Our Sanctuary

January 20, 2011
By , Swampscott, MA
The path looks small and insignificant that leads from the barren, empty street through the thick forest of tall trees; they reach upwards in an attempt to catch the stars that have been tossed across the navy blue sky. Along the way, I cross a small wooden bridge that stretches over a thin, glimmering stream of fresh water. Cold splashes hit my bare ankles, surprising me through the haze of summer heat as the water goes over bumps in the path of the stream, reminding me that it is there; it is difficult to see the stream flowing underneath the bridge in the darkness of the night with my dim cell phone screen as the only source of light, but I can still hear it whispering, “I’m here! Don’t forget that I’m here!” to me as it collides with the grey boulders.

As I walk further through the thicket of lush trees and bushes, I find a few abandoned stone benches and birdbaths sitting by their selves on the sides, like lost children; I wonder how they came to be there, sitting solemnly on their own. Then I see as the path begins to open into a larger clearing that they were once part of something greater; at first the only thing in my view is a lining of stout trees, crowded together to form a hedge, but as I walk around the hedge, the rest of the orchard comes into view. Most of the clearing is occupied by apple trees; they play follow the leader in distinct lines in the back of the orchard. Various stone benches hide underneath the stretches of the tree limbs; brothers and sisters to those stone benches lost along the path.

In the center of the orchard, away from the lines of fruit trees, is an unearthly garden of flowers; one can see the vibrant colors even in the darkness of the night. They surround a fountain made of stone that no longer spews water from its center; deep, dark cracks and chipped sides in the grey stone indicate its age. A dazzling, white arch marks an entrance into the garden, and it has been invaded by a family of green and brown vines that have climbed from the bottom to the top of the structure. To the left of the garden is another milky, arching structure, but within it are a set of pallid benches. This arch was also unable to escape the wrath of those snake-like vines; they’ve slithered almost, but not quite, to the top of it.

The orchard was a sort of haven from the rest of the world for my friends and I. A multitude of happy chatter used to come from those short benches, and laughter danced around in the warm air like careless teenagers. There were also more dismal memories, when the tears of a sad friend would fall in raindrops onto the cool, smooth surface of the bench; the remnants of a broken heart. But my most fond memory of all was when we would lay on our backs in the cool, dewy grass of the garden, our faces lit by the light of the alabaster moon, looking up to the night sky for even the tiniest glimpse of a star shooting itself from one edge of the world to the other, and hoping that perhaps humming the melody of “Stars Come Out” by Calvin Harris might lure them from their hiding place. The orchard was never a place of loneliness.

As I look down at my phone, the illuminated screen searing through my weak and tired eyes, the time displayed regretfully informs me that it is time to depart. I grudgingly lift myself from the bench on which I am sitting and begin to walk slowly back, past the delicate garden and ancient fountain, through the full bushes and trees, past the abandoned stone benches and birdbaths, over the simple wooden bridge, and finally back to the barren, empty street; back to the real world. I look over my shoulder longingly at the small and insignificant path at the feet of the tall trees as they reach for the navy blue sky, and I pray desperately that we will all be reunited again soon, in the comfort of our sanctuary.

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