Short Story: Flow

Short Story: Flow

Puddles. Puddles were my first love affair with Water. With puddles, you get running, jumping, and a wholehearted embrace as you splash through them. Their life span might be just an hour or two, or they may live on indefinitely! The same puddle can be your friend, or your enemy, for years. Puddles are unique because they only come after rain, just like rainbows. Seeing a puddle reflecting a rainbow…double magic points. The real magic of puddles is their resilience. Splash after splash they take, and still they come back to us, ready to have more fun.

The first puddles I knew were outside of a log house. They lived in a driveway that was constantly teeming with pets and wildlife, who were sometimes indistinguishable from each other. Our turkeys grew wild in the backwoods, free to roam the ‘neighborhood’ to grow fatter the closer we got to Thanksgiving. Sometimes they ventured towards the kids, and the dogs would rush them back into the brush. Over the years, the puddles came and went here, constantly growing and shrinking, getting patched over when they grew too large. In a place so lush with wildlife, yet barren of kids to play with, the puddles were my friends - they became the ones I could look forward to when there was a rainy day.

It was in and around this log house and in the wilderness of Montana that it sat in, where Water found me and showed me the Flow. The magic. This connection runs deeper and fiercer than any ocean current. With Water, I can hear and see things, and together, we can even heal things. She is my teacher, my healer, my friend. The plants especially love Water and me when we visit.

Tears are the next stream of my connection to Water. Tears move whether they are happy or sad, angry, terrified, jealous, or shamed. They carry the Water through to the next cycle, back into the Flow. Sometimes Water can get stuck, and when it gets stuck in humans, it grows stagnant and dark. I was 6 when I realized I could help Water move, and together we could return her to the flow.

I was running after a friend, tag - or hide and seek maybe, and took a shortcut over a small lumber pile behind the house. We scoffed at shoes in the summertime, and on the last step before I cleared the wood, my foot didn’t come up the way I expected it to. When I looked down, I could see the tip of something on top of my; it was coming up through my foot! A rogue nail was sticking through my foot, between the second and third-foot bones. I watched my toes wiggle as the pain started to register in my brain. I decided to pull my foot off the nail rather than stay connected to the dirty wood plank. I planted my good foot on the wood and pulled back.

Red took over as soon as I released the nail from my foot. I started to cry out, but something about the redness, and the quickness of the stream coming out of my foot, commanded my full attention, like a trance I was happy to dive into. I felt the Water in the blood calling to me, telling me what to do, that this was only temporary, and Water could help me fix it. I zoned in on the gush of blood, then I closed my eyes and started to call out to Water. I could feel Water all around and within me - coming from the ground, the dew in the grass, and the leaky garden hose. Any Water within 10 square feet of me was rushing to help.

I opened my eyes and saw that everything I felt was happening. There was a thin sheen of Water wrapped around my foot. She was like a giant bandaid with accelerated healing powers. I squeezed my eyes shut again, and I pictured my skin and tendons starting to knit together. It was like we were washing away the wound together. Where I focused, Water healed. She spun herself into a whirlpool around my foot, sucking the pain downwards and redistributing it to the earth. When Water told me to open my eyes, I saw nothing left but a slight indentation, a whisper of a scar, left on my foot. I didn’t have time to think about it much, as my chasee had finally come looking for his shaken chaser. I said that I tripped and stubbed my toe.

I have been learning from Water since then. She’s always around - in the ground, the sky, the air. Water is a connection to the earth and thousands of years of beings that have lived here. She carries their knowledge and gives it a focus and a purpose through me. Water calls me to help the wounded chipmunk found on the side of the road or my friend's Venus Fly Trap that is desperately missing the jungle’s humidity. Water and I were able to put life back into those things. We fixed the chipmunk’s leg, and for the plant, we set up a mist bubble that I refreshed every time I visited the friend’s house. Water has taught me how to fix all kinds of wounds.

Water scared me once; she showed me the darkness. We were at the lake for the day. A giant inflatable hippopotamus was helping transport kids from shore to shore. I was riding on the back half, and as I scooted further and further back to get a better angle to paddle, my weight tipped the balance of the hippo, and it buckled underneath me. I slipped into the Water and was rolling in a backward spiral as soon as I hit bottom. Rocks and gravel burned my back and arms as I free fell to the center of the lake. I panicked, struggling to get back to the top. But Water stopped me. She made me open my eyes, and the spinning stopped. I could see down into the lake, even through the lake - past fish and weeds and the one wooden boat on the bottom. Down there, nothing moved; the weight of the water and the mountains around it kept things locked in place. Only the slippery, moldable, meldable things without bones can live here. They slide through the darkness, becoming one with it to survive. Even deep in the depths of the darkest Water, I learned there is still life.

