Showing posts with label esoterica. Show all posts
Showing posts with label esoterica. Show all posts

she is like a cat

She is like a cat.

She is like a cat that you desperately want to call your own, for a little while.

You put out food, hoping to lure her close.
She takes the food (and is grateful for it).
Then she slinks back out of reach, jumping on the fence, balancing one foot in front of the other.
Never looking down, or left, or right.

From this distance, in this light, she is glorious to you.
Radiant fur, shining amber eyes full of heat.
She must be so soft. She must be so warm, to hold.

You want her to stop circling your legs.
You want, finally, to feel her climb into your lap.
Then, oh then. What you would do.

We both know what you would do.

And she would stretch herself luxuriously, under your touch.
And you would hear her purr, which is as rich and loud as you've imagined.

But also, after a little while, you would notice that she is not that glorious.
You would feel the grit in her fur. (She's been outside a long time.)
You would see, up close, that the shine and heat in her eyes is actually low-simmering fear.

And then, maybe, you would stop feeding her.
And she would feel the pinch of hunger more keenly than you would feel the loss of temporary pet.

That is why it is hard for her to trade your legs for your lap.

Not that she wouldn't.

Not that she won't.

the queen and the viscount

The queen is fucking the viscount, and the whole court knows about it. We do our best to act like we don't, but they're getting sloppy. Unsealed missives. Garden dalliances in the full glare of moonlight. We look away when they exchange simpering glances, keeping our own faces blank. But the stink of their self-satisfaction--that we cannot escape.

Honestly I think she wants everyone to know. Everyone but the king, of course. One by one she draws aside her handmaids, demanding to know what we've seen, what we've heard. Oh, nothing untoward m'lady, we lie, and the sluttish twinkle in her eye betrays the delight she takes in this facade. But we value our heads, so we keep the lips on them sealed. We don't tell her what the viscount does when she's away. Which is much, and ugly. There are casualties of his "affection" from the galley to the stables.

The queen fancies herself a coquette, but too many years have passed for that. Too many babies born. The velvet at her waist pinches, the rouge creases on her cheek. The seamstress told us she's had the lace of her cuffs lengthened to hide withering hands. No more is she the apple-cheeked ingenue freshly arrived at our shores, her dowry the promise of war avoided.

And the viscount, well. Have you ever admired a stallion far off in the paddock, only to see when it approaches that it is, in fact, a gelding?

Then you know our illustrious viscount.

the enveloping warmth of self-delusion (a how-to)

Step 1: Construct your narrative. Think carefully about the role you want to cast yourself in. Victim, hero, iconoclast, and martyr are all popular choices, but don't feel limited to these. Get creative!

Some questions to consider: How am I being wronged? In what ways am I innovating or inspiring, that others fail to appreciate? What personality flaws and intellectual shortcomings are preventing them from recognizing my greatness?

Step 2: Ignore any answer that does not lend itself to your established narrative.

Think of your self-deception like a cozy fur coat, shielding you from the harsh winter wind of reality. You wouldn't let it get wet and dirty, would you? That's what challenging outside opinions are: dirt. Brush them off and keep going.

Step 3: Surround yourself with enablers. It's important to experience routine reinforcement of your worldview. This is best achieved by maintaining strict filters in life. Listen only to viewpoints that ratify your position, particularly where it pertains to your character.

Remember, you don't owe the world an open mind! It's your brain: block, delete, and dismiss any thought that makes you uncomfortable.

Step 4: Have the bubble in which you live insured. It's the only thing keeping you safe from the twin abhorrences of self-awareness and growth.

the Heights of Estimation

The Heights of Estimation (where my heroes live) are treacherous and difficult to reach. Steep, craggy cliffs buffeted by icy, howling wind. A thorny, overgrown path that discourages visitors. I call on them only when I absolutely must - my heroes. Which is how I suspect they prefer it, anyway. Wizards behinds curtains keep the curtains drawn for good reason.

Still, I am a faithful supplicant. Bundled against the unbearable cold, I make regular treks to pay homage. I set my most lavish praise on their doorsteps and retreat quietly. I await response. Sometimes it comes; sometimes it doesn't. Either way they keep the homes I've built for them, high, high up in the clouds. The Heights of Estimation are rent stabilized.

