My old, fraying wicker basket swung freely from the crook of my elbow as I wandered down the rocky path, searching for the perfect apple tree. My pale brown dog, Bonnie, trotted faithfully by my side, attempting to keep up, despite her petite legs. The lush orchard tree branches hung heavily with the ripening red fruit. As I passed under them, I picked several apples and added them to my basket, which was beginning to grow heavy. As I neared the end of yet another row of trees, I saw it, the perfect apple tree. Its long, reaching branches were covered with leaves the color of jade. The rough bark was a dark ochre color, mixed with lighter hues. The apples that hung from its branches were a riveting red, mixed with golds and greens. The branches were spread wide, providing the perfect amount of shade beneath it. I spread out a blanket beneath me and set out a bowl for Bonnie, filling it with cold, clear water from my water bottle. Bonnie gratefully lapped it up with her agile pink tongue. I leaned against the trunk of the tree and closed my eyes. This newly discovered darkness opened up whole new worlds of possibility to my other senses. My ears took in the birds singing their sweet melodies to the rising sun, who was just beginning to peek shyly over the crest of a far off hill. The squirrels bickered and chattered to each other as they leaped about, in search of food. The soft autumn breeze playfully whispered secrets to the trees, causing their leaves to tremble in excitement. The crisp air smelled of tart apples and ripening pumpkins from a nearby field. The sharp scent of cinnamon drifted in and around the other smells. My fingers gently brushed Bonnie’s soft, shaggy coat, feeling each strand of fur as they passed over, not wanting to linger too long. My other hand rested on the worn leather cover of my notebook. I could practically taste the change in the air.
I opened my eyes and set the leather-bound notebook in my lap. The cover was slightly worn at the edges, where I had fingered it many times. The pages were dog-eared and some had slight tears on the edges. I opened it up to a blank page, about halfway in. I stared at the blank page. So many beautiful possibilities were hidden in that single blank piece of paper. Whole worlds of creation, of magic, and sadness and love. People whom I have never had the pleasure of meeting, who have had fantastical adventures. They have slain dragons, conquered antagonists, and overcome their fears. They have faced many sorrows, and come out of them better than they were before. There were long-lost princesses, finding their way home. There were forbidden loves, flourishing in secret. There were brave men, women, and children who faced their seemingly insurmountable obstacles with brave hearts and minds.
I closed my eyes and imagined what it would be like to really be as brave as a lion, unafraid to face my battles. What is it like to love and be loved so much that you are willing to take your own life over the death of your beloved? I can imagine how incredible it would be to make something phenomenal happen with the wave of a magical branch. I can imagine all the incredible adventures I would have, the monsters I would defeat, the people I would grow to know and love. What would it be like to live in a world of my creation? Where I could be safe from the judgment and unkind words of others.
I opened my eyes once again, gazing out at the landscape, wondering. Wondering at the beauty of my surroundings. Wondering how they contrast so very much from me. Autumn is expressive, showing off its bright golds, pastel oranges, and fiery reds. It buzzes with life, overtaking one's senses. It contributes to the vast magnificence of Earth.
I, on the other hand, bottle everything up inside of myself, hesitant to show my colors. I blend into the background, like a blade of grass among thousands. I keep my ideas, my dreams, my aspirations to myself, too afraid that if I share them, I will be mercilessly ridiculed and shunned by others. The only place I truly feel comfortable is alone or with my trusty companion, Bonnie. Bonnie does not ridicule me or make me feel as if I am only a fallen leaf, fit only to be stepped on for the fun of hearing me cry out as I am crushed. Bonnie is someone who makes me feel as if my ideas are something to be valued and used to make the world a better place. She listens carefully to each dream and treats them like they are something precious, storing them in glass cases, and tucking them away where they cannot be damaged by others. She understands my need for quiet and the peace that it brings. She knows that sometimes, there are things in life that no words, no matter how big, can express. Bonnie is my confidant, the one who makes me feel as if I am whole. As if I am worthy of life.
I reach into my wicker basket and pull out an apple. I run my fingers over the smooth, waxy skin. The apple has bruises and a couple of cuts. The skin is not all the same color either. In some spots, it is ruby-red, in others a deep gold, and in other places still, a pale, bright green. I raise the apple to my lips and take a bite. Despite its flaws, it still tastes delicious. Maybe, despite my flaws, I can still succeed. Maybe my ideas and dreams can still be valued by others. Maybe I can leave my mark on the world, for the better. Sitting under the apple tree, I have realized that maybe, just maybe, I can learn to live again.