As I stood there twirling the blackened match between my thumb, I dug my toes deep into the dampened soil kissing the soles of my bare feet. I could feel the earth shifting beneath as I looked up to the smoldering branches before me. The smoke inched higher and higher as the wind slowly carried the ashes of leaves as if it wanted to caress each once more for old times’ sake. My eyes swelled at the sight of what was once the most magnificent tree in the forest and I set it ablaze.
Fear often hides in the most beautiful parts of us. In my case, fear made a home in the lush greenery of my favorite willow. I closed my eyes and remembered vividly the tree which pulled me into warm embraces on every visit, with every climb and with every descent from its burly branches. Like a nurturing mother watching from the shadows as her child stumbles into their identity, this is what my willow meant to me. Like a portion of earth unblemished by the stained hands of man, this is what my willow represented to me. Like a large rock holding steady in the raging waters of time, my willow was set apart from reality. And as much as I loved that tree, I smiled as I watched it burn.
Recently, someone held a mirror to me as I sat next to my willow. Abashedly, I pushed them away. What good would it do to see my reflection? Everything on the other side of that mirror was a world I departed from many moons ago. Adamant about showing me the fire inside my eyes, they returned the mirror to my face. As their face blurred, mine came into clarity. I simpered at the sight of myself and as my glare became fixed on the dancing flame in my eyes, fear peered wickedly through the dense brush under the tree. I gasped as I watched its reflection quickly crawl up into the maze of the willows branches.
The fear of commitment made a home of me and it took a treacherous act of destruction to begin eradicating all that I no longer wanted to identify with. Every crippling doubt about a relationships longevity, every fear fueled thought of inadequacy, and every subconscious moment where I used the same fears of another as my safe haven, was seared away the night I decided to use all one hundred matches on my tree. As darkness fell over the forest, as every beast came out to witness, light pierced through every impenetrable thickened part of my woodland as my willow was engulfed in flames.
Fear often hides in the most beautiful parts of us and those parts are where we need to dauntlessly venture. Only there will we find total healing from every instance where we stand in our own way.
While looking upon the remnants of yesterday, I kicked aside a portion of soil revealing a tiny seed; a fearless me.
Your index finger stopped the descent of tears trickling down my left cheek. You collected my sorrow as if it were your own and added it to the simmering pot taking up two burners on our gas stove. You looked to me and told me to tell you of the nightmares which drive away my light on nights where you are not by my side. I opened my mouth to speak and one by one, each fear seeped heavily from my tongue like black sludge into the glass bowl you held at my chin. You set the bowl down onto the marbled counter-top and handed me an orange rose as you turned back to me. I smelled it and smiled. Unknowingly, you captured my photo and waited as the polaroid inched slowly from the mouth of your camera.
I could smell nutmeg in the air as the breeze from the open window brushed passed our cheeks. I took a seat at the distressed kitchen table and pushed aside the tiny jars of cinnamon, honey and cloves, in order to rest my arms. I watched as you moved about the kitchen, scuffing the floors with your muddied boots. You unearthed a bag of navel oranges from the bottom of the pantry and I witnessed something so loving as your overworked hands slowly peeled off the skin of each orange, paying each the same attention as you did the first. Once you finished, you discarded the remains by tossing half into the boiling pot and pushing the other half deep into the soil of our asters. You motioned for me to give you my hand. I obliged. You pulled me in close and I could feel the sticky heat radiating from your chest as we began to slow dance in the middle of the kitchen on that spring evening. As you spun me around, you stumbled and stepped on my toes. I cannot remember another time in my life where I laughed as hard as I did while you apologetically kissed all over my face to correct your error.
The pot boiled over.
I rushed to turn down the heat, but you abruptly stopped me. I backed away and watched closely as you began to gather the remaining ingredients for your elixir. The pot shook violently as you added my fears. You waited a moment before adding the polaroid of my smile. You stirred the mixture once and removed the pot from the burners. After setting the pot aside, you turned to me and I stepped into you.
Every night since, I have met you in this kitchen as I steep my tea and I miss the sight of your muddied boots shuffling before me.