Secret Messages

An Invitation to Look Again, Hung on a Tree in the Marsh: Day Twenty-One

This post is part of the Secret Messages Project.  Every day for thirty days, I’ll leave my words in places where they might be found — or might never be found at all.  I hope you’ll join me. 

*

This is how it happens:

I am out shopping, late Sunday afternoon, when I see on the shelves a little oval mirror that hangs from a black satin ribbon.

It’s a small mirror – small enough that I can hold it in one hand – but the edges are beautifully beveled so that it bounces light in a lean lovely hoop.

I buy the mirror, knowing, even as I do so, that it isn’t for me.  I’m not sure who it’s for, or what it means, but I know it means something.

*

I have books to return to the library, so as the sun is setting I drive over to South County to drop them off.  And it would be easy, on this chilly afternoon, to just pull the car up to the drop box, but something tells me not to.

Instead, I drive across the street.  Park at the elementary school, planning to take the walking trail through the marsh.

I love that this county decided to build a raised wooden walkway through the marsh and to the library, since it’s a literal bridge between the children and the books.  It’s also beautiful, the way the walkway curves over the low water, meandering like a stream:

marsh8

But when I get to the beginning of the walkway I don’t take it.

I don’t take it because, at that exact moment, the sun dips toward the horizon and catches along a very narrow path that runs away from the walking trail, skirting the edge of the marsh:

marsh1

Can you see it?  It’s so unassuming that you might mistake it for the long narrow shadow of a tree.

It’s so narrow — so seemingly spontaneous — that I almost wonder whether it’s a human trail at all, or a path made by something smaller and more fleet-footed.  Still — I follow it anyway, trailing the light.

I follow it farther, and farther, into a little glade where the sun glistens in the branches of what might be wild apple trees, or maybe pears.

And can I tell you a secret — the kind that makes my heart leap?  There are buds on all these branches, velvet-soft and silver-gray.

I stroke the promise of them with one fingertip and feel the hope of spring flooding my soul.

This place is magic, I think.

It just needed someone to take the time to notice it.

marsh2

*

The mirror is still with me then, heavy in my handbag.  I take it out and hold it in one hand so that it gleams back flashes of branches, buds, sun, sky — all the magic of this place framed in a tiny oval.

I lift the mirror to my face and look — really look.  

Sometimes, seeing my own magic is just a matter of time.

And it just so happens that I have a dry-erase marker with me, too, so I pull it out.

Uncap it.

Scribble a message on the glass.

Then I tie that black ribbon securely onto one of those new-budded branches, at a height where someone about my size could look straight in and see just themselves.

Where they might take my invitation seriously, in this special place.

I stand looking.

I snap a picture.

I take a breath, then walk away…

marsh4

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