Nothing has changed.
The hills still hunch together in threes, like the lumps of a giant’s back.
The creek still wraps around his waist, slipping slightly at the right hip. Its belt-buckle, a two-plank footbridge, sags besides the same rocks on which my brothers and I played King of the Mountain before checking each other’s brown, scrawny legs for leeches.
Nothing has changed, really.
I guess they took away Grandpa’s house after his death four years ago, and that plot is a garden now. The levels of the creek are low and the great fallen oaks are rotting.
My favorite tree, at the farthest reach of the property, used to grow hard limes that stained my fingers green. I can’t remember which spring it didn’t grow back. The branches are brittle and easily-stripped of their outer shell, like me.
Not much has changed, but nothing is as I remember it.
If longing was a place, it would be the last stretch of creek before the zapping fence.
The part where the water divides and charges the bed of stones with a war-cry that is also a lullaby; that shallow curve where the curve of my feet have felt every swill.
The murmur of this water has not changed in fifteen years, but the murmur of my heart has–swirling with an aggressive urgency to sweep around the bend and reach still pools.
Why do you want me to strip you quickly?
So I can prove that I’ve arrived. So I can prove that I am significant. Why does this have to take so long?
I have to do it slowly, gently; otherwise you will break.
Fifteen years of watching me explore these woods, of drawing out my heart, and now that he has me, he says “I will love you gently, so you won’t snap beneath the stripping of what you know.”
Nothing has changed; nothing is as I remember it.
I want to write something magnificent.
I sit on the bank with yellow paper and try to capture my longing, but I can’t make the ink charge to the tip of the pen to convey this sense of loss. The loss of that girl. The loss of Grandpa’s house. The loss of Willow Creek’s majesty.
Nothing has changed, but everything I remember is gone.
More than that, I cannot express this sense of gain. I walk to the hilltop, and every step is big enough to stand on the giant’s back. God throws back the blanket of clouds so I can stretch in the warmth of the sun.
My eyes are always on you.
His spirit curls around me and I think I am a dandelion seed, dancing on the wind, defying the gravity of everything I have ever known.
He is stripping me of my desire to do things to prove my significance, to write something magnificent.
He is stripping me of my past self, both of fifteen years and fifteen months, where I draw my value.
You are mine. You are perfectly loved, so you are perfectly valued.
Oh, Father, take this seedling wherever you want. I want to be stripped of what I cannot keep to gain what I cannot lose.
Nothing has changed, but nothing is as I remember.
I guess because I am the one who is changed.