In a clearing in the forest I set up a temporary camp. The sky above is caught in the stormy grey of a fast-falling dusk. I dare to light a small fire, knowing that the princelings will sense it, for they are great fire-wielders, but I spell a protection of earth around me, to buy me some safe time.
I spill what I've gathered on the ground, turning pockets inside out.
Spools and cut pieces of red thread, needles whole and broken, a pair of scissors, blank music sheets, a keychain of a rabbit's foot that thumps to warn of danger, a pocket watch with thirteen hours, a handful of fallen sakura petals, an ice cream wrapper, a hairpin, an empty pupa, loose pages from a dictionary with words that keep on changing meanings...
The trees around me rustle in conversation, murmuring among themselves. Leaves flutter down on my head, on my shoulders, settle into my lap, as if to comfort.
...finger bones, an inkstone, a gingerbread key, a shard of a broken mirror that never shows what you expect to see (if I poke it with a finger, my finger goes through), burnt coffee beans, half of an oni mask, blue matchsticks, tangled guitar strings...
A blue moth circle my small fire. Its wings have eyes that stared.
A raven swoops to devour the moth, brushing a wing against my cheek.
The trees fall silent.
So much of me is kindling
The tiniest spark is fatal
A particular song for instance
Or a line from a poem
A certain shade of blue
Or the sound of wings
It is also a heart, and a story. A fairy tale. A hope, a wish, a longing. It is addressed to the one who can read it. The one who will understand the nuance of every leaf and flower, every creature's tail twitch, wing flutter, every tree's murmur.
It is desire split open like a ripe fruit. A secret shouting itself.
It is a call, a sign, a hidden country with an unspoken language.
It is a quest along wild flower paths and through unlikely doorways, where the keys shapeshift and the most basic requirement is a belief in the impossible.
First few days of disorientation, but now discerning the specific dangers as well as the particular enchantments of the princelings. I cradle a slightly broken left arm, narrowly escaping a rather fierce grasp from a feisty one. I caught the soft sound of tiny chains.
My heart is shaking so. The forest shivers. Scorched marks of monsters passing.
A small retreat today. Tried to do too much too soon. Got too reckless, and now an almost fatal wound from a rigged arrow I did not see because I got distracted by the sound of unfolding wings.
It wasn't a cloak or a hood but a tent. It appears and disappears at random parts of the forest. The girl and the grandmother are one and the same. The wolf is a prince fulfilling an ancient ritual that has kept a kingdom alive. Sometimes the prince fails because he fails to see the girl in the grandmother, and the grandmother in the girl. In such times the kingdom falls, and the prince is cursed with forgetfulness and an unspeakable ache in his heart that sends him wandering in the cities that corrode his spirit and taint his senses. He confuses the scent of magic with the tricky scents of mortal indulgence. He hungers for a love he only remembers in dreams.
The forest is crisscrossed with thresholds. Invisible borders much like the veins of a heart.
There is a ghost in the forest.
He was a blue-blind boy and thus could not see her blue heart magic. She wove for him an impossible story that could only become true if he opened his heart instead. But he persisted to see only with his eyes and lost his way through the forest, and lost a kingdom.
He is many forms but is one. He is sometimes all of himself and sometimes only part, hiding behind the eyes of strangers. When the mood strikes him he runs on all fours, singing to the moon. He picks up the scent of my wanderings, following the paths of wildflowers. But he does not know me. I am the blank side of the mirror, the empty cage, the missing door on an invisible wall.
I am the wildflower, hiding in the honey. I am the flash of iridescence on a beetle's wing.
He is the one who stops my breath, grips my heart with a glance. Yet he does not see me even when he looks. He is distracted by all the light spilling from my fingertips.
Today the forest path is wide open, festooned with mist and shadows, laced with the hushed whisperings of the trees, humming the secret song of a blue heart.
