Flower Crown

There was once a girl who ruled the world with flowers in her hair. Every so often someone would tear petals from one of those flowers, playing a wicked game of I Love Her, I Love Her Not. But the girl didn’t notice this; her head was so full of flowers. She was a walking, talking, breathing garden and the birds, butterflies and bees couldn’t get enough of her. The ladybugs too. She was so sweet and her heart was the watering can, the sun, the shade and the soil: everything required for a garden to grow. She was also very young. She didn’t know what it meant to truly rule. She didn’t know where true power really came from, or what it meant to be strong. All she knew was that she wore a flower crown and the air always smelled sweet.

But one day the girl looked in the mirror and noticed that her flower crown was thinning. Her garden was no longer blooming. It looked more like a Winter Garden than a Summer Garden. She placed her hand to her chest and felt how dry her heart was, how barren and cold. Her flowers were wilting and her heart was parched. She was older now. Smarter and a bit wiser, but still very new to the idea of power and strength — and where it comes from. She had let too many people pick her flowers. She had let too many voices tell her who to love and how to love them for the price of no love in return. Her flower crown wasn’t a crown anymore, it was just a play thing. Had it always been just a play thing?

The girl turned away from the mirror. She took the flower crown off her head and hid it somewhere safe. Somewhere no one would find it. She realized now that she had been taught all the wrong things. That it had all been just pretend. That she had bought into an illusion — of what love was, of what power was, of what strength was. The girl knew she had a long journey ahead of her now. Of relearning, forgiving and letting go. Of gathering new flowers for a new crown and a different kind of strength for a brand new heart. She knew this was only the beginning, but she was ready. She had her sturdy boots on, her lucky charm around her wrist, a map in her pocket, and a flashlight in her backpack. She had a head full of determination and a heart that was longing to know.

On the evening of her departure she left a note for her friends and family, just so they wouldn’t worry:

“Gone flower picking. Don’t wait up.”

A Bird, The Sun, And Its Heart

There was once a bird who carried the sun in its heart. Everywhere it flew a warmth went with it. Balmy spring breezes and hot summer winds delighted people the world over. The bird soared on the strength and generosity of these winds — barely having to make an effort to fly. And as the bird grew so did the sun. It grew from a meek and tender yellow to a bright and pure gold. At first the sun was the size of a pebble, and only as shiny as a brand new penny, and the bird could handle that. It weighed almost nothing and the bird flew free and unencumbered.

But even though the bird grew in size and strength, the sun grew one hundred times faster, greater, bigger. For a while the bird could handle the blossoming sun, but soon the sun outgrew the bird. In heat and strength and size. The sun grew and the universe grew — time and space expanded — but the bird remained the same. Its balmy spring breezes and hot summer winds could no longer carry the weight of the bird and its sun. The bird’s wing span was only so wide, and the sun’s light reached far beyond the tips of its wings. It became heavy, like a stone globe. Like bricks of gold. And too hot, like lava, forest fires or blue stars. The bird had to let it go, or risk burning alive.

But how do you let go of what’s in your heart? How do you reach in and pull it out without causing damage? Without leaving a gaping hole. How do you keep what you love inside your heart, without it breaking?

You grow your heart. You grow it until there’s room in there for everything, and then you keep growing it.

And the sun had grown but so had the bird’s heart. Even if the bird was no longer strong enough to carry the weight of the sun, the bird’s heart was. The bird hadn’t realized this at first. It had been too focused on physical strength and endurance. It had failed to realize that the heart has its own strength too. That it is so much more than just a funny shaped organ. The bird was done growing, but its heart wasn’t. Its heart outgrew its wing span and its heart outgrew the sun. And, soon enough, its heart outgrew the entire universe. and the bird was able to carry everything in existence within it — with plenty of room left to breathe.

My Friend Rain

When I first met you I was very young. Too young to remember anything you said or did. They say you told me stories of how all your raindrops formed. How each one of them wished me good night and cleaned all the dirt from under my fingernails. How my first kiss was really you kissing the tip of my nose, then the tips of every single one of my eyelashes. (Now I wish I hadn’t pulled them out so often.) Though I don’t really remember any of that. But then I grew older, and we met again—and again and again, and soon enough I was remembering everything. Like the way you turned the view from my window into a watercolor painting. How at night the lights blurred into wishy-washy yellow globes. I remember the way the trees and plants would complain about you sometimes, when there was too much of you. When you soaked them to the bone and they could barely keep from bending—almost breaking—their frail green necks. But then I remember how they yearned for you when all that was there was sun and heat and barely a breeze. They used to ask me to write you letters on their leaves and bark—and beg you to come home.

And when you did you left me a pair of yellow rain boots outside my door. I know it was you because your signature was on them—this one lone, little raindrop that just never dried away. I remember those boots because you said it was your way of making sure I always had a little bit of sunshine in my life, and I never forgot that. I wore them until I couldn’t fit my feet into them any longer, and then for a while I squeezed my toes and wore them some more. But one day you came to me, and I put on those boots, and you poured down on me, and I watched those boots melt away—down my ankles and then they were just gone. They were nothing but a smudged chalk drawing on the ground like in Mary Poppins, and I couldn’t jump into them anymore.