Once in a while my mind plays tricks on me, and I think I see one of my heroes down here, in the sublunary world. But I know that can't be possible. Why would they consort among mere humans - flawed, pathetic, needful? What use is this place to them? They have everything they need in the lofty aeries I so lovingly furnished with my fulsome admiration, my undying devotion.

No - my heroes are quite comfortable where they are, I think. Safe. Elusive. Unassailable.

Unknowable, ultimately.

ghost

His ambition was the first thing she told her parents about. Then it was just a nugget of a promise, a wink at some future time when their security would depend on hers. Fledgling though it was, oh was it precious to her. It was every disappointed sigh, shoved back down their throats. It was the exemplary report card she'd never brought home. It was her ticket away, and above - far, far above.

Satisfied with the achievement of it, she promptly retired her own.

She slipped it around her neck like an amulet, a charm against her own uselessness. When she had nothing to hold onto, when anger and envy had depleted her of everything else, she clutched it tight to her chest. It thickened and gnarled into a knot that hung heavily between them. It was everything they didn't know about one another. It was everything they didn't love about one another. But they would, right? Someday? When there was more time? 

His ambition was a placeholder.

Soon it outgrew her, and she grew scared. The knot fingered into claws, scrabbling and scratching towards someplace higher than she could ever, ever reach. She chained herself to it with prayer, then blood, then fear and guilt. It dissolved everything, like acid. She looked to him for help, for reassurance that it belonged to them - but he wasn't there.

His ambition was a ghost.

charm

message to self -

Remember that words sometimes come more easily to you than truth does, and in writing, the shortest distance between two points isn't always the most honest one. Take a little more time, get a little closer to the truth. 

Eloquence without authenticity is just a pretty face charming you past her lack of substance.

stockist

I used to get Campbell's Cream of Mushroom condensed soup almost every time I went to the store. I grew up on it; my mother prepared it with whole milk, and she often used it in casseroles with rice and chicken. It remained a favorite comfort food well into my adulthood, and I faithfully kept my cabinet stocked with a can or two for years...until I didn't anymore.

When I stopped buying it, I just stopped buying it. I didn't go to aisle 17, pick up a familiar red-and-white-labeled can, and explain all the reasons it wouldn't be coming home with me anymore. I didn't tell Campbell's Cream of Mushroom everything that was wrong with it, or why it no longer served me. We parted ways without ceremony. I'm sure the hole I left in the ranks of CCoM purchasers was immediately filled by someone else. The whims and dictates of my own demand have no effect on the world's supply of condensed soup - or its supply of anything else.

When something that's been a part of my life for a long time no longer fits into it, my inclination is to analyze why not. To dissect, explain, and justify. But one of the things I've learned the hard way is how fruitless all that effort is - not to mention exhausting. It would take an awful long time to get through grocery trips spent defending the hundreds of exceptions to my shopping list. I'd probably be so overwhelmed I'd lose track of what should stay on it.

But that doesn't change how Campbell's Cream of Mushroom tasted, sitting at the family dining room table, or standing in the kitchen of my first apartment. And it tasted really, really good.

show and tell

She wears his wealth the way a little girl wears a favorite dress. She twirls for her audience, twisting back and forth to show off all the details: the sash, the trim, the bright blue buttons. Clutch the hem. Pull it out, let it drop. Giggle. Do you see? Don't I look pretty in it? 

And we nod and smile and pat her on the head. Ooh, yes, isn't that lovely! we exclaim, because we are polite, and because sometimes show and tell is a child's strongest subject.

the Ugly Thing

There once was a girl who found an Ugly Thing. She wasn't looking for it. She just came across it one day on her walk. Rather than go around the Ugly Thing, she approached it, curious. As she got nearer, she saw it was even uglier up close. The girl was fascinated. She stared and stared. She walked the length of it, examining every last inch. And the more she saw how ugly it was, the prettier she felt.

Every day the girl would visit the Ugly Thing - sometimes more than once. She grew to know every ugly crack and every ugly crevice, until the Ugly Thing's ugliness was as familiar to her as her own beauty.

Many, many days went by. The girl grew a little bit older. She started to feel the pinch of time and watched as people she loved passed out of her life, in the ways that they sometimes must. The girl spent her walks to and from the Ugly Thing deep in thought. She thought about who she was. She thought about what she had learned, and what she still wanted to. She thought about the things she had filled her life with so far - what she'd made room for and what she had crowded out. And the girl started to feel a little sick when she realized how big a place the Ugly Thing had in her heart.