I woke up and I wasn’t sure I did because a trail of a dream still drags behind me all tangled up with my soul threads invisible silent light like nothing but blinding deafening weighted with impossible hope.
Hello. Who are you? Are you someone new? Someone who was something else? Someone who has been here all along? I keep seeing traces of you, hints and clues, unfinished questions, cast in the wind of the Dreaming. Never a word, only a hope, and the markings of a blue heart.
This is why the garden is impossible and the forest is wild.
It is a present that is writing its history in order to shape a desired future. And with every shaping the future becomes the present.
And the past is a vast, vast landscape where anything could have happened.
To craft a story one needs to be fluent in forest, for it is wildwork, and only chaos carries the seeds of impossibles. To be fluent in forest one must navigate the grammar of dreams. For dreams is where chaos slides along the fragile edges of our souls, like hands feeling for seams on a blank wall, looking for ways in.
In the Wildforest there is a web of water, from brooks to rivers to lakes, all flowing into and out of the sea. All the water creatures can endure salt, as sometimes all the water becomes like tears when the ocean rages in a storm. Every water creature can either fly or walk on land, or both. It is all a matter of heart and choices.
I’ve started but I’ve barely begun. The forest is deep even along its edges. Its heart is too well hidden even though one can feel its presence in every thing and every creature. Maps are mere tools for pretending to know the paths, perhaps only good enough to mark the waystations of longing and loneliness. Trigger warnings.
So many layers of hard walls and sharp boundaries before I even dared to declare that I was getting anywhere. Duties and daily life drain so much spirit. So much magic lost in the concrete and the false lights.
So slow, I go. Circumnavigating my own defenses and fears. I fight even myself, as if there aren’t enough dragons along the way. As if there are only dragons. As if I have so much life to spare.
I clutch my worthless scribbles close, checking from time to time if maybe something has changed to reveal a clue, a secret, a signature. For this is known, that the forest seeds itself in all heart-creation, and grows into a Story when it is Time.
The blue-heart boy visits the forest in his dreams, and wakes up afraid to sleep again. He does not know why. Nor does he understand the weight in his own heart as if it had grown many hands and clutch at the earth wishing to be still and quiet and waiting.
And my own quest? Only half-known, half-remembered. Something to do with breaking. Something to do with finding and being found. Something to do with waking. And falling. And being still while moving everywhere. A lot to do with bringing forth the impossible. Of grasping the chaos within order, and the order within chaos.
Something about escape and coming home and realising that the North is a place of the soul. Of re-wilding what has been tamed. Relearning what has always been known.
So much to do and I am so slow. And often so afraid, and weak, and so terribly, terribly lonely.
Loosened shoe straps. Walking barefoot. Unbraided hair tangled by the wind. Sap stained hands. Sun pours on face mingling with rain. Perfumed with petrichor. Flowers catch on skirt’s hem. Leaves approximate a crown. Something eager waits through the morning mist.
The catterfly is a strong family of creatures in the Impossible Garden. The smallest is about the size of an adult woman's hand. The largest is about the size of a tiger. The degree of cat to butterfly varies but all are powerful in their own ways.
Blue Heart Boy is a love story in labour. The Wildforest is pregnant with it, conceived after an invisible secret courtship that never happened sometime in the middle of last year. January is the seventh month. Maybe it's a nine-month thing, maybe not. Maybe something happens in March. It's a wild story, all fierce and weepingly beautiful, and sharp, and painfully elusive, and most impossible. It is also light and sunshine and unexpected foolish smiles out of nowhere and anywhere.
But every love story has a shadow. And it is the Blue-Blind Boy. All tricky and kind and cruel at the same time. All real and too close with silences that slice like serrated claws. He wounds with the possible by denying it. He stains the impossible with dark hope. His very breath a curse in the wind. He shows up at every crossroad like a test. And I have to see through him, break through him.
Blue Heart Boy marks the trail. Blue-Blind Boy lays traps. But Blue-Blind Boy is not even hungry, he just likes catching things, and then he will complain why he can't have what he wants.
