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Children of Nature

Text by: Benji Schultz

© Jessica Ceason Photography
You awake, you breath a full chest of air and start to release it.

“I’m still alive,” you say out loud.

“What day is it?” you continue, not realizing that you are speaking with your voice. You remember that you aren’t just thinking it.

You are here, white walls surround you like a prison; you are in a Reykjavik Iceland. You know that you are old. Your hands are weak, at least not as strong as you remember. Memory is still sharp; you can’t help thinking of life as how it was, not as it is now. This is home, but it’s not. It’s just the place you reside, you think to yourself, this time without speaking.

“These people are old,” you say as the residents around you ignore your mumblings. It’s not a bad place, this place you live in. It’s just not who you are. You are a child of the country, a boy from the nature—cold, barren farmland by the sea. Your hands look wrinklier than you remember. Your gaze turns from your hands to your shrinking body. Your body tells you of your time you’ve spent alive, but your soul knows its age, 13 years old.

© Jessica Ceason Photography

Your thoughts are now focused on one place, your home, and the place of smiling children—you as a child with your friends. Your heart longs. You remember again being young, smiling, running along the beach kicking a ball. The sand is thick and cold. Where is that place? The years have taken some memories, at least memories of your locations. A part of you believes that you could find it if you could only get out of here. This place is not home. That place is your home. The place with cold, windy fog blowing up the bright hillside, green and fresh— the land that shows signs of limited summertime. You remember Brigitta, your sister, had black hair and white skin. You remember her beauty. You remember her now mostly as she was. Your thoughts obsess on going back home, you can only think of home, and her.

“I gotta get out of this place!” Again, you speak. But she hears you now. You see her, Stella. She is old and with you here. You were children together once. She is your past; she is now your present as well. How could you have known that you would find each other here—that you could find happiness again? You remember the love you felt for her, the way you still feel now— when love was young, like your hands.

“We gotta get out of this place!” You say again with more fervency since she’s here, and you know she’s listening. She is silent. You feel uneasiness in your stomach, you need to take action, but you are weak, and tired, and old.

-------

You are now in bed. It’s dark, and quiet. Other old people are snoring, it is a normal and soothing sound, the crickets sound off as the night goes on. Stella is with you. She is warm and asleep. This is nice, you think. You are glad she is with you near the end.

She isn’t your wife. Your wife is gone, and you are here now. You think of this only briefly and then look at Stella. No one hears you and you never even know that you were speaking out loud again. You go to sleep now, but feel an aching in your heart. You want to leave. You decide that you will take Stella with you. The room with beds in it is dark. The white noise of snores and old people sleeping is an ocean of waves, constantly beating around you. The smell isn’t familiar, not like the ocean. You are finally able to sleep. The opportunity to leave is like a closing window that has almost closed. Soon you will be too weak.

-------
© Zen Goddess Photography

The next day you pack a bag and tell Stella to pack one too. She asks why, but you just tell her you both are leaving. That’s all you say, while your stomach turns with knots. In a swift moment during the early morning, you both slip out the door, and she doesn’t know why but suspects something. You see the streets. For a moment it’s nice to be out of that place. You breathe. Your coats are keeping you warm from the autumn chill.

“Snffff, ahhhh!” You sigh and walk. The air is crisp. There is chilly moisture in the air. It’s like fog in the winter, yet the world is still visible. The short, green grass that covers the barren hills around you shows signs of the brief summer that has moved on to an even more brief Icelandic autumn. Stella is walking next to you down the road holding your hand. She is very curious but doesn’t ask any questions. Instead you talk about the weather and the morning. You both carry small bags with you. You know that it’s not everything you own, but you both need to be light on this trip.

“It’s time to go back home,” you say in a direct voice. Stella turns up at you and agrees nodding her head. Going back home has a different meaning to you both now. Her white hair and blue eyes are stunning. She is quiet.

She doesn’t talk much. She used to be full of words when you both were 12. You would explore together along the beach after school. Stella was the kind of girl that was always wearing her rain boots, always ready to go on a treasure hunt. She used to knock on your window at sunrise on summer mornings when you didn’t have any school. She had the day all planned out. She knew exactly where to search for animals or where to find sea creatures and shells when the tide was low. You remember her bright blonde hair and her wide eyes. Now she looked up at you with those bright eyes and didn’t have anything to say. You both are just happy to be gone from that place and onto somewhere better.

© Zen Goddess Photography

You held hands with her once in grade school. It happened on its own, while you were looking for a bird that had flown low to the ground into the forest one afternoon. It made a strange bird noise above you, and you saw a bright yellow bird circling and then disappearing into the woods. You found it next to a bright green rock by a large pine tree. The bright yellow next to the green is imprinted in your mind. The bird moved a little in your small warm hands, and then grew still. Death was unfamiliar to you until then. You wrapped in leaves and remember Stella’s tears. If only there was some way to wake up the bird. You wished so badly to be able to change the destiny of that bird. You daydream of a scenario where you could throw it in the air and it would burst to life.

