She wasn't surprised when they found the body. Not really any way. She also wasn't freaked out, creeped out or grossed out. All things people assumed she would be. After all the body was found on her parent's land. In the clearing where she spent a good chunk of her childhood. Her idyllic pasture. Her golden garden. Her fairy ring. Her place. And every one knew she had sat within steps of where they found the body for years. Never knowing.
She tried playing it off like she was just too cool for such things. After all the planet is millions of years old. The odds are strong that no matter where you are sitting, walking, building a house, parking your car, someplace underneath you is a body. Maybe not a human, but for sure an animal. The whole planet is really a graveyard when you think about it.
Which she quickly found out most people don't want to think about. So she just said, no, she wasn't creeped, grossed or freaked out. She hadn't been then so why would she be now?
Sitting today in the clearing, looking at the newly overturned dirt where the police had dug up the body, smelling that fresh earth smell she thought about it again. Shouldn't she have at least been surprised? After all it's not like everyday you get a call from your mother telling you their new dog had been digging in the woods and you would never guess what he found...
She looked at the mound of dark brown earth. The holes in the ground around the area where the police had driven stakes and strung cord to keep people back while they dug. The broken and trampled ferns around the base of the trees where people who were not as careful as she always was had come in and out of the clearing. And she remembered.
Remembered the first time she had found this spot. They had only been living in the new place for a week. She and her dog Lacy, the non-digger, had been out "adventuring." The house came with land. Lots of land for a girl raised in the city. And this had been the best piece of it. Breaking through the trees and finding the clearing had been magical. She thought back to that day, the way the light broke through in patches. Sunbeams. She had heard the term before but for the first time really understood what it meant. She would discover that depending on the time of year that light would vary. Golden in the fall when the aspens would filter the sun through their yellow leaves. Pure white in the winter. She loved the spot.
The area was a clear circle, no trees, just the large stump of a pine tree that had been felled a long time before they ever bought the land. He father said that the old tree was probably why the area was clear, that when it had been alive it would have cast a large shadow and no other trees would have grown there and the roots of the big tree were still there so it was probably keeping other trees from growing as well.
With that thought she looked again at the mound of dirt. There were small traces of roots in the dirt. Just the thin wispy ones. Easily cut with a shovel. Pulled from the ground with the body. That must have meant that the body had been buried when the tree was still alive. Though the thicker roots must have been deeper. Under.
She looked around at the aspens and pines that surrounded her. Listened to the soft swish that was always present in the woods. The breeze always blew in the tops of the trees. She always thought of it as the way they breathed. She listened for the sounds of the animals that lived in the trees. Today they were mostly silent. She thought they were probably still a little cautious from having their home invaded over the past few weeks. She stretched her hands out next to her legs. Feeling the top of the tree stump. The smoothness. It had been exposed to the elements for so long it was more furniture than living thing.
When she was younger the tree stump had served as the centerpiece for many activities. The table for tea parties, the pretend fire for a witches cauldron, the stage for her Oscar worthy performances. More than once a pedestal for a snowman. She had played in the clearing for years. Bringing friends from school to share her spot, if she felt them worthy, but often just by herself but usually with Lacy. She thought about the tea parties she would host for any number of imaginary friends. Talking with all of them, and as all of them. Her faithful companion laying down in the clearing waiting on her until they would head back. Or until she would join her. Resting her head against Lacy's warm belly. Laying in the sunbeams. She turned again and looked at the mound of dirt, is that where they would rest? In that spot? Or was she just imagining it now because the dirt stood out against the green of the forest floor?
Then she thought about what changed as she got older. She would still come to her clearing but now it was just her and Lacy. Friends from school were not welcome. And then Lacy had gotten a little too old to keep up with romps through the woods and would wait for her back at the house tail thumping on the porch as a welcome home. On these visits instead of tea party supplies she would take her notebook with her and write poems and stories. She would recite them out-loud to the trees. Listening to the way the words sounded when spoken aloud. Did they flow the way she wanted them to? Were they as powerful as they could have been? She realized that she had always told her stories in the clearing. But now instead of tea parties and witches' brew she wrote.
And thought. There was no better place for her to clear her head than here
When she had her heart broken for the first time she had escaped to the clearing. She had first sat on the stump and cried, and then stood on it and screamed. Screamed until she felt like she had no voice left. Then she had laughed. Realizing that the stump didn't care about a boy so neither should she. She had jumped off the stump and laid down on the grass. Staring up at the sky. Watching the clouds roll past. Knowing that her first broken heart would heal. It would all be fine. She paused again in her thoughts, where had she lain? She stood up and walked around the clearing. Then laid down in the grass. No, this wasn't right. It had been where the mound of dirt was now. That had been the spot. That was always the spot.
On nights where she and her father would come to the clearing and watch the stars. During the day when she would lay and watch clouds pass. When she was working on a story and just needed to think. Sitting up from the "not right" spot she looked again toward the mound of dirt and noticed for the first time a little path worn from the stump to the edge of the pile. She and Lacy had walked between the two spots so many times they had worn a path. And she had never noticed.
She walked over and picked up a handful of the freshly turned dirt. She let it run through her fingers feeling it slip back away. Getting back up and going to sit on her stump she took a deep breath. She thought about the years she had spent in this very spot. Resting on the tree stump while its roots ran underground and cradled another. Supporting them both. Looking toward the dirt mound. How many times she had lain in that very spot, resting, thinking?
No she wasn't surprised that they had found a body in her clearing. One that had laid just under the dirt through her entire childhood. Cradled by the roots of her tree. Watching her tea parties. Listening to her stories. Comforting her broken heart.
Not surprised. Or freaked out. Or creeped out. Or grossed out. Or any of the other things people asked her. But things were different. She did feel something she had never felt here before.
She was lonely.