken it all from me. These little things. These precious, calming, serene things that had been mine and mine alone. Fern was no more.
Some months after I left, I felt driven to purchase a camera to replace the one that he claimed was stolen, but I know it was sold for drugs. I was walking aimlessly in the electronics department of a big box retailer one evening trying to act like I was normal. Like I had a life with purpose and I knew how I wanted to fill it. I walked past the digital cameras and out of the corner of my eye, this gorgeous glint of red sparkled like a diamond calling to me, beckoning me to come over and relieve it of its isolation on the cold metal shelf. The grey, black, and deep blue units faded into non-existence as the red metal danced provocatively to get my undivided attention. I stood there for a few minutes and drooled shamelessly at her. Yes, I was smitten with this camera… an object that I didn’t need but craved anyway. I flipped it over and again in my hands. I made the salesgirl plug it in to a power supply. I wanted to cry when she said the display was the only one left… because it had been wantonly touched by dirty fingertips and germ-ridden hands. So I did what any germ-o-phobe would do. I bought it the second they offered me a discount. “To get rid of it since it’s the last one,” she said. But I know what she really meant: “If I give this thing to you cheap, will you get out of my face already?” 🙂
I went home feeling victorious at my good fortune. Finding the perfect thing when you don’t even know how integral to your life it is about to become. A simple piece of technology to help us freeze the tiniest spans of time to relish for decades to come. Gateways to the impossible: the past, our youth, moments of happiness and being carefree. Pieces of ourselves that we may otherwise lose in the dust of time as it accumulates season after season. Evidence that we had lived. That we had joy. That we were loved.
I have learned in the months following that how I see things through my eyes is not quite the way others do. When I snap a picture, the image saved on the camera is not the image that is in my mind, for the image in my mind is influenced and edited by the atmosphere I feel around me. I may be off-beat slightly from the lot of you, and I may envision things you cannot imagine, but I have found the glue that has bound the cracks together. There is not greater joy than discovering who you are and loving that person. And here is just one part of what has resulted. Welcome to my world.