There is a meadow I am drawn to. Every fortnight just before the sky loses its darkness to a clear blue paint. Even though these nights are cold and blinding, a glimmering light guides me through the woods until I reach the familiar clearing.
As far as I knew, the twinkling came from a lighthouse. I was convinced somewhere past the undergrowth, the earth folded, seeking a passage to the heavens. At its peak, stood an ancient tower. It was most likely some muted color, torn from the time it had solely existed above the hill. Unlike its brothers and sisters, it served as a selfless helper to all those who had lost their way, or had trouble remembering why they wandered in the first place.
I never questioned why it called to me.
I felt lucky and silently obeyed each calling.
All I could think was that any given day, I would be the one hiking up the mountain and setting camp near the lighthouse. I would encounter all the gifts rescued voyagers had left as tokens of their appreciation. I would learn their secrets and become a traveller myself.
The light was confident and irresistible.
My body understood the call long before my mind ever did- I only became aware of its pattern during my teenage years.
It would start in my dreams, where the threshold between realities holds thin.
I’d walk down a field of sunflowers until stopping in front of the first one on the sixth row. It was my exact height. Its petals wore reminiscent drops of dew, from which I watched the reflection of my own eyes. I would rest absorbed in its beauty until the misty dawn faded and a gentle breeze that crossed the field sighed: “It’s time”.
I would float my way through the woods. When reaching the meadow, the light welcomed me.
I couldn’t understand its words, so I focused on the imagery. It showed me the most breathtaking scenarios.
Long ago, we dived into Earth. I recall cracking the forest beneath my feet in full speed. We bravely penetrated a thick rocky layer that gave way to an insurmountable amount of rubbles. The pebbles dissolved into bubbling streams of scorching water that in turn became a stew of oversaturated blood-and-orange lava. We paused to appreciate the spectacle of explosions.
“I have never experienced such muffling heat”, I told the light.
I concentrated in absorbing every burst, as if my legs could learn strength from such powerful trembles.
Once only, I visited the ocean.
We were granted entrance by a beam that pierced the sea’s wrinkled surface. Following millions of particles, we swirled down the funnel, constantly bumping into its lit up boundaries.
In the depth, I saw what seemed to be the remains of a civilization. The upper part of a bleached column still hanging on to an arched portal. Perhaps they were made for holding queens and kings, but their particles served a different realm now. It could also be that I was deceived by sight’s dubious perception of substance underwater, and it was nothing of the likes.
When every molecule in my being melted into formless unity with the immediate surrounding, I shouted: “Could this be peace?”
I believed there was no randomness in what the Lighthouse decided to show me.
I suspected those images came from the tales of the travellers. In exchange for its services, the Lighthouse received stories. Descriptions, drawings, confessions, were a way to fuel its own longings and those of the souls it called to.
Its millennial existence allowed it to know every bit of the world and the creatures that inhabit it. No site or life was out of reach, for it mirrored the sweetest of enigmas: in stillness it had encountered a doorway to infinity.
I yearned for what it had achieved.
Freedom in the all-knowingness.
Belonging in both solitude and companionship.
Somewhere along adulthood, I began to miss the callings.
It was not that I was too busy, too self-absorbed, or too agnostic.
It was that no matter what I did, I could not dream of sunflowers.
There was no such specimen where I lived, so I could not feed my imagination with copies.
I would spend afternoons helplessly trying to draw them. Attempting to remember its texture, color, scent.
I went to a florist and described what I could recall. He came back with a yellow rose.
“Had they gone extinct?” I cried.
Silence resembled everything I missed.
The adventures, the possibilities, the things I would never know.
‘I need to find the Lighthouse’, I mulled over.
I had no option but to depart on this chartless journey.
Find the edge of the mountain, conquer it, demand never again to forget or be forgotten, encounter togetherness with solitary strangers tracking similar desires, feast in acceptance.
Twenty-six years after I was born, I began roaming.
I explored the night looking for the light.
I was a hunter in woods sheathed in shadows. However, there were no shiny traces. All I could see were tall trees stretched up like arms trying to touch the darkness. I held my hands out jokingly mimicking them. The chilling wind slipped through the leaves, impregnating the air with a rich earthy smell. Oddly, I savored the cracking sound that came with every step, the sweat on my lips, the racing heartbeats.
During the day, I lowered my pace, strolling the narrow paths attentive to the humming of insects and birds. I paused to let my feet enjoy the serene company of the sandy soil. I took notes on logs, tree trunks, and the moss that dressed them elegantly. Somewhere along the afternoon, a mellow ray of sun would infiltrate the verdurous canopy and gently reveal entire ecosystems shared by fungi and miniscule flowers.
