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Child of the Earth
A child stands isolated and frozen on a late August day. Such a peculiar sight; a being that is usually so filled with youth and energy now so still, so serious. Mouth wide, sun at her back, eyebrows knit in bewilderment, she stares at a lone patch of packed earth. Confusion on her face, curiosity in her heart, sweat beading above her twitching lips, she is baffled suddenly by the similarities between the earth and herself.
She squats down to observe the phenomena, enraptured by this most profound discovery. Enveloped with wonder at how she never noticed it before.
It is brown, this earth, as she is. Deeply and richly so, just like the tender skin that encases her. Just like the lines in her pale palms. Like the soft, slightly wrinkled skin of her mother that falls perfectly in gentle lines and folds. The child observes this connection as her mother leans out of the side door to check on her, brown face eclipsing the sun.
It is brown like the sturdy, statuesque figure of her grandmother. A woman who is silent and reverent as well as thunderous and intense. With more stories to tell than lines in skin. With more ferocity in her veins than weakness in the world. The child hopes to one day have an ounce of this woman’s power.
It is brown, too, this earth, like her sparkling and curious eyes. Roving wildly inside of their sockets, searching the world for anything intriguing. Anything entertaining and inspiring. Containing the impressive spark of potential.
The girl lays her hand flat against the dirt and it is warm, this earth, like her. Like her body. Like the blood that sustains her. Like the salty tears that sometimes spill over red lids and black lashes. Warm like the heart that thuds reverberantly within her. Warm like the love that exists and emanates beyond her tiny frame.
She scrapes at the dirt now, caking her tiny fingernails with it. She pinches up a small amount of it and places it in her hand, watching the individual granules slip through her small fingers and rejoin the ground.
It sprinkles, this dirt, and falls away. She notices in her own simplistic way.
She is amazed by the notion that this vast earth, stretching out and down for miles, is made of such tiny, infinitesimal specks. Unintimidating and unimpressive individually but vital and spectacular when joined together.
This quality, she decides, is also like her. As she sees herself as many different pieces that make up a whole.
She brings her tiny fist to the earth and gives it a knock. This results in a hollow thumping. She caresses the earth softly, feeling it’s smoothness as well as its hardness.
It is packed down, this earth. Trampled and pressed by years of unforgiving and inconsiderate feet. Depressed, suppressed, and oppressed. Both disrespected and misrepresented. Underestimated and unappreciated for its non-boastful glory.
And in the presence of this heinous and callous treatment the dirt makes no protests. No demands. It simply lies back obligatorily and accepts its fate.
The girl is filled with a rising spite and bitterness the likes of which is startling in an entity so young and small. Because she realizes this trait that the dirt possesses is, too, like her.
She recounts the evidence with the first sparks of what could be hatred in her soul.
She recalls other girls with skin that is not like the earth, but more like the sky at sunset. Like that of the manila folders in her teacher’s many cabinets. She recalls the other girl’s camaraderie and companionship. How they laughed and embraced, squealed and exclaimed… Shared with the kindness of monks. Conversed with the quiet severity of world leaders.
And she also recalls that in all these instances of care and compassion, she was absent. She recalls that whenever she attempted to infiltrate the realm of the girls with the waterfall hair and sunset skin that she was cast away. Not in an obvious or blunt manner, but in subtle suggestions: The folding of arms. The fading of smiles. The glances and even open stares at her dark skin. The feelings that were hidden and never discussed but obvious to anyone present.
They were attempting to repel her with one irrefutable message: You are different. Therefore you do not belong.
She recalls seeing other girls like this. Watching them in awe on commercials and television shows. With teeth and skin of milk. Shining manes of hair cascading gracefully down their backs, the light creating halos around the crowns of their heads. Angels. At least in her eyes.
And she recalls deciding that these women; with their radiant and rubicund faces; with their silky, straight, and smooth hair and skin like white satin sheets; must be the representation of true beauty.
And she recalls thinking that if the culmination of ideal beauty is peach skin and straight hair than what was she with her skin that’s baked in a deep brown? This little girl, her hair does not flow down and glide along her shoulders. This little girl, her hair sticks out and upward in kinks, waves, and curls. What was she?
Was she somehow the opposite of beauty? Or Worse? If these women were what were right, was she, perhaps, wrong?
Her small brown eyes mist at the idea.
She contemplates this as she gazes out into the stifling summer air, watching it falter slightly in the distance. She still holds a few of the small grains of soil, rotating them absently between her index finger and thumb. This dirt that comes in many, complex forms. This dirt that composes the earth, uplifting both man and his creations. The dirt that cradles and germinates each seed, manufacturing the beauty that is flowers, the vitality that is a tree, the nourishment that is the harvest. The dirt that transforms in the hands of a creative and eager child such as herself. The dirt from which plants take root and bring forth oxygen. The dirt that, looked at from a superior mentality, seems insignificant and filthy. A nuisance. But looked at through revolutionary eyes, has infinite reason and purpose.
The dirt that both creates and sustains life.
A certainty erupts within her, one that engulfs her in a comforting warmth, as if curled deep within a womb.
No, she decides, I am not wrong. I am just… right in a different way.
The child acts on a sudden impulse to flee the backyard in search of bigger and better prospects. Having, in an instant, all but forgotten her scientific and philosophic exploration of the dirt.
Before stepping into the inviting familiarity of home she gives a fleeting glance to this now beloved and appreciated patch of packed earth. A glance administered with the overwhelming respect it deserves.
Hackettstown, New Jersey
Soooomers., New York
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