Between the House of the Living and the Land of the Dead

A phrase snagged my attention during a mindless social media scroll the other day.  Land of the Dead.  I didn’t catch it with sufficient speed to read the article. Its specific reference escaped me.  But the imagery stuck.  I feel that.  I dwell in a pool of memory.  Its ripples take me farther and farther  from the safety of a sturdy shore.  The pool meets a river and the current hastens.  I cling to a log, a floating pile of driftwood, a flat expanse of board from a long-forgotten shipwreck.

In the middle of the river I come upon a small island.  I grab the brambles and drag myself to the muddy edge of its uncivilized contours.  Half-submerged, half-saved, I cast my eyes into the woods.  Then I see them:  Their eyes fixed on my weary brow, their hands reaching for my trembling fingers.  I recognize each face.  I have come to the land of my dead, and I can only escape by making my way across its wild woods.

The arduous task nearly overwhelms me.  My head falls.  The spirits whisper my name in voices that I can never forget.  “Mare bear,” says one, low and calm.  A figure that endlessly hovers below the age of forty, the youngest of my siblings who surrendered to his own struggles.  “Oh my baby girl,” whispers a small shape in a throaty voice.  The cadence reminds me of an old country that I shall never see but somehow regard as home.  I close my eyes.  

A lovely cottage sits just beyond the untamed forest. I sense its nearness.  In that house, the living wait for me.    My clumsy hands force heavy branches to part so I may pass.  I do not yet see the light streaming from windows as lace curtains unfurl in the soothing breeze.  But it cannot be far.  I draw a breath and forge ahead.

It’s the first day of the one-hundred twenty-fifth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

February full moon over Andrus Island.

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