The Witching Hour

The sun warms my back while a large floppy hat shades my face. Spade in hand, I am hunched over a cluster of dark violet iris’s, digging into the soil with blackened fingernails.  A clump breaks away and I quench the roots in a bucket of water while I work. Butterflies flit about and this quiet summer morning smells like grass, flowers, and baked earth.

The meditative trance of my gardening is shattered by the sound of metal brakes screeching. A bowling ball sized lump forms instantly in my guts. I shoot to my feet and look to the South, listening in horror to the sound of steel crunching, smashing, and a pillar of black smoke pummeling into the sky. My spade falls from my hand and my body is frozen stiff. I force all of my will power into my legs and they finally respond.

Adrenaline pumps through my body. My bare feet slamming down hard on the gravel road. I run with a force that I have never known in my life. Out of the corner of my eye I see a grey blur. My faithful dog must have felt the same panic and now ran along side of me down the country road. The mile and a half to the race track stretched out into what felt like a hundred miles. Why hadn’t I drove? I couldn’t formulate a response to the question, so I ran harder. Tiny rocks imbedded themselves into the sticky blood coming from the souls of my feet, breifly I thought how strange that I can’t feel the pain in my feet as they rip and tear from the abuse. I pushed my head forward and ran faster.

As I closed in on the entrance to the race track, I can hear men screaming in an unusually high pitch. Tears block my vision as I struggle to see the vehicle involved. I see the distorted blend of colors, crumpled like a sheet of paper in a flaming ball. I fall hard onto my knees.

Sucking in as much air as possible I sit up in my bed. The numbers on the clock glare at me, it’s 3am… the witching hour. My hand shakily slides across the sheets, out into the darkness, and feels the empty spot next to me in the bed. I am consumed by grief. Some people will cut themselves to release the build up of pain, others will take a pill and chemically silence it. Not me. It’s been 8 months now, every single night, the same dream, the same response. My body can go through the motions while I sleep walk, it has become so accustomed to the habit. Summer, fall, winter, or spring it does not mattter.

Half dazed my feet hit the carpet below. As if being called by the pied piper, I walk to the French doors and open them. Cool spring air blasts my face and body with a fine mist. My dog, ever so vigilant, sits beside me waiting for our nightly ritual. Down a few stairs, across the patio, and into the damp grass. My feet move mechanically, they know where they need to go. Like a ghost I drift across the lawn and glide into the orchard.

Wide trails are covered in pinkish white petals that shine brightly like jewels in the moonlight. Early spring flowers have begun to pop through in scattered masses. The rushing sound of the waterfall sings me towards her. I follow the well known path, to where the water falls and empties into a deep lagoon which never freezes over. I stand at the bank of sandy soil, gazing into the deep dark water and shimmering surface ripples.

I slowly step into the cold water. I am used to her bite by now. One foot after the other, the water rising above my waist, my night dress floating around me on the surface. Further I step, until the water is at my chin. I take a deep, long breath in, and plunge below the water line.  Half floating and half sitting crossed legged, I feel the the ripples swaying over my head.     It is so quiet here.     The quiet erases the screams and crunching of metal that were ringing in my ears. It feels like being in the womb, safe and untouchable.

After a while I can feel my lungs start to expand and the first traces of suffocation tingle in. I don’t want to leave this quiet place. Please just let me die here, in the silence that soothes me. Every night I try to stay longer. I try to ignore my body and focus on the lovely stillness around me. The pressure inside ampliflies, and I steady myself against it. How long will I last? Could I train myself to stay here for hours? The numbing cold helps me resist the urge to breathe. Like a companion it teams up with my mind to bully my lungs into submission. Not yet, don’t breathe yet.

Electrical snaps and pulses trace down my limbs, my body is preparing to save itself from me. Not yet. Consciousness begins to fade in and out gradually. Finally instincts kick in, over powering my will, and my body involuntarily thrashes towards oxygen. My face breaks the surface and air floods into my body. The silence is broken and my ears ring intensly. I make my way to land and my clothes are so heavy.

My dog sits paitently waiting for me to emerge. We make our way back to the house. Into the doors which I close behind me. I stand at the side of the bed and stare at the emptiness. A dark circular stain on the rug below me reveals the evidence of my months of formality. Dripping and shivering I stare in a zombie like state.

I do not recover from my trance as a golden white light pours into the room from above. It continues to flow downwards in a liquid gold state as a form inside begins to take shape. I do not turn my head to look, but I can feel it’s presence beside me, and I can feel warmth from the driplets of golden light when they splash against my arm.

The room is filled with a voice, a voice that calms and comforts me.

“I have been watching you for many months. I have felt your suffering. Although I can comprehend your sorrow, I admit I am curious about your behavior. Please, I must know, why? Why do you go to the water, why do you stay? What relief does it bring you?” The light being asked.

