Then autumn fell across the lawn in long shadows and swift evenings and the air stung when you ran hard. Night got longer which meant you could play flashlight tag earlier, and feel older and braver, outside in the dark, crawling from one hiding spot to another. There was the smoke of wood-stoves in the air as all the sounds became clearer, carried across the cold earth more directly.
One night you pushed all the way to the back of the yard, into the empty field beyond the stone wall, and you watched from behind a tree as your sister looked for you in the little ring of light around the back of the house—she was afraid to go farther—and the neighbors called your name, and you won the game; you won it, you won it, you won it.
The shifting of seasons cut suddenly along the edges of every image in your world, drawing out the details, and as all the colors sharpened you knew exactly where you were: in the dark and unafraid.
And then maybe one night you pushed too far, past everything you knew, and the whole world lurched beneath your feet; the ground buckled beneath you. You were horrified—watching each hold loosen, each rung break, feeling physically the sickening drop. There was no sense of direction, where the house lights didn't reach. There was no assurance, where no one called your name.
Don't become too afraid.
But, she said, one day you'll wake up and this doubt will have loosened its grip. One day the serpents will unknot and slip traceless from your stomach. One morning you'll feel as if a whole layer of self has evaporated, disappeared; but the parts that hurt won't exist anymore.
She said, you don't know, you don't, how the world will settle after it shifts or when it does what the contours of the road will be. You have to be generous to everyone and hold onto your faith. God's will, she said, is a lot more resilient than your whims or your ideas. Your volatile passions are likely to break upon him, but afterward, anything that remains will be better for the breaking.
Remember what it was like when you believed that God wanted to speak to you?--that he'd formed the hungry part of you to be appeased only by himself? Remember the fear and the ache of substitution, of rationalization, of turning away?--all the times you knew that he was calling to you and yet you lied to yourself and to others?
Remember when you believed?--there was a significance then to everything, to each blade of grass around the periphery of your path, to each barrier raised in the midst of it.
Remember when you realized that dreaming wasn't enough and you began to mime along with the motions of your dream?
And then you saw miracles.
I wrote this the autumn of 2006, just after graduation. I just found it on my computer today.