My Lost One
And I imagine trees as far as we can see: oak and elm and ash and maple and maybe spruce and fir and yew, intermingled in ways that would make no sense to an arborist, but I’m not one of those, so I imagine.
The ground beneath these trees is smooth and mostly flat, with little hillocks–I think you’d like that happy word, hillocks–here and there made by roots that swell the ground. The tree branches stretch outwards and up and the floor isn’t clogged with undergrowth or yearly layers of dead needles and decaying leaves. It is an open place, wide and far.
When I say forest or when I think your name, little one, I imagine all these things: the trees and the unclutter, the dappled sunshine and the cool shade, the gentle whispers of breeze but not wind, the faint stirrings of animal life but nothing scary or stalking. I imagine trees all of a similar height so that the canopy is leafy-solid, but enough light still trickles through so that other, younger ones can grow. There’s room underneath to walk and not be stalked, to sit on soft moss and not decaying leaves or sharp sticks, to lounge here in the crook of a big trunk that somehow doesn’t scratch my back or bend my posture, a space exactly my shape and soft enough to cradle me while I rest, warmed gently by the tree itself, sheltered from rain and sun and wind and scary things. I imagine that you’re out here somewhere, cradled too, like this, warm and safe. I’m so certain you’re here, I don’t even need to look. I feel you. I know.
Sometimes I’m afraid there’s no such forest, nothing even close to it. Sometimes I see only naked boles, leaves burnt to tumbled ash, single limbs stabbing an ivory sky that dies at the bare horizon. There are sharp sticks and growling things hiding in the shadows before and behind me. I stand rather than sit. It is crowded with dark and I shout into the cold.
Sometimes, worse, there’s nothing at all: no trees, no grass, no shelter, no sky. On those days, I stare and can’t see or move or shout. All is empty. I am empty.
But now, today, this forest, the one I imagine. Open, warm, wide and far. And here, somewhere, my lost one, you. Always you.
Aaron J. Housholder teaches writing and literature at a small university in the American Midwest. His work has appeared recently in Sledgehammer Lit, Barren Magazine, The Molotov Cocktail, Unnerving Magazine, phoebe journal, and elsewhere. He serves as the Fiction Editor for Relief Journal. You can find him on Twitter: @ProfAJH.
A Song for Aaron