There was a submission opportunity which had to have a story about nature. Sadly mine didn't make the cut but here is the story I wrote for it.
Putting the car in park, she takes a deep breath inhaling the fresh damp smell of the park. She definitely needs this time away from the hectic pace of her life, kids, husband, and work. She just needs some time to herself. Stashing her purse under the passenger’s seat, she grabs the essentials, bottle of water, journal, and her favorite pen. She jams her keys in the pocket of her jeans as she surveys the map. She doesn’t want to go through the pines; she wants to wander a bit more than that.
Heading east into the woods of maples and oaks, she listens as the birds speak to each other. She imagines them gossiping about this strange two legged creature wandering beneath them. She hears them chittering and chattering, singing to her and each other. She pretends the robins are scolding the cardinals for flying too close to the nests.
Wandering through the tall trees, she listens to the music of the birds and bugs. She marches her stress into the ground, her feet come down hard on the winding path. Step by step she stomps her anger at her boss, her guilt over not having more time for her kids, her frustration with her friends, all of her emotions into the dirt path. Winding around trees, up and down slight hills, she marches mindlessly as she lists off the difficulties she faces. Step after step, she pulverizes the path as she lets the problems of her life flow through her mind.
Suddenly she stops. She’s come to the edge of the small forest and a clearing spreads out in front of her. A bit winded, she leans against a large old mother maple which is so large three people would have to join hands to encircle it. She looks up to see birds flitting from limb to limb, the leaves fluttering in the slight breeze remind her of curtains blowing on the wind. With a deep slow inhale, she steadies her breathing. The smell of decaying plants, flowers, fresh air fill her with calm, she feels as if each exhale releases toxic poison from her to be instantly cleansed by the fresh clean air she takes in.
The small meadow is lush and green. It looks flat but she knows there are dips and crevasses. Some flowers grow as tall as she is. Looking across the meadow, she sees a painter’s pallet of colors dotting the green. Oranges, reds, yellows, pinks, purples, and blues sprinkle across the green grass like sugar on a cookie. She has no idea what the names of all the plants are but the smell and look of them are heaven.
She slumps at the base of the old maple, pulling her pen and journal out. Furiously she writes about all her woes and difficulties. She sprawls the words across the page like an angry bull charging across a field. As her mind starts to clear, she describes the scene all around her. She sketches a tree with a gnarled limb across the meadow and a bird she doesn’t recognize. She pours everything into the journal knowing it will help her to be a better person, better mom, and better wife. She releases all her frustrations into this book, which may seem like she is whining and complaining about life, but this is her therapist. This is the place she can be HERSELF not mom, wife, daughter or any of the other roles she has to fill. This journal is her safe haven, freeing her to be whatever she wants.
Putting away her pen, she steps sedately into the meadow as a proper adult should, but then a butterfly flitters nearby, daring her to follow. She skips behind it laughing as it settles on no flower but flits from one to the next. Its bright wings flashing in the sunlight flickering from a flower to a bush to a stone, resting for a moment before it is off. She laughs as she jumps through the air, flapping her arms like the butterfly’s wings, dancing across the meadow and embracing her inner child.
The meadow twists to the south and is bordered by a stream winding its way through a pine forest, ones planted neatly in rows by men. At least they tried to put nature back. She looks down the long seemingly never ending rows and thinks how this is so like her life, orderly and clearly defined. She is tired of clearly defined. She wants a little chaos. As she walks down one row, she sees the little bits of chaos in the rows. One tree has a vine climbing up it. Some critters made holes. The trees themselves have caused disruption with their jutting roots and low hanging branches. Nature seems to defy the order man has imposed on it and is finding ways to infuse its own unruliness in its home. The grove smells of dry pine needles which rustle beneath her feet, rough and brittle. The stream doesn’t even seem to touch the parched ground. The trees drink up whatever they can get, dropping their needles in homage. The trees are so dense in this grove she can’t see the blue sky. It is blocked by dark sage green boughs.
Stepping out from the cover of the pines, the light blinds her momentarily. She stands motionless as her eyes adapt. Closing her eyes, she tilts her head up reveling in the fresh air blowing through her hair and the cobwebs in her mind. The heat of the late afternoon sun beats down on her warming and comforting. She turns west towards the larger stream. Following a giggling, laughing creek, she watches the water glisten in the sunlight as she meanders with it. It is running away from her, behind her while she struggles upstream. Kneeling in the soft dirt, she cups her hands in the quick moving water and brings it to her face. It is cold, clean and brand new from a small spring. She knows the spring is a short walk away, yet she lingers. The water washes down her face and through her fingers, taking away the dust from her walk but also the negative emotions she brought with her. It cleanses her spirit as well as her face. She lops back in the grass speckled with sunshine and shadows from the oak tree overhead. Once again she takes out her journal but this time her writing is more contemplative, lyrical as she describes the freedom and release she feels from her stress just by taking a short stroll. Throwing an arm over her head, she stares up at the tree branches. At first she sees nothing in them, but then a face seems to appear, a bit scruffy, formed from the leaves and branches into the rough shape of a man, a green man. She laughs at how ridiculous that seems but a second look shows the face is still there. She lays there gazing deeply up at the blue eye sockets formed by the limbs of the oak tree. Minutes pass without her noticing or even thinking about the chores or responsibilities waiting for her. She just lies there, like in her lover’s arms embracing this face in the tree. She turns on her stomach to write about the green man, describing him in detail and the feelings of peace he brings to her, here in this natural place. When she turns back the face is gone. She laughs and blows him a farewell kiss.
Back on her feet, she walks slowly to the spring. The bubbling grows louder and the gurgling sounds almost like a baby laughing. She sits on one of the boulders around the spring watching the water shimmer and reflecting the trees behind her head. The water is so clear she sees the small fish and other critters crawling across the bottom. A spider lands in the water to skate across the top until a fish surfaces quickly to snatch the tasty morsel. She watches the microcosm of life play out in this small pond. The bugs struggle to feed on the plants; the fish snatch a bug here and there. Some live and some don’t.
With a sigh of resignation she looks north towards the parking lot. The stroll is over and it is time for her to head back to reality. But she takes a part of this stroll with her. A bit of the fluttering butterfly, giggling creek, and surviving fish, she takes all of them tucked in her memory. The green man smiling down at her and the peace he brought her. She takes that with her as she gets in her car and buckles up for the ride home to the chaos of real life.