Do you believe in magic? Of course you do. You’re a writer. What is more magical than the ability of words to evoke both thought and passion? Our finalists were asked to include within their story “Give him/her this message.” AND…leave us inspired by that message. I am sure that all of you envision the editor-in-chief blasting rap as he sits at the helm here in the Towers, but, amazingly, just as Laura’s entry landed on the windowsill, his moiness was listening to Aaron Copeland’s “Appalachian Spring. As Marcel Marceau never said, “Great mimes think alike.” Enjoy this piece, leave comments in the boxes below, and know that after entry #6 is posted later today, the voting will begin.
Muscle of redrock and sinew of stone carry me down the path. I know where I’m going. To a Safeway, ridiculously nestled in Sedona sandstone. Do towering mountains even want a strip of crystal shops and aura readers unzipping their secrets?
I don’t want a ticket to Spiritual Disneyland. I just want to hike and do yoga. So I call to book a yoga adventure in the wilds.
“No, you’re meant to meet Karen today,” says the woman on the phone, coaxing. “Your father has a message for you.”
My father? How could she know? He died two months ago.
“Karen reads people.”
I already said my goodbyes at the prayer flag temple in the stones. I crossed Devil’s Bridge, swirled in Oak Creek, inhaled cottonwood’s intoxicating promise. Afterwards, I found solace in masala at the Indian buffet to steel myself against the small burger town back home. I was content, resolved. Dad had a long life at 85. Do I even need Karen?
But I meet her anyway, at Safeway, in the shadow of Cathedral Rock. The locals say gravity is stronger than anywhere on the planet just down Back of Beyond Road. Something about power centers and energy vortexes. I’m a scientific skeptic like my father. What do they know?
Back of Beyond, we’re cross-legged under the possible sky. As the song of the canyon wren tumbles down slickrock, the usual jumble of words falls away. Suddenly I’m wide open to trust, and only want to listen.
As hikers hustle by, we sit atop a canyon that can’t be described, only sung to. As a child, my father sang to me each night, the only time he held my hand. I lived for that grasp, callused not by shovels and hammers, but by pencils scribbling equations.
Karen usually meets people to cure cancer, blasting atoms with love. My father blasted atoms too, in his equations and in the lab. I hardly knew him, but in his last years, as flesh softened, so did words. All he could say was, “I love you,” and “Thank you,” all I ever longed to hear. Finally the equations were solved. As children, we dream our fathers perfect. As we grow up, we see them human.
We breathe in the clean scent of juniper. “He wants you here,” Karen says.
I tell her I’m content, already forgave what we all must. But she says, “In a dream, he told me, ‘Give her this message from me.’ He needs this in order to go.”
I’m resolved to drink in words, but there are none. We’re held in the gravity of love, outside of time. Colors of afternoon rock deepen to warm skin. Then, at speed of light, he blasts my atoms Back of Beyond. In the sunset sage, he gives me a gift. You will open your own. Just know that time and space will curve us close, in ways that gravity has yet to imagine.