Whispering Pages

Caged. Incarcerated in my own home. The sun shines pillars onto the carpet, and the cat lays in a pool in a warm patch of sunny carpet. It yawns, baring sharp white teeth before snapping its mouth shut. It stares at the window with a soft interest. Outside branches of long limbed trees sway like the arms of a zealous worshiper. I sneeze and brush strands of orange cat hair off of me.

I reach forward and grab my naturalist notebook from the worn coffee table. My thumbs press into the sides of the thick pages. I peel it open. The scent of watercolor and a bookstore waft from the pages and melt into my senses.

Figure 1: The cluster of golden reeds:
Figure 1: “Bright tawny grass waves at me from the page below.”

I exhale. Bright tawny grass waves at me from the page below. Their rudimentary forms cheerfully tell me of another day. A day where I was in a place I loved with those I loved. A day so very far from today. The memory of that sunny day invades my mind. Laughter. Warm sun, just like the one outside, blanketing my bare skin. Smiles flashing on faces. The rustling of the flora dancing to the singing breeze. In the distance, the smacking of feet as a child skips past. More laughter tumbles from our lips glittering like snowflakes.

Figure 2: “My fingers fall down the carefully listed description of that day.”

My fingers fall down the carefully listed description of that day. In pencil, my scrawling handwriting describes even more in scientific accuracy. More memories rise like pastel balloons. The dead stalks that stacked upon each other making a natural trampoline, and my cousins laugh as we hop on them. I dance through the stalks letting my fingers touch the soft clouds of seeds above my head. Tufts of the final product of a lifecycle that strived for this very moment. For me to send them careless to the ground to begin again.

A soft thump and mreow. I blink. Reality is here. A car honks outside, and the bus hisses to halt. Guitar strings of the same Pink Floyd song rings down the stairs. My roommate is tinkling with his guitar again. The cat stares at me with green marbled eyes. The golden memories from before whirlpool and tumble down a drain.

I look down at the notebook and they immediately return in the force of a roaring river. Leaves rustle and crunch beneath the treads of my shoes. I flip a page. More memories rush in. A magpie flutters to a stop; it’s feathers flash a metallic blue-green. Its eyes shimmer with intelligence just far enough away that it’s visible but not tangible. Goosebumps flutter down your arms. I turn the page. A hike from long ago with a creek ice cold and soft green fringes of plants at its sides. Its smooshed between canyon walls, so tall and regal. The final destination: grand sweeping cliffs of orange rocks and a splattering waterfall. I remember being tired, and laying down to bask on a boulder like the blue tailed skinks that lived in this citadel of rocks.

I remember the soft swipe of my pencil as I sketched each plant, each creature, each location down. My fingers trailing the colored pencils for just the right shade. The right color. No this one won’t do. But this blue here…

The thrill I got when I finally found what species I had just drawn to life on the page below me. I’d pick through the scraps of information on them, like a ravenous vulture. I didn’t care if they were macabre or abnormal; they were all amazing to me. The awe I’d feel at the countless other species I have yet to observe.

I may not be in nature, but nature very much lives on in me. I’m a caged songbird, but I can sing. I can sing about the beauty I have seen and will see and have never seen. This pandemic may have me trapped and isolated for extended periods, but there’s an escape through memories and new discoveries. That’s how I’ve been able to survive. To remember, and to learn about the nature I love so much.

This time taken away from nature has led me to appreciate it so much more. It’s helped me rediscover the joy of methodical writing and the graphite kissing paper. I struggle right now. Everyone is struggling right now, but through life, paper, and a pen some of that pain can be alleviated. And someday, this caged bird will fly free and see the world once again.

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Madelyn Burton

Madelyn Burton

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