Blue Heart Boy is magic. Blue-Blind Boy is a test, until he isn't, until he is shadow merged with light, or until he is shadow burned away by light. And until then his grip is tight, his fingerprints are guilty all over my bruised beaten heart.
The 30th day is the Impossible Day when everything and anything is possible. But to get to it you have to make the leap on the 29th. And that is not just any whimsical leap but a Quest. And even then there is no guarantee it will grant access to the 30th. Or how much impossible you can make possible.
And then there is the other Quest, of how to take your possible back to the real world. This, I believe, is the hardest part. Because so much heart is needed. So much hope. So much faith. So much work.
Roughly it means Day of the Dead Hearts. But it is also called the Day of Dead Stories. Among others it is referred to as Resurrection Day, for it is the one time in a year when stories may get a chance to be retold, in real life, and possibly to have a different ending. But of course such chances come with impossible conditions.
It is celebrated in the middle of February, interestingly coinciding with that other more popular occasion. Though it does benefit from the abundance of flowers.
It is said that in some of the graves there are real bodies.
And not all of them are mortal humans.
It is said that if you bury yourself in a shallow grave at sunset, and don't get up until the sun has risen, you will be granted a boon to change a heart, including yours.
It is said that you can leave objects in any of the original graves for a full moon cycle. When you claim them again they will either be blessed or cursed, depending on whether which of the dead has touched them. The touch of the broken-hearted always blesses. The touch of the breaker curses.
It is said that if you listen carefully on the Day, the wind murmurs the stories of the dead. If you listen carefully there will be a pause before the final twist. If you speak your wish within that silence, your wish will be granted. But if you speak your wish outside of that silence, your wish will be woven with the ill luck of the dead.
It is said that the Queen of the Wildforest always visits the graveyard on the Day. If you wish to ask a favour from her, this is the time she is most generous and kind. But if you displease her in any way, she will be as cruel as the deaths of those buried beneath the stones.
It is said that the graveyard is a labyrinth. You have to be careful where you walk. You have to know where to put your feet. For in this place, a dead end can mean so many things.
It is said that the veil between worlds is always thin in the graveyard, so that the dead can pass through any time. But on the Day they can make themselves visible, even though you are invisible to them. It is said that with certain impossible conditions, you can speak to them and they can see you and you can ask for advice.
It is said that on the Day the dead can live out an alternate ending (not in real life but as a dream) but forget it all once the Day is over, thus spending the rest of the year in a hell of hope and longing.
There is a graveyard. It is a most beautiful place because the dead tend to it. Every tomb is a portal to a what-if, created by regrets, woven by orphaned dreams.
You have to see it through the seasons. You have to see it on its Day of the Dead which is the middle of February. I'll show you soon. For now I only have sketches of the original gravestones that lie at the heart of the place. They are the first. They are the seeds.
The dead are the lost of passed-away stories, waiting on the other side, although they are not certain what they are waiting for. They had forgotten. They had taken the bitter sweet cup from the Grim Reaper. They are strangers to me now, and I am a stranger to them. The dead are lost even to themselves because they broke my heart.
Choices have been made. I have not been chosen. Peace has to be laid to rest, one way or another, uneasy though it may be.
The Grim Reaper is as much a friend to me as a teacher. He is perhaps the only one who will choose me, one day, more out of duty than out of love.
STORIES are what happen in the Impossible Garden & the Wildforest. They are the overheard conversations, the gossip of the flowers and the trees, the fragments written on bones and stones. They are the secrets whispered by the wind, the tales of the stars, the knowledge earned or traded with the forest dwellers. They are the fairy tales that had been forgotten or never told. They are the rules and the history and how they are repeatedly broken and rewritten. They are the murmurings of magic, the language of hidden love, the wildness beneath every order and the pattern beneath every chaos. They are truths and they are lies and in the end they are real to those who have the heart to see.
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