This is not the beginning. Some beginnings pass without note and it’s not until you are well on your way that you think to begin to tell it. This is like that, begun where I am, somewhere down the road, begun now, as is fitting.
It is July, and hot. The trees full of the rattle of insects, thirsty with insect noise. I live these days in the dim interior.
My teacher is a butterfly, secret colors flash in impossible light, every glimmer a gift. On Thursday she said to me: Stop trying. And so I did, turned the key, stopped the engine, and by Friday I was so weak I couldn’t lift my head. In the evening I did as she bade me and soaked in a tub of salt water and the terrible ache subsided though I continued weak and tired. I slept 3 hours that afternoon then 10 more that night. I guess I’ve had my engine running a long time.
When I woke this morning, before I rose, I thought I might walk out by the creek again today. But I was mistaken. Enough to sit. Enough to walk across the honey wood floor without losing my way. I did not go out. I brewed my tea. I took myself to my quiet room and tucked my feet up under me. I said my prayers and then I dreamed. And this is what I dreamed.
I stepped into a pale green forest with flickering leaves, sparse grass and hard scrabble ground. I stood in front of the Wellspring, a golden fountain, the source of all goodness in me. I stepped forward but my body would not hold, each step melting up my bones until I was but a dampness in the dirt, sinking down to the calm of bedrock. The fountain music played overhead and I rested in the dark. But something was not right, something worried at me, like ants under my shirt. I reared up out of the ground in a snarling frenzy. “Get it off! Get it off! Get it off!” I cried, suffering from some stricture I could not name that bound and weighted me.
The bear answered my call. He faced me with his great brown muzzle, breathed a wash of fire over me so that all that was solid was burned away and all that remained was a wisp, a breath. I rose up into the flickering leaves and tucked myself into them and was comforted by their chatter. I condensed in the coolness there, dripped like last night’s rain down through the leaves and onto the ground, a momentary spot of darkness, and then nothing.
Clearly I wasn’t done yet. There was some hurt to be resolved. I would have to go and find the injured party and make amends.
I walked at the bear’s shoulder up the road, headed north. We came to a tunnel, a cave, and moved down into it. The way got darker and narrower until we reached a place where the cave ended. There was no way forward, just black rock, sharp edged and cold. The bear sat behind me, blocking my retreat. Clearly there was some option I wasn’t seeing. I pressed myself against the rock wall, thinking I might dissolve into it or discover an unseen crevice that I might slip through. And then I realized we weren’t alone. A small body in the dark, making its way toward me, full of sorrow and joy. I turned toward it, opened my mouth to speak and it jumped straight in. I knew who it was then. It was my little frog heart. I held him there moment, warming him and then spat him into the palm of my hand. “Hello darling.” I said, “It’s good to see you.”
“Why did you send me down here all alone?” he wailed at me. “Why did you send me on this impossible mission without reinforcements?”
“Oh! Did I do that?”
“Why did you leave me here?”
“I’m so sorry,” I said, and I meant it.
“I’m not a miner,” he said. “This is not a job for me.”
“No,” patting the cold hard rock, “No I can see that.”
He hopped onto my shoulder and up through my hair to perch on the top of my head. “Now that you’re here it’s going to be alright.”
“Yes, I promise we will stick together from now on. A girl and her little frog heart.”
The bear lead us back up the tunnel and we came to the cave of the three sisters. We walked to the lip of the cave but the light outside was too bright. The sisters made us up a bed near enough to the entrance to feel the cool sea breeze, but deep enough to be cradled by the cave darkness. I lay down with the frog cradled to my chest and the bear cradled against my back and I slept.
And when I woke again, everything was as it should be.