Morning gives way to afternoon and the reality of Ocean meets up against my heart in a heavy way. But I’m resolved to make space. . .to be willing. I don’t chase away the heaviness, but I don’t let it choke my mind. Fragile joy is growing in the new spaces and light fills in all the inconsistencies.
I glance to the other side of our floating home and notice Aneta is picking flowers from her own dress. She gingerly plucks at the sunflowers and violets. She chooses the prettiest ones and thoughtfully makes an arrangement.
I don’t understand.
Doesn’t she know picked flowers become dead flowers? Why would she take her own beauty and make it die? Aneta sings to herself quietly while rearranging her bouquet again and again until it meets her approval. She is happy, undaunted, but I instinctively pull my knees to my chest, protecting my own beautiful things.
Aneta plucks at the edge of Peace and collects a handful of seaweed. I still can’t believe this seaweed is home. I can’t believe it has a name like Peace. It’s hard to believe a lot of things out here.
Aneta braids the seaweed with a deft hand as though she’s done this many times before. She wraps the finished braid around her bouquet of sunflowers and violets and ties an intricate bow.
I’m taken aback.
It looks more beautiful than Aneta’s own dress.
The afternoon sun glints off the flower petals and Aneta smiles in approval. “This will do,” she says to herself.
My knees are still bunched up against my chest, my hands clasped tight, my fingers intertwined like deformed prison bars.
Aneta stands to her feet and walks over to Stella’s broken, recovering body. She places the bouquet a few inches from Stella’s eyes, blocking the intensity and initial terror of Ocean.
Aneta whispers quietly, “Just in case you wake before sunset.” Then she tiptoes away to sit at the edge of Peace, back turned to both of us, facing the light again. Just as she always does.
My legs ache, but I won’t dare move. My life-eyes are learning to see, and I don’t want to miss a thing. I am almost certain Aneta’s flowers will die before Stella wakes up. Here I am. . .still expecting death. Even with life-eyes!
An hour passes before Stella’s slight frame jerks awake. It is painful to watch, but just as Aneta planned, the bouquet of sunflowers and violets is in Stella’s full view. She can’t see Ocean, not from her angle. Stella can only see flowers. . . beautiful flowers glistening in afternoon sunlight and gently sprayed with Ocean water.
Stella’s face relaxes and her twisted fingers touch the flowers ever so timidly. The small action blankets Stella with the tiniest burst of strength. In one second, Stella’s body looks more whole than ragged. I never knew such a big offering of self and a timid reaching out from self could look this beautiful. More breathtaking than a treasured dress. More stunning than a bouquet of sunflowers and violets. More profound than I can understand. The scene captures every bit of my heart, and I make space to remember it.
Stella finally closes her eyes (less vacant than before), and the ghost of a smile touches her face. Her skin looks more like skin and less like her broken insides are trying to escape.
I stretch out my legs and see the skirt of my dress is made of crumpled flowers. Each orange bloom is so tired of being without air. The manzanita is wilting. Everything on my flower dress is closer to death than Aneta’s offering of sunflowers and violets.
I pick at my dying flowers, hoping it’s not too late to give something worth giving. Maybe they’ll come to life again if I arrange them in a bouquet and give them away.
Before I can pull any of the wilting blooms from my dress, a cold Ocean wind freezes my fingers and the gusty air pushes me to my knees. I’m crumpled now. . . in the same position I had been while trying to keep all my beautiful things to myself.
Just as quickly as it began, the Ocean winds stop. My fingers unfreeze. Stella looks undisturbed. Aneta is still facing the light, savoring up the day, I assume.
I stand up to unwrinkle my dress and shake out my hair. But when I reach down to fix the damage, I see my orange flowers are in full bloom. So full, in fact, that I can clearly see they’re marigolds. Between the marigolds rest the tiniest lilies and new free-falling manzanita leaves wrap along the entire length of the dress.
I stand breathless in the grace that got me again.
Every flower and burst of color on this dress has been given not contrived, received not striven for.
I walk toward Aneta. I’m impatient to tell her, to share the grace that keeps on getting me. She’ll see my lillies and rejoice with me. We’ll laugh, exchange our grace gifts, and take care of Stella while watching the sunset. These are the profound delights of Ocean.
I tap Aneta’s shoulder and as she turns around, I gasp. Who is this? Immediate horror takes hold of my heart and my tongue. Aneta’s face is gaunt. Her eyelids blink rapidly and dry tears fall out. I feel my voice returning, my horror being replaced by a deepening awareness of friendship, but before I can say anything to help her, Aneta screams.
And screams again.
Copyright © 2019 Sierra V. Fedorko, All rights reserved.