I knew that She wasn’t trying to scare me, just showing the reality and duality of life. There is light, and it heals. And there is darkness, and that can heal too. Perception and awareness are the difference between being stuck or freely flowing through the dark and the light. Neither is correct; we need both…harmony and balance and all that. The Flow goes into both spaces - into all spaces. Water flows and navigates at the deepest depths. She gives life where life has no business being.

When I crawled back out of the lake and flopped myself on the shore, I’m not sure if anyone came up to ask if I was ok. In reality, I must not have been under more than a few seconds. I knew that even though I’d been scared, Water would never really hurt me. She would keep my body safe while we traveled to new worlds and times. She could show me the memories of all the generations of Earth. Water can tell the story of the rise and fall of millions of species here. She has made the planet ice, then fire, then ice and fire together. I know I’ll be learning every life lesson through Water, and She will test me and support me through this life and into the next. She has followed my spirit for hundreds of generations of human lives. Watching us grow, grow, and then grow greedy, grow angry. Water chose me because we’ve got work to do here, and we need it done now. In reality, we needed changes like yesterday, but She likes to give us humans the benefit of the doubt. Water forgives. Water sometimes forgets too.

The summer before high school, I took a class trip to the East Coast. We toured Boston, NYC, and Washington D.C. over ten days. 45 Eighth-graders trodding from tour to tour and bagged lunch to Olive Garden. I loved getting to know the Water here. She was salty from the Ocean. It was the longest and closest I’d been to that much Water in my entire life. I saw the dark side of Water and humans on this trip. Down in the Subway, and The T and Metro, eye to eye with the city’s drains and sewage pipes, I saw a dark vortex in the Water. The weight of this darkness was sadder and angrier than the darkness at the bottom of the lake. Regrets and lacking filled this Water, and she’d forgotten how to return to Flow. She got stuck in the city pipes, like a kink in the flow she couldn’t fight. When Water stands still, it festers, breeding mold and mildew. Water not in Flow grows dark.

One of the days of the trip was a beach day. It was the first time I’d ever been to the Ocean. I had to pretend I’d stubbed my toe as we were walking up the boardwalk to hide that I’d started crying from the joy of seeing all that Water. She was magnificent, stretching on seemingly forever into the distance. The thought of endless Water was like seeing Atlantis in reality. That day I don’t think I even spoke to any of my classmates. I was in the water from the moment we arrived and was the last one out at the end of the day. No one noticed, of course, but I had been underwater, traveling the furthest reaches of the Eastern coastline and beyond for almost the entire day. Water had taken me down to see the brightest blue waters in the Bahamas, and we’d gone all the way North until I had to walk on ice because swimming became impossible in the frigid temperatures. We explored everything together. She showed me how vast the Ocean is, how extensive, and at the same time how finite, life here on Planet Earth is. And my favorite thing that Water showed me was the Mermaids.

Just above the bottom of the ocean’s deepest trenches, there are creatures that rarely see the light of day. These Mermaids are gelatinous, and their translucence comes from a lack of things that don’t survive under the many tons of the Ocean’s pressure - i.e., bones and skin and hair and teeth. Their bodies are soft and pliable, similar to a jellyfish but fully formed beings, with four arms, a tail, and two eyes in a fish-like head. They live a nomadic lifestyle, traveling the far reaches of Earth’s Oceans. Water took me to see their villages, their lives as Guardians of the Ocean. Their only focus is to tend to the Ocean and the Water, always diligently fighting to retain the balance of life. But with pollution happening across the globe - bleached coral reefs, dwindling fish populations, floating continents of plastic - they are slowly losing the fight to reverse the tide of damage we humans are doing.

That day with Water was a breakthrough for me: I realized that I was just a tiny part of Water’s plans. She would save the Earth and everything living on it through me and many others. I chose to accept the challenge she gave me - to join the fight alongside the mermaids and help Water save our planet.

Today, I am in an alien space. Sterile walls and counters house imposters, trying to pass as human beings. They loiter in the hallways, desperate to escape their beds for a moment if they can. I follow the nurse’s directions to Room 307: right, immediate left through double doors, left down the hall, and 4th door on my right. I am still in my shorts and jersey from track practice - I’d ran out as soon as I got the call. Lying in the hospital bed is a frail figure - this can’t be my Grandma - this is an imposter, an outsider pretending to be her. Her usually tan skin is bone white, her hands cracked like cold leather when I grabbed them. She opens her eyes wide enough to look up at my face, and I see her remembering the situation.