Later you weaved a small box of twigs and leaves and laid the yellow bird to rest next to a flowery bush. Stella named the bird ‘Nue Nue,’ and gave some kind words about how pretty she was. She said that ‘Nue Nue’ went to bird heaven and that she could only see out of one eye and that’s why she flew funny. She held your hand as you laid the bird to rest.

You spent months drawing that bird in your schoolbooks. You wanted to remember it forever. You wanted to remember Stella and you together that day. Yellow birds lined many pages of your books and note pads that school year.

It is afternoon now. You board the wrong bus and get off in an unfamiliar town. You wonder how long it will take till they have realized you both are gone. By this time you’re both feeling hungry and find a diner close by to rest and warm up. The food warms you both and you have a view of the busy street ahead. You pull out a map and look at the directions. The street ahead bustles with business and people. A man on a motorcycle parks next to the diner where you and Stella eat and appears to be delivering a package. Other delivery trucks arrive and depart. You watch life move on. The people are young, full of plans. Remember how life used to be? Do you remember how it felt to have a young body—to be a young boy? You imagine you are that deliveryman for a moment. There is such a future ahead of you. You remember the babies, the trips, the meals, and the laughs. You hold all these memories deep down.

Time goes by as you both gaze outside. You then ask a local resident which bus to take, and he shows you where to catch it. You both pack up. You bundle up. Stella looks at you to make the decisions.

“Do you remember the crickets in the summertime? I want to hear them again. Do you think that there are still some crickets there?” you ask Stella.

“I remember falling asleep on our hill where the fog rolls off the ocean and into our forest.” She speaks and then goes quiet again. You are surprised she even spoke.

“That’s where we will go.” You tell her.

She reaches up and kisses you once on the hand and squeezes tight. This is the most she’s spoken all week. It’s almost as if she is happy again.

You remember that you still know how to drive a motorcycle. The owner of the motorcycle out front is still gone. He’s left the keys in it. ‘What do we have to lose?’ you think to yourself. Something new moves you, gets you on that bike, and starts up the motorcycle. Before you even realize it, you are both on the bike whizzing down the street. You have nothing to lose now.

You both drive away into the country on that motorcycle. It is full of gas. You have just enough time to make it home before the sun goes down. Her hands are in your pockets. She holds you tightly; she never wants to let go. The air is very crisp; your lips are almost numb. It feels like being alive, like being young. You pass more green hills, and distance builds between you and the city behind you. The ocean is dark and lovely. The hills roll and climb high and low. Your body is still barely able. Your spirit is still young.

You arrive, and you are here at last. Nobody recognizes you both in your old hometown. You eat dinner at the local restaurant and giggle like school kids being home. Your hearts are beating very fast. The small fishing village is mostly the same. You’ve both been gone long enough to be strangers. You remember all of the streets. You’ve arrived earlier than you thought. It’s early afternoon and you still have time to go there.

You walk along the shore. The cold, wet, dark sand numbs your feet and toes. You’ve ditched your shoes. It doesn’t matter where you’ve left them. The feeling is too enlivening. How young you are again. You both feel as if the strong breeze will pick you up like a kite. You would turn into the air and glide. You see your old house up the hill next to the big rocks. You think of Stella’s house in the woods, “It’s probably there.” You mumble.

© Zen Goddess Photography

It’s all too much for you. Your cheeks are wet now with tears. Stella grabs your hand and walks with you. You find the hill a mile down the beach and you both lay down on the beach and look up into the sky. You feel life slipping away. A cold breeze chills your skin; your heart is warm and free. This is the place you can finally rest. You’ve been dishonest with yourself. Both of your bodies are worse off than you’ve led on to yourself. But it’s okay — your spirits are more alive than ever.

You breathe once more. A smile forms on your face.

Stella stays holding your hand. Some birds stay afloat just above you with the sea breeze and then fly away into the forest.

You are splashing in the water as you remembered, running as a child. Stella runs with you. The children run with you. The crisp water rolls in on your toes. You play for a time. The fog comes swiftly. Then you huddle on the grass again to keep warm. You both know you are not going back. The sun starts to fade over the ocean. Stella sees the sun go down, then huddles ever closer.

“Thank you darling,” she says. “I’m so happy.” Stella speaks once more then fades off before looking at you with tear filled eyes. She closes her eyes.

“We’re home,” you add.

You hold her hand tightly. You cover both of you with a blanket that you brought. The breeze is chilled; the ocean continues to softly crash. The stars begin to emerge, and you both drift off in the dark with the fog covering you. Her body goes still. Your body begins to fade. You remember the yellow bird and other important memories until the black blends with the cold breeze.

--Inspired by the film “Children of Nature” (1994).