At that moment, the girl vowed to stop going to the Ugly Thing. But she knew it would be difficult, as breaking habits always is. So she tried to understand this need of hers, to see the Ugly Thing. The girl realized that every day that the Ugly Thing remained ugly was a day that she could still feel pretty - even on those days when she wasn't sure she was. Even on those days when nothing seemed true or clear, the Ugly Thing's ugliness was a reliable constant by which she could know up from down, right from wrong. Every day the Ugly Thing told her I am ugly, but you are not.

The girl felt shame. She felt disappointed in herself, that she'd come to rely on an Ugly Thing for anything, much less as a way to love herself. So the very next day, the girl sat down to make a list of all the places she could go, instead of to the Ugly Thing.

She was still writing long past the hour that she usually took her walk.

your glass box

Your glass box is beautiful; I can't deny that. You built it with care, with trust for strangers you'd yet to meet. Still haven't.

Never will.

Through it I see your need, the vulnerability that you wear like a second skin, so comfortable and smooth. Was it always so?

They come and press their hands against it, leaving fingerprints - smudges of an imagined caress.

That part makes me sad. So much, given away so freely. Your deepest and darkest, offered up to the undeserving and greedy and careless.

But I understand the exchange, and the shallow satiation. I don't begrudge you.

Your glass box is beautiful. I see exactly who you are inside it.

the words

The words sat inside the girl, threatening to choke her if they weren't set free.

"Let us out," they begged. "We'll kill you if you don't."

"No you won't," answered the girl, swallowing them back down again. "You'll die yourselves if I just wait long enough."

"You can't," scoffed the words. "You never could and you never will."

The girl took a deep breath and held it. She willed the air in her lungs to trap the words in a thousand tiny balloons, and carry them off where no one would ever read them. 

"We're still here," said the words, after a moment. "Nice try though."

"You'll only make things worse," the girl sighed. 

"No we won't," the words replied. "We'll change exactly nothing. Not for the better and not for the worse. Things are what they are already. We've had nothing to do with it."

The girl, realizing this was true, said, "Fine. But only a few of you can come out. The rest have to stay. Decide amongst yourselves who it'll be."

The words clustered into a huddle to confer, jostling one another and tangling up their meanings. They spoke in a whisper so the girl wouldn't hear. Finally, they called out, "Okay, we're ready!" and ten or twelve sentences marched forth to be released.

The girl closed her eyes and opened her heart, and dozens of words took flight, beating their wings frantically to get clear of her before she could change her mind.

Those left behind watched, satisfied for the moment. They knew it was only a matter of time before the rest of them would be set free, anyway.

The girl knew it, too. And all she could hope was that when they were, they wouldn't carry her off with them. 

safe on the sand

And here's how it might go:

You'll both be walking on the beach, content to stroll along, when all of a sudden she'll run into the ocean, splashing and laughing and looking back over her shoulder, wordlessly daring you to follow. You won't be able to resist at first. She's as vibrant as the sky and you'll want to stay near her. So you'll give chase, catching her in the shallow waves which you'll break together, your bodies pressed close. She'll shiver in the cold and look into your eyes, asking, inviting, challenging. Your arms wrapped tight around her will satisfy you both, for a moment. Let's stay here. It's deep enough.

But then she'll want to go in further, and she'll pull away from you to wade out into the surf. Her movements will slow as her limbs fight the dregs of tides that have come from far, far away - that have always been there, really. Her stomach, her chest, her shoulders will sink out of sight, and you'll feel a twinge of fear as you watch. Be careful. Keep your footing. 

And the currents twisting around her legs will threaten to sweep her away. She'll feel them and she'll want to give in, because the helplessness is intoxicating, and it promises something beautiful, if she can just hold her breath long enough until there's more air to be had. 

You'll want to follow, you'll be sorely tempted, but you won't. You know better. You know there are things lurking beneath the surface that can sting, can cut, can kill. You know that people drown every day, and you won't take the risk. The beach is good enough for you. 

Meanwhile, she'll be deep, deep out in the water. She'll wave to you, beckoning with her arm stretched up as high as she can reach - but you'll just wave back. I see you. I'm not coming in. 

