Summer Ends

There comes a time when summer ends. We all know it’s true. And it isn’t when you expect it.

Summer ends with fireworks in July, when friends and family gather. We celebrate the freedom of our country by grilling brats and guzzling beer. We stay up late to watch colorful explosions in the sky. After, we collect our blankets and chairs like squirrels gathering nuts for winter. We ignore our neighbors, pushing through the zombified crowds to make it home.

Some freedom we have.

Summer ends with a gentle turn of the page–July to August. If July went by in a skip, August will sprint away. Like unwanted wishes, school supplies appear for sale overnight. Stomachs of students knot at the thought of returning to prison in the fall. They beg for another stretch of summer, to return to June. To feel free and not abuse that first wistful month of summer.

But summer always ends.

Summer ends before you know it. It leaks away the moment it’s bottled. From May to August, time feels eternal. It’s the delusion of the young. We live without plans and plan to live without rules and responsibilities–at least for a few months.

So wish on dandelions. Watch the corn grow. Summer is just a season, a temporal thing. Don’t abuse or misuse the time left. Summer always ends, but that doesn’t mean it’s over.

And summer always comes again.

Beyond the Tree

The wind comes and the wind goes. It tangles, twists, and dances in my hair, awakening hope and love within me. But does it end there?

Endings aren’t always the happy sort, you know…

What if I rooted where I was planted? I had no choice where I fell, but I can uproot to sow elsewhere. Yet what if I didn’t? What if I stayed, right where I was, basking in the light of day, chilling in the freeze of winter?

What if the wind didn’t stop me from growing? What if I was unbending like the trees? I could withstand the harsh glances of winter and the scorching trials of summer. What if I could breathe so easily, my breath aiding those around me.

Trees don’t plant themselves. It takes work–hard work. After all, trees don’t start as trees. Each begins as a tiny pocket, a minuscule seed. Sometimes it’s planted with purpose. Sometimes it rides the wind, sails the waves, or hitchhikes on furry beasts, but, regardless of how it arrives, you can’t deny the seed made it. The seed exists, dawning for a brighter day.

Seeds never stay as seeds–unless harvested too early. Sometimes people pick seeds before their roots ground, their flowers bud. People fry them. Boil them. Bake them. Eat them. Cannibals they are.

Do they realize seeds bring life? Do they recognize the seed’s potential? Maybe it sees beyond the expected. Maybe it dreams of becoming more, because trees are more than capable. People harvest trees for greater purposes, after all.

Trees don’t die in vain, as do the seeds. They get sawed and planked together to create your grandfather’s rocking chair, where he smokes and rocks and dwells on a life poorly spent.

Through pain and humiliation, a tree gets cut and mashed and refined and molded into thin, white paper, birthed with new purpose. Yet, oh; how it’s wasted! Authors murder with ink stained hands, but they are not condemned. They risk the sin to bring you this. To spread the words of life and speak into hardened hearts and far-off souls.

Maybe seeds dream these things and maybe they don’t. We will never know for sure. Yet through it all, one thing I know is certain:

A seed is never just a seed, and a tree is far beyond that.

Red

Paper is a blank canvas, until the ink has built its town, its city, no, its grand empire, on the snowy, barren plain. Cautiously I grab the stack off the printer, careful not to bend its corners. I flip the pages like an old-fashioned, hand-drawn animation. As the pages turn, a breeze of cool air brings butterfly kisses to my cheeks. I ensure each piece found its place and the ink didn’t smear. Pristine. Crisp. Perfect.

I stand the papers upright and clack them against the table, marching like the hooves of regal Gypsy horses. Taking the stapler in hand, I hover it over the top left corner with a slight tremble in my wrist. The alligator waits to snap its teeth upon the prey. Holding my breath, I clutch the ends together and pull back apart. A straight sliver of metal now hugs the pages together in a neat little family.

Thoughtlessly, my fingers brush the cover page as a grin tugs at my lips. Did it smear? No, thank goodness. My heartbeat slows from the scare. Holding the stack to my face, I deeply inhale as the inspiring smell of crisp paper and fresh ink wafts into my nose. I ponder all the blood, sweat, and tears. My eyes are bloodshot, my hair unkempt, my head aches from lost sleep and computer-screen glare. But this one’s a keeper. It’s sure to impress, I convince myself while slipping the stack into one of my sturdy, protective folders.

The anxious longing sets in immediately upon handing over my newly birthed child. For days I wait and pace and worry for my moment of reunion. Will she like it? Did I remember to add in that comma? Certainly I removed all the contractions—right? I read it over a thousand times. Was it “do” or “due”? I just can’t seem to remember! Judgement. Stares. I can feel them already, as if sitting in court waiting for the judge’s sentencing.

Just when I can bear it no longer, a stack of paper slaps the desk in front of me. My hand trembles as it reaches toward the blank, back sheet. My inner teapot shrieks upon the stove. “Turn me over!” the paper screams in my ears. My head pounds. It’s now or never.

I quickly flip over my stack and stare.

What once was black and white in holy matrimony was now stained in red. I close my eyes, but the red remains. Red. rEd. reD. It blots my vision. Opening again, the red remains. Words scribbled out. Entire sentences scratched from existence. Comments and foreign words litter the once spotless snow.

My head meets the desk, resting on the remains of my creation. I add more sweat. I add more tears. Once so spotless, crisp, and clean, it’s now stained in the blood of a murder scene.


Published in the Wineskin, April 2016