With each unfamiliar dusk, I looked carefully for glares. Any possible sign of the lighthouse pointing me towards its mountain. As days accumulated and it made itself scarce, my moods became more volatile. I wanted to believe the lighthouse wouldn’t desert me, but the setting suggested otherwise.
It happened that every so often I would trip on some neglected branch and be drawn to the ground.
Exhausted and absent-minded, I fell straight on my face into a rock. Hitting my head on the earth made me consider staying there, as unpleasant thoughts haunted me through the blood and tears. I stretched my hands out again, asking the trees for help, but they refused to understand what I was saying.
I couldn’t sit up straight. I could only wallow in self-pity, feeling as small and insignificant as the ants pinching my body.
At the day’s end, when the approaching twilight turned the forest colors’ obsolete, I rolled to the side and laid my head on my hands seeking some comfort. I cursed myself to sleep.
I was awakened by someone shaking me and repeatedly asking if I was alive.
My blurred vision showed me a woman.
“If you can hear me, say something please”, the lady spoke loudly.
“It hurts”, I moaned.
She seemed satisfied with the answer and screamed, “Well, of course it hurts! You apparently did nothing to stop the bleeding and it’s getting infected as we speak. Your luck is that I have everything you need to make a clean bandage. This, a good meal, some nights sleeping on a proper bed, and you’ll be ready to pursue your journey. How did you end up here anyway? Come, now. Come. Let’s get you cleaned up.”
She helped me up, as I fell like an invertebrate all over her. Somehow we made it all the way to her cabin.
As soon as we arrived, she boiled water and cleaned my head with a white cloth. Her touches burnt my skin, but brought me a long-sought relief.
The room was filled with a sweet melody of crackling wood and the fragrance of vegetable broth and hot spices. She served me watery soup with all “the nutrients I needed”, she stressed.
“Thank you. I was starving”, I said to her.
“Oh, it’s nothing, my dear. I’m glad to see some color on your cheekbones”, she replied with a quick tap on my shoulder.
“Now, would you mind telling me why you were walking these woods on your own?” she demanded accommodating herself on the chair across from me.
I stared at her face lit up by the fire. It amazed me how the gray locks falling from her head could so harmoniously accompany the wrinkles around her eyes.
I doubted she’d believe me if I told her the truth, but I attempted to try.
“Well, I left my house a few weeks ago, determined to find the slope of a mountain I’ve seen only in my dreams. I don’t know its name, where it’s located. I don’t even have a map. All I know is that it’s home to an old lighthouse. This lighthouse started calling to me around the time I was 5. It showed me many wonders. However, I haven’t been able to visit it for the past years, I don’t know why. Everyday that goes by I forget the details of how it spoke to me and what it showed me. I thought it would be easy to find its light once I went to look for it, but I’ve seen nothing. I kept walking, hoping that the problem was that I was too far away, but the truth is I don’t even know if I’m facing the right direction. I feel as if I’m running out of time, but I have no idea where I’m supposed to go”.
She was smiling by the time I finished speaking, as if something in my story entertained her. She left the room and came back carrying a tiny leather notebook with an envelope sticking outside of it.
“My dear, many moons ago, a girl showed up at my doorstep. Like you, she was hungry and dirty and lost. I took her in, bathed her, fed her, knitted her some new clothes. She helped with the house and the garden. I tried asking her a few times what was bothering her but she didn’t respond, so we would spend our days in each other’s silent company. One morning, I woke up and she was gone. She left behind a notebook with a letter. I think you should take a look,” she narrated.
As I was feeling dizzy from my headache, some words hit louder than others. Overall, I managed to understand her story.
She handed me the girl’s belongings.
I took the letter first, letting it weight on my fingers. As I tore the envelope, my head burst, like a heart was beating inside it.
The first lines on the cream paper read
Out of the crack in the darkness
For I am nothing
I will never be anything
But a burning
In the Northern Sky
That captures your soul
And allows you to see
To be old while young
Is to dance
To the devotion
Of floating the endless stream
The entire world in your dreams
The tremor in my hands and the escaping water falling through my cheeks made it difficult to read the rest.
Her words formed an image in my mind. A young girl standing alone in the forest, so absorbed in every beam of light coming her way, she couldn’t see its source. A girl who grew up to fantasize and idealize things that were never to exist. A mind that fooled itself with its own stories, never questioning that reality could bring something even more powerful and magic-like.
With calmer eyes, I turned to peruse the rest. To my surprise, on the lower left corner, I found a small dribble. As I approached it, it appeared more and more familiar. An uncomfortably tall and broad stem, connected to a voluptuous dark center and shiny petals.
That night, I was drawn to the meadow. The light presented itself as clear as always. I laid down on the grass before me, contemplating the umbrella of stars above for the first time.
“Now, if you don’t mind me asking, where were we?” it said in a soft presence.