Well, I didn’t finish my NaNoWriMo novel, but can’t let it go to waste, so here’s the first chapter…
I opened my eyes, threw back my head, and laughed in delight.
I’d waited my entire life to get to this place, and even though I had no conceivable idea how I’d gotten here, I was here, and that was good enough for me. I saw an unpretentious breeze, or rather, the effects of it, and a leaf from one of the massive sunflowers I was standing in the midst of brushed lightly against my cheek. I lifted my hand and pressed my fingers to the spot, imagining for a moment that being kissed by an angel must feel very like having a feathery sunflower leaf caress your cheek. I raised my eyes upward, and through a canopy of honeyed sunflower petals, I beheld a flawless azure sky; I watched contentedly as whispy silver clouds meandered by. I’m convinced for a moment I saw the form of Alice’s white rabbit scramble past before it dissipated into the heavenly beyond.
Standing amid the towering plants, I had no idea how far the field stretched, only that I couldn’t see the end of it. I wanted to barrel through the tall stalks until there were no more to barrel through, so I did. As clumsy as I tend to be, it didn’t really seem to be a very good idea, but I felt weightless as I ran, and my feet refused to be obstructed by clods of dirt or wayward sunflower stems. I raced through the golden crop, until I realized that if it ended, I was nowhere near that end.
I slowed, just as I felt of burst of sunlight fall across my shoulders. I raised my arms and bounced gleefully, bellowing “HERE COMES THE SUN! DOOBIE DOOBIE!” and giggled, because I haven’t the faintest idea what the rest of the words are to that song. I didn’t even know it was a Beatle’s song until well into my 20’s. For shame.
I continued to dance foolishly through my sunflowers, giving no thought whatsoever that my dance moves have always rivaled those of a pious eighty-year-old nun. In the past, I would shudder at the thought of even dancing alone in my apartment, and sooner die than set foot on any designated dance floor, but here, among my blooming friends, I felt no such humiliation.
“Doobie doobie!” I sang again at the top of my lungs, celebrating the glorious Sun’s visitation upon me, my arms still aloft, inviting her to share her blessed vitamin D with me. She consented, and I smiled into her radiant heat with face lifted, swaying slightly with my fellow sunflowers. And like them, I didn’t sneeze as I normally did when faced with direct sunlight; instead, I drank in her rays like a parched traveler in the desert.
As I absorbed the shining nourishment with my eyes closed in prayer, I felt again an angel kiss upon my head. My eyes slid open and I embraced my sunflower lover, pulling his head down to better examine each petal, each seed, every floret. The intricacies of my lover’s face bewitched me, and I could not look away. Instead, I found myself adrift in his gaze, awed by the spectrum of colors. My sight was more keen than ever it had been, and no matter where I looked, I saw more than ever I had. I wondered if this was a gift from Mother Sun, and mentally thanked her.
Suddenly, I noticed a massive oak behind me, and I wondered how I had missed it during my absurd Sun Dance. I let go my sunflower’s head, and approached this majestic tree.
I racked my brain on any topiary trivia I might have picked up, but the only thing I could come up with was that this tree must be ancient to have grown to such huge proportions. I looked up at the gnarled branches, and was surprised to see an array of crimson and russet colored leaves; several of them floated lazily down to me, and I caught one, congratulating myself on my expert leaf-retrieving skills. The leaf in my hand was dry and brittle, and because I had caught it with such vigor, when I opened my hand to look more closely, I realized it had crumbled to powder in my palm. I pouted, and tipped my hand, silently observing the spread of oaken ashes in the light breeze.
Before the last fragments were gone, I heard someone whispering, but when I turned to look for the source, the only thing I saw was a crude heart chiseled in the trunk of the tree. Within the heart, the initials
I reached out and traced the letters as an overwhelming flood of emotions filled me. I knew this tree. A long time ago, before the miscarriages and tears, before the grown-up decisions and divorce, a beautiful boy and a younger version of me had laboriously scraped these letters into this tree with a dull pocket-knife. This tree sat in the middle of where we would have built our house, if it had all worked out.
The tears came, unwelcome- tears, not because of regrets, because the decisions made had been the right ones, but because these memories were not welcome here, not on this day, not in my coveted field. The fingers outlining the letters curled into a fist, as did the fingers of my other hand, and then they were beating furiously on the foul carving, again and again. I heard myself cursing violently, and salty tears blurred my vision, and I continued to strike mercilessly on the oak’s mighty trunk until my fists were bloodied and raw.
I wiped the hated tears away with my forearm, and glared at the wretched heart, now bleeding with my own vital fluids. It seemed to pulse as I stood there, but I knew it was only the rage inside of me that lived. I screamed at the aged tree, and it paid me no mind. I wailed until my voice was ragged, but still this oak stood sentinel over the engraved memory, and it was not removed.
At last, when all of my energy was spent, I sank down against the base of the tree and covered my head with my arms, sobbing uncontrollably for all that was, and wasn’t, and couldn’t be. My divine Sunshine continued to pour over me, but I hardly noticed.