artwork by Anja, Oh Pithy Me
She was a collector of things. Bright, shiny pebbles smoothed by the caress of the stream. Feathers shed as birds molted into the brilliance of spring. Sea glass weathered by waves. Bits of discarded pottery. Broken jewelry lodged in sidewalk cracks. Scraps of paper blowing across lawns. Prisms from crystal chandeliers. Small interestingly shaped bottles. Seeds and nuts from the forest floor. Purple, yellow, red flowers pressed between the pages of books.
Her paradise was in a corner of the dusty, forgotten attic. She made herself a home – rocking chair, rug, pictures on the wall. And the cabinet – the wondrous cabinet with dozens of drawers of all sizes.
She discovered it, neglected in the far corner, on one of her early journeys spent weaving between pieces of broken furniture, piles of unread books, old steamer trunks with labels from exotic places. She realized at once that her growing collection, hidden in shoe boxes at the very back of her closet, would be better housed up here.
As no one seemed to notice her absences, she spent most of her time wandering outdoors or up in her home. She found lots of things to add to her collection on her treks, as if the cabinet called to the places she would go and asked for company.
She saw it dangling from an overhanging branch. It took several jumps before her fingers touched it. An intricately braided red rope. Brushed against her cheek, it felt delicate and soft like the down on baby birds. Stretched between her hands, it felt strong and rough against her palms.
She placed it in the bag she always wore across her shoulder, nestled next to a pine cone, a river rock, and a sheaf of golden grass. She was sure there was one empty drawer just the right size to house her newest possession.
Nasty, pesky relatives kept her away from the attic for several days. As she placed her foot on the edge of the rug that demarcated her room, she gasped. A few inches of rope dangled bright against the darkened wood; the drawer was slightly ajar. One of her bratty cousins must have snuck up here, she thought. Opened the drawers. Peered inside. Been called to supper and didn’t even bother to put things right before she left.
Now she would have to find a new home for herself and her collection for it was hers and hers alone. She sighed as she went to put the rope back. Pulling the drawer the rest of the way open, she was surprised. There was the coil of rope just as she had left it. Yet the end had somehow become longer and snaked its way out of the drawer. Magic. The rope must belong to a fern fairy or a stream sprite. It had adorned hair or was tied in a big bow around some one’s waist. Whirling, swirling, dancing so lightly her fairy toes barely touched the tree, so caught up in the music and dance, she didn’t even notice her loss.
I must return it, she thought. It was obviously trying to find it’s owner. And would continue growing until it did so. Although it was almost dark, she grabbed up her bag and the rope. Closing the back door quietly, she began running towards the spot she had found the piece of red rope. She kept one hand in her bag, afraid it might grow itself out. She knew that path so well, she could find her way even with only the light of the starscape. As day faded and night ascended, the rope wiggled between her fingers. It must have sensed the change from house to field to woods. From daylight to moonlight. The red rope knew it was going home.
As she reached the tree, she became perplexed. Holding the rope in her hands, she wondered. Should she try to climb it, placing the rope across the overhanging branch? Or should she put it next to the trunk? The rope answered her question by springing out from between her fingers, and wrapping its now longer self around the branch. Satisfied she had done the right thing, she was still tempted to hide and wait for the fairy to find her red rope. But she knew she should go. Taking one last look at the red rope, she waved good bye and headed home. When, she returned several days later, the red rope was gone, collected by it’s rightful owner.
With age comes responsibilities. She wasn’t as free to roam. Her attic room remained her retreat; her special place. She came there to read books, day-dream, think about boys, high school, college. She occasionally added something to her collection, but these treasures were made more special by their rareness. Eventually, too, the only empty drawer was where the red rope had grown, and somehow, it just didn’t seem right to put anything else there.
The awkward, gangly, wild child became a young adult. She had a strangeness about her that people sensed but could not describe. She did fuss about hairstyles, makeup, dresses and shoes. Her wardrobe was eclectic and reflected her spirit not the current styles. She was a loner, not quite fitting in. She decided she liked it that way.
The time came to move to the city. To get a job. To be an adult. Leave behind the vestiges of childhood. But she couldn’t leave her collection; it was a part of her life she needed to hold on to. So she carefully packed it up along with her books, clothes, pictures, and bedroom furniture.
The city was overwhelming at first, but she gradually adjusted. There were cafes, concerts, plays, museums, art galleries. But it was the parks she loved the most. Although manicured and civilized, there still were trees and seasons and space.
She often noticed a man wandering, as she did, along the wilder of paths. He had a camera, with all the fancy accessories. She was fascinated by what he choose to capture with it. Trying to look like she was casually ambling, she found herself following him from a safe distance. She didn’t want to be detected; she only wanted to watch.
He always carried a small, weathered leather bag, the long handle slung across his body. She wondered what he kept inside that was so precious it was always with him. She put something in all her bags: a shiny river rock; a feather; a pine cone; or a small stuffed animal as totems. Sitting on a bench one day, something he rarely did, she saw him reach into the bag. He pulled out a length of intricately braid red rope that she knew felt soft and rough, delicate and strong.
He looked up from his treasure, and glanced in her direction. His mouth and his eyes smiled at her. She smiled back.
@ phylor 2014