By Merisa Sherman
They were everywhere. Random and haphazard, they were strewn about like something had exploded. Pieces of all shapes and sizes littered the ground, discarded from their base as if they were nothing. Things that were once essential were now strewn about as if they had never really mattered in the first place.
But they had. At one point in their existence, they had brought beauty and life to all around them. Their seasonal vibrancy had followed the circle of life, only to be left to this sad, lonely end. Once full of greatness, they now seemed more like a part of a crime scene, lost and forgotten.
So many different pieces and sizes, and each with their own story to tell. The memories of a life well lived and the tale of the final struggle before falling to their deaths. But the past was irrelevant now and the future uncertain because they obviously cannot remain where they are. Would they become part of something new and wonderful? Or just be tossed into the woods to rot like the forgotten pieces they are?
I can only imagine what they must have gone through to end up here, getting tossed about in the wind before being mercilessly snapped and thrown through the air. Thankfully, this time they missed the house and the windows and the newly installed weather center. Some were imbedded, precariously sticking straight out of the mud while others just lay silently where they had fallen. You can almost feel the desperation, the eerie calm that is broken only by another loud gust of wind shooting across the field. A remnant from the danger of the previous evening, the dead lying on the battlefield.
Warily moving about the field, it is my duty to pick them up. I can feel the danger lingering from the night before, but I know it has to be done soon as there will only be more victims plunging to their deaths over the coming days. One by one, I bend painfully over, my osteoarthritis paining me on this bitterly cold day. But there can be no excuse for leaving the field in such disarray. I must continue my task.
Breathing deeply, I struggle to drag the larger pieces across the field, leaving a path in the grass for anyone to follow. But I cannot pick them up on my own. My legs are covered in scratch marks, and my gloves have soaked through to the skin as the rain begins once again. I would like to hope that the rain would clear the leftover pieces from the field, but I know that it would never be strong enough. If I could get the dog to focus, perhaps he could help but he sees it more like a game and only makes things more difficult.
I continue to forage the field for every spare piece, awed by the extent of the damage. The pain is only getting worse in my hip and I know I cannot continue much longer. My eyes look over at the pile I’ve created, each piece thrown atop the other in what could have considered art if it were metal pieces soldered together. But this was not art. It was simply a jumbled mess of pieces that had begun to resemble a pile.
And the pile grew and grew, until it was larger than life and I was forced to throw the new pieces above my head in hopes they would land at the top. It was backbreaking work, building this pile but I couldn’t stop. Each piece must be removed from the field and placed atop the pile. As it is every spring, this was the mission. The snow melts, revealing more and more pieces buried beneath. And so I begin again, gathering the pieces.
Taking a break, I wipe my sodden gloves on my pants and stare at the now extremely large pile. As I continue to stare, I begin to hear voices in the wind. Memories of the laughter and love that once filled this field and would someday again. Not today, of course, but perhaps sometime in the future this pile would have a purpose and the laughter would mingle with music and life once more.
As I gather up the last of the fallen sticks and broken branches from this past storm, it only brings me hope for the future. I have been building the bonfire pile since last March, having pledged to myself that it would not be lit until we could all gather around in peace and good health once again. It keeps getting bigger with each storm, but it is not yet time to light the fire. I build this pile with hope for the future so that one day soon, we may all gather together in joy and love and celebration. But until that night arrives, I will continue to pick up the pieces, one stick at a time. Until we meet again.