And she'll be disappointed, and momentarily afraid, but she'll keep an eye on the coastline and always know the way back.

And her arms and legs will grow strong from swimming alone, with nothing to hold onto. 

And her lungs will pump and her heart will pound, and she'll feel as alive as she can feel, here on this earth. 

And you'll grow smaller and smaller in her eyes until she can barely make you out where you stand, safe on the sand.


Hipsta: Buckhorst H1 lens, Ina's 1982 film. Location: Malibu, CA.

act your age

Act your age, won't you?

Why?

Because you should.

Yes, but why?

Because you look ridiculous.

You're probably right. But what if I told you I'm still having fun, even while knowing I look ridiculous? What would be your argument then?

(pause)

Here, wait. Have some truth serum first. Now tell me why it bothers you that I don't act my age.

Because you had your time in the sun. Now you're supposed to move into the shade, so I can have more sun on me. I don't like you sharing my sunshine. It doesn't seem fair. It's my turn. You had yours.

Ah, okay. Well, what if I told you there's an endless amount of sunshine, and that there's no amount of it I can use up that will ever, ever rob you of a single ray of your own?

I still don't like it. I'm going to make fun of you.

It's okay, I expect it. When I was your age, I did the same thing. That's just sort of how it goes. But you can still be kind and empathetic. Life can be pretty rough, you know? Bad things happen. Loss. Divorce. Death. Depression. Disease. Joblessness. Heartbreak. You'll see - as you accumulate years, you accumulate pain. Maybe cut me some slack, huh? We all just want to be happy, no matter how old we are.

I'll think about it.

That's all I ask. 

poser

Oh my god. Please stop talking. Please stop trying so hard. You're making my brain bleed.

Your chaos is not sexy. Do you think you look tough? Do you think you are cool? Dangle the cigarette out a little further, please. I can't wait to watch it fall on your foot. I can't wait to watch you hop and howl, your candy shell broken momentarily.

You think you wear your attitude like an expensive accessory, but my god, what a cheap and ugly knockoff they sold you. It's embarrassing for all of us. Check the inner pocket for some self-awareness.

You're not a big fish. You probably never will be. Those aren't accomplishments; they're variations of font and color. No one is fooled, you idiot.

This is Los Angeles.

You are no one.

Strip away the decoration and your talent sums to zero. 

No one asked you. And that's what you hate the most, isn't it? Being left out.  

Stop taking yourself so goddamned seriously, please. You're not a Hunter S. Thompson character. Chill the fuck out and smile once in a while.

Or don't. Stay at the cool kids' table and cast disparaging looks around you while you write refrigerator magnet poetry. We really don't give a shit. We were fine before we knew you existed, and we'll forget you in five minutes' time. 

This is Los Angeles. 

You are no one.

fire

Once there was a girl who liked to go camping in the woods. She spent her days exploring, collecting wildflowers and kindling, and listening to the noises of the forest. Sometimes she brought things she found back to her camp: feathers, smooth river rocks, a pretty piece of broken eggshell. Sometimes she brought back nothing at all.

One evening as she was drifting off to sleep, she heard the sound of twigs snapping just beyond the clearing. "Who's there?" she cried out, surprised but not frightened. At first, there was no answer. The girl kept still and listened, her senses keen from the many nights she'd spent alone in the wilderness.

A moment later, a voice called out from the darkness: "Put out your fire!"

The girl sat up where she lay, clutching her blanket tightly around her.  She cocked her head in the direction of the voice. "Where are you?" she called back, shivering slightly. "I can't see you!"

"Put out your fire!" the voice repeated roughly. The girl stood, letting the blanket drop, and walked toward where she thought she'd heard the voice. She squinted into the black, but she could see nothing. Yet the hairs prickling on the back of her neck told her that someone was close.

"I can't put it out," she answered, peering about for the visitor. "It keeps me warm at night, and safe." The girl took a cautious step forward. "Would you...would you like to join me?"

"No," the voice responded flatly. "I don't like the smoke. Put it out!"

The girl frowned, and glanced back at the small fire she'd made. The night was clear and calm; no wind disturbed the smoke, which disappeared into the sky in a straight, silky column. "But," said the girl, "that's not possible. And anyway, if it does bother you, why don't you move further away? The mountain is wide; surely there's enough room for us to get clear of one another." As she spoke, the girl stepped softly forward, straining to see whom she spoke to in the frigid night air.