But you told me not to be sad, because the rain is what makes everything grow. And sure enough—only a few days later—a brand new pair had sprouted outside my door. This time they were rainbow striped, and you said it’s because I was always too busy hunting for rainbows and finding only birds in the sky. I asked you about thunder and lightning—what were they for? And you said that sometimes you needed the company. Sometimes you needed someone to tell you where to go, and someone else to light the way. I asked you if the thunder ever told you stories; you said yes, but not the kind of stories you could tell me just yet. “When you’re a little older,” you promised. And one day, when I was finally old enough, I found a pair of grey rain boots outside my door and you said it was time for me to get lost in those stories. To blend in so perfectly that no one would be able to find me. But they had a thin yellow stripe at the top; “Your lightning bolt,” you explained, and then all I heard was thunder.

1.. 2.. 3..

There was once a girl who couldn’t sleep very well, so she spent many nights sitting by the window and staring up at the stars. No matter where she was, even if she couldn’t see the stars with her naked eyes, she could still stare up at them because she had a special pair of starglasses that let her see the stars at night whenever she wanted. This is how she learned to count. How she learned to name things. To keep track of things. She counted the stars the way you’d count out seeds to plant flowers. Counted them the way you would gold coins in a treasure chest or jelly beans in a jar. She tried to spread them out across the universe as evenly as possible so she could get a good look at every single one of them. But when the wind blew the stars swayed, and when the wind blew harder the stars moved with it, and constellations formed that all at once perplexed, fascinated and annoyed her. She thought the wind only toyed with leaves and twigs and earthly things. She didn’t know it could reach so high into the sky as to roll the stars around the universe like marbles. That the same wind that ruffled her hair ruffled the stars. She didn’t know that the stars were actually blazing birds, or burning ships sailing across a black sea. She didn’t know that the stars liked playing connect-the-dots, or that they needed to move and be moved as much as any restless soul does. And she didn’t know that the wind was an old friend, and that the stars were all madly in love with each other, and that this old friend had always been wildly in love with her. She didn’t know any of this. But how could she? She was always too busy counting.

Lost Girl

I decide I want to be a Lost Girl, so on a cool summer night I leave the window wide open for Peter Pan. When my side of the world is finally fast asleep—and I am only half that—he flies in through my bedroom window. I see his shadow before I see him and wonder how it is that it is so visible even in the dark. I reach over and turn on the bedside lamp and his shadow is now somehow strangely less visible. I throw off the covers to reveal that I am all dressed up and ready to go. He doesn’t say anything. He simply does a quick glance around the room, looks me once in the eyes, and then turns his back and faces the window he came in through. He reaches his hand straight out behind him for me to take. Before we leave he says only one thing.

“Turn off all the lights.”

In Neverland I am a Lost Girl and my eyes turn a deeper shade of green. The trees are taller and stronger here. Their roots are wicked and play tricks on us in the night, but somehow no one ever twists an ankle. And there are always fireflies, but we are not allowed to catch them. Because even if you are here to be lost, sometimes you need something to help guide your way through the dark woods.

There are mostly Lost Boys here, but I meet another Lost Girl who reminds me of every girl I have ever known and loved and called a friend. She is somehow the embodiment of them all. She has her smile, her laugh, her sense of humor, her dancing feet, her big beating heart, her poor posture, her bravery but also her fear. And I can’t help but wonder if I am the same thing to her, an embodiment of all the girls she has ever known and loved and called a friend. I never ask her though, because I also never explain that to me she has dozens of names and faces. She is the one who introduces me to the others. Everyone here has different reasons for being lost, for wishing to be lost. I stay here for a while. I breathe in midnight blue air and sleep in warm patches of sunlight. My eyes grow even more accustomed to the bright and dark colors of the earth and even when it’s cold my hands and feet are always warm. They tell me that is a good sign. I don’t even have to look for anything anymore, because that is the privilege of being a Lost Girl. When you’re the one who is lost, you don’t have to waste your time looking for things. You just get lost, and the fireflies always find you.

But one day my eyes start to water and sting, and when I rub them they only sting more. And my friend, the girl who is every girl to me, tells me that thorns are starting to grow in place of my eyes. That this is a bad sign, and asks me what I’ve done? What did I do… I don’t know what I did.

That night we are sitting at the top of a small green hill, combing the grass with our fingers when she notices something funny. A new star? One of our fireflies? (No, our fireflies aren’t allowed outside of Neverland.)

“What is that?” she asks.

I follow her pointing finger until my eyes fall upon a distant shining light. I stare at it. It looks so familiar. Why does it look so familiar? I squint; it’s actually getting harder to see now, but soon it hits me. That isn’t a star at all. It’s the light I left on when Peter Pan told me not to. It’s the light I left on so that I could find my way back home.

“That’s not a star…” I explain.

“You’re going to be in so much trouble!” she panics: I’m going to be in so much trouble. I don’t completely trust in being Lost. Peter Pan will send me away. Not home, but away.

“You have to leave,” she insists. “Before he finds out it’s you.”

