by Lúa Margita Brau
There once was a girl who lived in a little house in a pine wood. The pines were tall and thick with needles, and above them was a clear deep blue sky with large white clouds in it, solid-seeming white clouds that moved swiftly on a brisk wind, like boats on their way to some place or another.
The house was a wooden cabin, perched on stilts above the earth. A wooden ramp led from the cabin door to the ground, across a small creek that went nearly under the cabin, so that the girl could always hear the water running. During the day the sun sent shafts of light down through the pine trees into the cabin. And at night the sky was so clear that it was studded with stars, as they say in stories: strewn with them, like they were cheap.
During the day, the girl fished in the creek, or swam in it, or walked for miles along one of the many paths that led from the house, which was at the base of a large mountain. On some days she got so lost that she had to retrace her steps, or else she gave up and slept in a field of wildflowers and found her way home in the morning. Other times she ran into an old shepherd with his flock and kept him company as he herded, just so she could listen to his curious old-fashioned way of saying things. Often, she brought with her a handbook to identify plants and birds, and she went along learning the names of things. Other times she kept the book shut and made up names for things herself. Her legs were strong from all the walking, and her arms were strong from climbing trees and rocks whenever she could. Her skin was strong from clean water and bright from the rays of the sun.
In the evenings, the girl chopped wood for the stove that kept the cabin warm. And then she sat at the table with a pen and paper and waited.
The vibrating would start far outside her, in the stars or the clouds or the mountain. Then it would travel closer, into the ground beneath the cabin, along the creek. It would enter the cabin itself, vibrating down through the dim starlight that fell from the windows onto her shoulders, or vibrating up from the floorboards right through the soles of her feet.
Now all she had to do was let her hand tumble across the page like a pebble in an earthquake. And out came many things that astonished her, that seemed not to have come from her at all. They seemed to have come from the creek, and the shepherd, and the wildflowers. Maybe from the atoms themselves. Things that they had told her, that she hadn’t known she’d heard.
No one ever came up to the cabin, and that was the way the girl liked it. If she needed company after writing, she sat on her porch and looked out over the trees. In the distance she could see the lights of the town called Ferrara, where her former mother-in-law lived, but she was not interested in going there.
In a story like this, there is always someone who arrives one day out of nowhere, to demand or to punish, to threaten or seduce. To draw the girl away from herself and into her womanhood.
But, this time, no such person will arrive.
After all, anybody who has ever been a girl knows: in real life, the story happens in reverse. We begin far away from ourselves, in womanhood, among strangers. If we are lucky, we leave them and find a cabin in the woods.
If we are lucky.
When the night deepened, the girl took out an astronomy book and studied heaven. She learned the constellations, making pictures of them in her head, and guarded these away so that she could look at them again later, against the dark insides of her closed eyes.
And meanwhile, here in Ferrara, midnight has come and gone. They have all gone to bed—my mother-in-law, my husband, our children. The dirty plates and glasses glint on the dining table where I’m sitting. Finally, alone, I stare out the window toward the forest with a pen in my hand, listening, listening.
But the night is silent in Ferrara, and everything is still.
Photo by Lum3n on Pexels.com.