"It's too bright," answered the voice, ignoring her response. "I can see the light from miles away. Put it out!"

With her arms held out in front of her, the girl walked forward in the dark again. She wasn't afraid, but she wished for daylight so that she could see her mysterious guest. "Well that's just silly," she replied, more to herself than anything, for she was tiring of this game of cloak and dagger. "If the light bothers you, you can just look away, or close your eyes."

The voice was silent.

It was then that the girl noticed how far she'd wandered from her camp. She realized she was cold, and she suddenly longed to be back near the flames she'd carefully nursed from sparks, nestled cozily beneath the stars.

The girl turned and walked away from the voice in the wood. "I'm going back to my fire now," she called over her shoulder. "You can join me if you'd like, or go build your own, or leave the forest altogether. It's up to you."

A few paces later, and she felt warmth on her skin again. She sat on the ground, cross-legged, and inched up closer to the fire. She held her palms out flat, luxuriating in the waves of radiating heat. She poked a small branch into the flames, stirring them back to life. She watched the embers split and glow, orange and black, beautiful and dangerous. The girl stared into the fire for a long time, thinking about the strange conversation she'd just had.

When a noise in the woods broke her daze a little while later, she decided to stay put, to stay silent, and to tend to the thing that was keeping her alive in the icy winter night. There was plenty of warmth for anyone who wanted to join her, but she was done chasing voices in the dark.

how to be an ex

Let's make a deal. Let's figure it out together. Let's agree that it can and should take time. That there will necessarily be icebergs ahead. We'll probably hit some. We might even sink. But I won't burn your lifesaver if you won't burn mine.

You came into my life for one set of reasons. You stayed there for another. There's a reason that losing you felt like tearing my soul down the middle. That was my heart and mind and every nerve of my viscera saying, This. This was special.

And I know it's the same for you.

So let's make a deal, to navigate the icy water blindly, clumsily, for as long as it takes until we come clear into smoother sailing, and I can look at you, and you can look at me, and we can laugh knowing there's no more risk of crashing in the dark. Because you've raised your own flag again, and I've raised mine. And we can share the same ocean peacefully.

And when you're foundering, you can flash me a signal, and when I capsize, I can send one to you, and we'll take turns Saving Our Souls. I won't use your secrets against you if you won't use mine, and we'll find a wavelength to meet on that's uniquely ours, and that won't disturb those above and those below.

I see your worth even when you can't. I'll list everything lovable and valuable in you, for you, time and again, because the love and value you injected into my life is priceless and will stay with me forever. And you? You already know what to do. You already know how quickly and easily you can bump me back up. Meet me for coffee and play with Chaucer. Listen to the latest installments of my various dramas, real and virtual. Ask me to ride on your motorcycle when I'm having a low day. Pretend it's for your sake, not mine. A ride to the framer? That's all I ask. For you to be my first guest on the bike. When I'm late meeting you downstairs, text again. I am ready for my first passenger.

Smile big when you see me. Give me a quick hug, and then put a mockingly serious face on. Ok, now there's only one rule. You don't have to lean with me, but don't lean against me. Then pull your massive helmet over my head and buckle the strap under my chin. Grin at how ridiculous I look. Insist I wear your heavy, padded jacket, even though you'll freeze without it. Break the wind and cold for me.

You've always been good at that.

Zip me up yourself, stuffing my scarf and hair out of the way with suppressed laughter, while the guys unloading their car nearby glance over at the scene we make. Go fast, to make me laugh in spite of myself. You know I hate the bike. You know I worry about you on it. On the ride back home, turn your head casually and ask me what's up. So? What's going on? Why are you low? When I say I don't want to talk about it, nod. Because you know if I did, I would.

Thank me for being there for you, just a few days ago. Tell me you feel back on track because of our talk. I won't tell you for the hundredth time that you put yourself back on track. I won't tell you for the hundredth time that you're doing great, and that you don't need me or anyone else to love you, in order to be lovable, period, though I wish you knew that.

I know how to be your friend, even though it hasn't always been easy.

I know how to be your ex, and you know how to be mine.

4 U

Confidential to mah boys:

A belated Valentine, but it's been a while since I did one of these...