Then she takes my hand and leads me through tunnels I do not remember seeing. Because my eyesight is fading. Because if I don’t get out soon everything will go black. And then everything does go black, but only because I am asleep, and then seconds later I am awake and in my bed again. And when I open my eyes I see that my bedside lamp is on. And beside the bedside lamp is a single firefly buzzing around in circles, and just for a moment I swear that in its light I see every girl I have ever known and loved and called a friend.

Red Candy-Star Heart

She is born on the highest mountain peak in the world, just below a burning red star. When she is old enough to know the names of things, but still young enough to imagine things as they aren’t, she looks up into the night sky and sees the star as if she is seeing it for the first time. She mistakes it for candy. No, she swears it’s candy. She can’t believe she’s never realized it before. But now she can’t stop thinking about it. Her mouth waters for it. She eats nothing and survives only on red candy-star dreams. And she can’t stop wondering; What does it taste like? Does it taste like cherries? Like strawberries or raspberries? Dried cranberries or goji berries? Maybe a berry she’s never heard of before? She wonders if it’s poisonous. Or maybe it tastes like blood. And maybe blood is just a hot, sticky-sweet syrup. Maybe the inside of that candy-star is a sweet sparkling wine. Maybe it’s coated with red sugar dust, or cinnamon. She can’t stop thinking about it. She has to know, has to. So one night while everyone is fast asleep, she sneaks out into the darkness and jumps and reaches, and reaches and jumps, until she is finally able to wrap her fist around her candy-star and bring it down to earth. It burns her hand on the way down. She tolerates it, barely thinks anything of the fact that candy doesn’t burn, shouldn’t burn. All she can think of is the sweetness. All she can do is heed her own desire. So she brings it to her lips, slowly parting them; her teeth ache with longing. Her tongue tingles, her fingertips too. The star is smaller than her palm but larger than the coins she trades for sugar and spice. She bites into it, thinking that this will be the moment where every juicy red apple, licorice and sucking candy pales in comparison. She thinks about it so much and so hard that she doesn’t even remember to chew slowly, or savor, and before she knows it she’s swallowed her red candy-star and can’t for the life of her tell you what it tasted like. All she knows is that it burned on the way down, somehow got stuck in her heart and giving it a sort of erratic beat and glow. So maybe she didn’t get the thrill of the taste like she wanted, but she now has a glowing red candy-star heart to show for it and maybe one day she’ll be able to take it out, break it apart like peppermint bark, and share it with the world.

Dream A Little Dream Of Me

She took a wrong turn somewhere and found herself at the door to a funhouse. The kind full of wonky mirrors and doors beckoning to be opened. There was no sign that said to enter at your own peril. or to not enter at all. So she took that as a sign to simply go ahead and enter. The lights flickered weakly to life the moment she stepped inside, like fire flies on their last breath. When the door closed behind her she heard a soft click. It was subtle but undeniable, and she knew there was no turning back. This house was larger on the inside than it was on the outside—the kind of thing she probably should have expected. It was full of long, narrow corridors, flanked on both sides by numberless rooms full of nightmares and wonders. The very same that always appeared in her dreams—rooms full of messy beds, abandoned playthings and unswept floors. The odd thing was, though, that these rooms had no doors. It made her a bit uneasy, to think of all the things that could enter and leave at leisure. Of all the hands that could reach out and grab her. The hallways were slightly crooked, the carpet a faded forest green and the floors uneven. As she made her way up one way and then down another she could feel the tug of something sinister pulling her farther and farther down the line. Her heart rang like a warning bell inside her chest, but Curiosity was her middle name and she just couldn’t leave until she’d seen what was inside every room. Even though she knew the last room at the end of the hall—the only one with a door—would be her Last. Somehow she also knew that the room at the end of every hall was one and the same, and that it was just the House’s way of having a little fun. Of giving false hope. The illusion of choice. The promise of something evil behind Door #1 but perhaps something good behind Door #2. She peaked inside each room as she went, holding her breath so as not to disturb any grumpy monsters or sleeping dust bunnies. Everything had once been lived in, played with, loved. Everything was now forsaken, forgotten, uncared for. Everything now had that faint mocking gleam of ice cream, sunshine and sparkling delight, but everything was now too dusty to inhale or savor. Every color of every wall, rug and blanket was now just an echo of how bright things used to be. But even so, she could still feel it—how good things had once been. How pink, yellow, green, blue and white things had been—so clean and ready for life. How everyone had laughed, how the piano had played, the tea and sugar stirred, and the stories passed along a neat little conveyor belt of timeless imagination. She probably could have made a home out of any one of these rooms—if she had really wanted. But she just kept moving along, poking her head through each doorless doorway until she realized something odd. She wasn’t getting any closer to the Last Room at the end of the hall. It was almost as if the hallway was playing a trick on her, extending itself into infinity as she kept accepting its crooked invitation. She stopped dead in her tracks and looked. Stared as hard as she could as far down as she could. And it was as if, the door was there but then it wasn’t, and the lights were on but then they weren’t, and the house was laughing but then it wasn’t; and it was like she wasn’t dreaming—but then it was like she was.