I thought for a moment about the water. The sweet silence, the temporary triumph over my breath, the very second my body responds to death and reacts against my will. I gave my answer.

“Because for that one split second, when my body wins and I panic to the surface, I am reminded that deep down…somewhere inside of me…I want to live.”

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Sylvia’s Plants

cacti-gardening-grow-707194.jpgSylvia was very shy. Although she was timid to talk to, there was some undefinable joy that permeated her unremarkable appearance. At her data entry job, she would sit in her cubicle behind a false sense of isolation and security. Occasionally a co-worker would notice her, and ask what her secret is for always being so happy. Sylvia would blush and claim she had none, to avoid further embarrassment. She deeply feared being made fun of, so she rarely said any more than was necessary, and never shared her personal thoughts.

Sylvia knew exactly why she was always so genuinely cheerful. Her desk was neat and sparsely covered, little more than the essentials, nothing except for three little potted plants. Sylvia loves her plants. Her windows at home are stacked from floor to ceiling with pots of every imaginable shape and size, and hanging baskets brimming with bloomed foliage. She misses her desk plants each night and is grateful to greet them each workday. Leaves fill her with a secret joy. No matter where she is or what she’s doing, something green is usually nearby, and can ease her social awkwardness.

One day Sylvia came home from work with a plain cardboard box. On top of that box peered out three little plants. Sylvia wasn’t her usual perky self. Something had happened at work. The company downsized, and although she had been there for eight years, she had always failed to stand out. She smiled at the three little desk plants with tears threatening her eyes, as she made room for them in a front window sill. She didn’t feel like having dinner, so she showered and went to bed early.

The next morning she wept as she watered her tropical and temperate menagerie. Her mind worried about finding employment, and the anxiety first interviews would bring. She was lost in her train of thought when a soulful tender voice interrupted her.

“Why are you so sad today, Sylvia?” The voice asked her.

Sylvia looked around startled but saw no one. “Hello? Who said that? Is someone here?”

“I’m right here in front of you, in the hanging basket you just watered.” The voice huskily replied.

Sylvia, watering can in hand and mouth slightly agape, turned her gaze up to stare at her largest spider plant. It was a behemoth of a thing, bursting like fireworks out of the coco liner. Oh no, she thought, I’m hearing voices, my plants are talking to me.

“Come on now child, you tell me what’s got my baby so blue?” The spider plant pushed.

“I lost my job. I’m afraid to go looking for another. And afraid of if I don’t find something soon enough, before my savings run out, I’ll be in a bad place.” Sylvia just let it all out. Why not, plants won’t laugh at you, will they? Sylvia had never been so raw and honest verbally before.

“Oh, I’m sorry baby. I know how much you loved to work there. Always coming and going, day after day, happy each morning, mmm-hmm.” The spider plant soothed.

Sylvia thought about it a minute. “Well, I didn’t really love to work there. I didn’t mind it. I was just eager to see those three,” she pointed at the new comers.

“Well those three seem to be doing just fine. Don’t be sad Sylvia. Here, you can take some of my babies,” The plant started.

Sylvia looked down at the dozens of pups swinging from stems below their mother.

“Hello!” They sang to her in unison.

“Share them with the world; see if you can make a few bucks. I can always make more. Maybe they can bring joy to others too.” The spider plant reasoned.

“You can take some of my niños! My terra cotta is overflowing!” A much crowded aloe shouted out.

“My roots are so tight in here,” said a peacock plant, “perhaps you can separate me into several pots, and give me more room to stretch them out?”

One by one all of her beloved house plants began offering to propagate and share themselves with anyone who would choose to appreciate them. Sylvia couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Also, she worried she may have had a mental breakdown. She went to her shed anyways, and pulled out stacks of dirty used plastic pots. She cleaned them up as good as new. Then she drove to the hardware store and loaded her trunk with heavy bags of soil.

Over the next several days she clipped and snipped, separated and rooted all of her plethora of plants. She set up a nursery area in her dining room, because it had the best windows and sunlight. She would sing to the tender cuttings as they established in their pots. Gently watering and tending to them as if they were her very own children.

One sunny afternoon she loaded her car seats with boxes, brimming with cheerful young sprouts. Sylvia drove around to flower and garden shops all day. She must have talked to thirty different stores. Three stores agreed to purchase her potted angels, and took her information should they need another order.

A few days later, Sylvia took photos of dozens of her lovely plants and created a web-site to sell them. After two months she was able to invest in a greenhouse for her backyard. Sylvia had the happiest plants, and they beamed for her camera. Her houseplant business grew and grew.

She continued her tenderness and care with each new batch of babies in the nursery. She would always tell them the story of their elders. It began like this…

“One day, I lost my job,” the sprouts would lean in to listen to the tale.

“It was the greatest day of my life.”