TOP TEN CONVERSATION HEARTS 

Thanks for being particularly awesome and supportive friends lately.  Luv u guise.

the drawing tree

There once was a girl, who knew a boy, whom she used to meet every day at a certain tree in the forest. The tree had a broad, smooth trunk, and thick, sturdy branches that seemed to reach all the way to the sky.

The boy and girl had made up a game to play. Each day, they would take turns carving a picture into the tender column of the tree's base. First the boy would make a cut, then the girl. They used a small pocket knife that didn't scar the tree too deeply, but that left a clear imprint in the wood.

Every day, they built on the design they had started. The girl would pick up where the boy left off, and vice versa. Neither of them really knew what they were making, because the shape and pattern changed with each of their cuts. One day it might look like clouds in the sky; the next, a nest of birds. Neither knew what picture the other ultimately had in mind.

One day while she was waiting for her turn, the girl looked up and noticed how strong the tree's limbs were. "Let's climb it," she said to the boy, who was concentrating on the bark beneath his knife.

"I can't," he said, without looking up.

"Why not?" asked the girl, surprised. "Don't you know how to climb trees?"

The boy paused in his work and looked at her. "I do," he said. "But I can't climb this tree."

"I don't understand," the girl said, frowning. "Look how easy it would be. These branches would certainly hold our weight, and we'd be at the top in no time."

"I can't," said the boy again. And he turned his attention back to the tree's trunk.

This went on for quite a while. Their picture continued to grow day by day, thanks to their combined efforts. But as the days stretched into weeks, and the weeks stretched into months, the girl longed more and more to climb the branches above them. She invited the boy to join her again and again, but he declined each time.

Eventually, the girl grew tired of their game. The design they were carving had ceased to be interesting to her, because it seemed like it would never be finished. She wanted to try something new. She craved the challenge of pulling herself up through the tree's body, bit by bit. She knew she could do it. And she knew once she reached the top, she'd have a beautiful view of the forest below.

But she didn't want to do it alone. Once more she pleaded with the boy. "Please, let's climb the tree. I'll help you. It might be difficult at first, but I promise we can do it."

The boy shook his head. "No. I can't climb this tree," he said flatly. "Let's just keep drawing. Look at how beautiful it is so far."

But the girl didn't see anything beautiful. She saw a tree trunk covered with grooves and scratches that didn't add up to much at all. She sighed, saddened by their wasted efforts, and she decided today would be the last day she came to meet the boy.

She told him, saying "I'm not going to come here any more, if you won't at least try." And the boy was angry. He said some unkind things to her. He didn't understand why their game wasn't enough for her.

"Because I want to see how high I can get," she said. And she turned and left the boy alone at the tree. And she didn't come back to it the next day, or the next, or for a very long time.

But one day, the girl happened to be walking through the woods, near where the drawing tree was. She was curious and felt nostalgic, so she decided to go look at it.

She approached the tree slowly, scared that seeing it might make her sad. But as she got nearer, she frowned. She couldn't see their carving. It was gone. The trunk of the tree was smooth and blank, erased of all the shapes she and the boy had made in it. It was as if they'd never been there.

She stared at it, nonplussed. It was surely the same tree. She recognized the twisted fingers of its roots, and the gnarled knot just below the first branch. But no trace of the picture remained.

The girl felt her chest tighten. She felt angry and sad and disappointed and hurt and confused. She'd spent so many afternoons here, playing the game the boy wanted to play, long past the point that it was fun for her. And now there wasn't even any evidence she'd ever been there at all.

She took a deep breath and waited until she felt calm again. She leaned against the tree and closed her eyes. The girl listened to the sounds of the forest around her: a distant birdsong, a light breeze whistling through the leaves above her... Suddenly, she had a thought. And a smile came across her face as she turned back to face the tree and reached up. Her hand grasped the nearest limb tightly.

She climbed slowly and carefully. She concentrated on finding sure footholds and balancing her weight. She glanced down once or twice, but in excitement at how far she'd come - not fear. When she looked up to see how close she was to the top, she saw nothing but more branches. She realized it might take her quite a while to go all the way up. But she kept going, determined.