“Oh Nell, I’m ok! Don’t you even cry one tear! I leave here tomorrow!”

“Grandma, the cancer is going to leave here with you. You’re not ok just because you’re going home.”

I ask Water to help me keep the tears in; I need strength to get through this conversation.

“That’s not the point, babe. Going home is the best thing that could happen for me right now. I need to recover from all this craziness. They don’t let you sleep normal hours in here! Feels like I’m up every few hours from the lights or the people or the medicine. You gotta get me out of here!”

She’s got her crazy eyes going now. No one I know would be able to withstand this stare from their Grandma. It's the ‘you better act right, or I’ll whoop you right here’ look - even though she and I knew damn well she wasn’t going to be whooping anything today.

“Fine, you’re right. Let’s get you home and figure all of this out from the comfort of the couch. The dogs are miserable without you, and you already know that.” I smile and squeeze her hand.

The doctors sent Grandma home with a container of sleeping pills to sleep through the night. I’m hoping they’re strong enough to keep her under while I do what I need to do tonight. I open the door, being quiet…wait, why am I being quiet? If this is going to work at all, she shouldn’t be able to hear me walking across the carpet floor. As I get up to the bed, I notice how tiny she is. I remember her wide hips, continually running into every corner of every table and counter, but tonight I can see her hip bones sticking up through her nightgown. I lean in to scoop her up. At this weight, she’s easy to manage.

We never got a hot tub or pool, to my chagrin. Not many people have pools in Montana, and Water and I always planned to live in a place with a pool or lake of my own - a home where we can be together in privacy. Right now, I need a lot of Water in one container, and all we have is a horse trough. I can’t do what I need to do with Grandma in the house - the others would hear me for sure. I scrubbed out the big metal container that’s sat in the barn since our horse Fanny passed six years ago. Water filled up the tub with fresh, steamy hot goodness from the hot spring down the road. Grandma stays asleep even as I gently lower her into the tub. Water greets her and holds her like a fragile baby, gently rocking her in the trough, so she stays relaxed and calm.

As usual, I have no real plan going into this other than listening to Water, following their lead to help get the flow back into my Grandma, and get cancer out. We’d cured my cat Stan of a small lump when I was 12 or 13. This preparation was similar to that, but the stakes were much higher this time - I couldn’t lose Grandma - she was all my sister and I had.

My eyes close, I focus on my breathing. As I submerge my hands and rest one on each of Grandma’s shoulders, I feel Water start to jump, like raindrops hitting the surface of the lake. The Water began to vibrate, making the metal of the tub ring in a high pitch, like the whirl of an engine. I can feel Water starting to flow up my arms, encircling my shoulders, my head, and face, and then moving down to submerge my entire body, like a river current, ebbing around my body, keeping me safe as I sat next to the trough.

I followed Water into my Grandma’s body. We traveled as blood cells, Magic Schoolbus style. Following along her arteries and veins, we finally found our way to a spot where everything slowed down. It felt like being in the sewer of New York City. The energy here was flat, still. The moStartitu had settled in, and here it was called cancer. Her left lung had almost no life left - it looked like a sponge that had soaked up what the mop left over in the bucket after cleaning the entire floor. As soon as we saw it, Water and I got to work. She washed, washed, and washed the mold and mildew away from anywhere I focused. We started from the top and worked our way down to the bottom, doing a second round top to bottom to ensure we’d gotten any left behind.

I can feel tears of relief coming from my eyes. Water tells me to cry more! My tears are powerful, and they can help heal Grandma even further. As I start to turn towards her right lung, I forget everything else but being here, healing my Grandmother, ensuring she will keep living, keep being here for my sister and me. Ten, twenty, thirty minutes, maybe hours were going by; I had no sense of time when Water and I were working like this. Taking every fiber, every cell and mitochondria and nook and cranny, we cleaned Grandma top to bottom and back again. I was taking away the mold and mildew, returning her body and blood back to the flow. I was going to cure this once and for all tonight: no more doctors and no more chemo.

Water finally hugged me and said it was over. We’d done all we could. As she pulled back into the horse trough and I emerged from my Water cocoon, I could feel my skin, my toes, fingers, and even my cheeks were pruney. I squeezed out my hair and clothes and took off my shoes and socks. As I turned around to look at Grandma, I stopped dead when her eyes met mine. Her face was mystified. She didn’t look angry to be woken up in her pajamas and fully submerged in a horse trough. She looked like she had seen a ghost, or maybe something scarier.

“Nellie girl, what did you just do to me? What did you do to me with the Water?”

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