A few minutes later, as she was taking a break to catch her breath, she heard voices. She looked down and saw two people walking towards the tree she was climbing - a boy and a girl. She squinted, trying to make out who they were. And at the same moment she recognized him, she saw the boy reach into his pocket and hand the girl a small knife.

The girl watched the couple for a few minutes. She heard their laughter. She saw the girl make her mark on the trunk with a practiced hand. The girl down below was pretty, with long hair and an eager smile. The girl in the tree felt a little bit melancholy, but strangely unsurprised. This was the game the boy loved to play, after all. She briefly wondered whether he would tell his new partner about his previous visits to the tree. And she wondered if it was him who'd made their picture disappear. But then she realized it didn't matter at all. It had nothing to do with her anymore.

She continued to watch quietly for another moment, afraid of being discovered in her perch. But the boy and girl on the forest floor were busily engaged in their game. She doubted they'd hear her. And from the enraptured expression on the new girl's face, she knew it would be a while yet before she grew restless and bored - before she looked up to see what was above them.

And she doubted the boy would climb the tree with her, anyway, when she inevitably asked. He seemed content to stay right where he was.

flower trade

for George

Once there was a girl who had some flowers to trade. There were all kinds of flowers in her bunch: some cultivated and common, some exotic and wild. Mixed in with the more attractive and desirable of these blooms was a handful of weeds, thick-stemmed and sticky.

She bound up the bundle with paper and string, but loosely, so that all the blossoms could be easily seen: the hot pink petals of the peonies, the milky white hoods of the calla lilies, the vibrant violet trumpets of the foxgloves. She tried to make sure nothing was hidden from view - not even the weeds, ugly and plain as they were.

The girl took her flowers to the town square, where she waited patiently, feeling the breeze dance with her hair. It wasn't long before she spied someone in the distance, walking towards her. He approached slowly, and straight on. When he got close, she realized he was smiling at her. She had no choice but to smile back. They looked at one another for a long moment before either spoke.

"Hello there," he said.

"Hello," she replied.

He nodded toward the flowers she cradled in her arms. "I see you're here to trade."

"Yes," the girl said, and held up her bouquet so that he could examine it. But the boy only grinned harder. The girl couldn't remember the last time anyone had seemed so happy to see her. His smile was like sunlight on her skin.

"Oh, I don't need to look," he said. "I already know I want them. Let's trade." And from behind his back, as if by magic, the boy drew a massive bundle of his own flowers, wrapped in newsprint and red satin ribbon. The girl laughed, charmed by the surprise, and stepped closer to see what he held.

"Do you like them?" he asked. But before she could answer, he continued: "I'm afraid they're only weeds."

The girl frowned and looked at him curiously. "Surely not," she murmured, and with the tip of her finger, pushed down an edge of the bundled-up newspaper. She saw a flash of brilliant color, and she knew he was wrong - very wrong.

"Oh yes," he insisted. "Every last one." But the girl wasn't listening to him. The vivid blues and reds and yellows of the bouquet he held had captivated her, and she was peering deeply in, drinking in the riotous colors and intoxicating scents. She looked back at him, puzzled.

"But...these aren't weeds. These are glorious! Some of them I've never even seen before! Like this one..." The girl pointed at a long, elegant stalk topped with a delicate, cup-shaped bud. The outside of the bloom was a shocking electric blue, but the inside was smoky and pale. The flower reminded her of a summer storm: lightning, thunder, and soft rain afterward. "What is it called?" she asked. "How do you grow it?"

The boy never took his eyes off her face. He was still smiling, but his tone was serious. "I told you," he said. "It's a weed. They all are." And the quiet way in which he said it made the girl realize: he truly believed this to be so. He moved away from her slightly, pulling his blossoms from her greedy gaze. "So? Shall we trade?"

The girl sighed. She didn't understand. She knew the boy's flowers were rare and beautiful, and that he could make a very good trade on them. She didn't want to trick him into giving them up for less than they were worth. But he didn't seem to realize what she was offering in return - or he didn't seem to care.

And she wanted his bouquet, badly. She wanted to pull out each of those startling blue stems and inhale its sweet perfume. She wondered what else was mixed up with them, that she hadn't even seen yet.

All she could do was take what he was offering, which was far more precious than he realized. All she could do was to be grateful, and enjoy what he gave her for as long as it lasted.

But she hoped that the next time he was ready to trade, he recognized the value of what he had to share.