As he sat in his wooden chair, which was so familiar with him he could hear his name in it’s groans and creaks, he felt the weight in his chest. It was heavier than usual, and lacking a happiness he once knew well. It also felt dark this time. Like a large storm cloud just hovered above his head, eerily rotating and leaving his world a shadow of what it once was. Except not even shadows could dwell in such darkness.
He folded his hands against his head, leaving knuckle impressions on his forehead. They felt like deep caverns with the force he used to press them. His tears like rivers flowing close to those very caverns. He didn’t bother wiping them away, like a waterfall their source was almost endless. So he just sat and wept for awhile.
His mind wandered back to the source of his despair. He heard the lyrics of Dreaming Tree by The Dave Matthews Band playing in his head “long before these crowded streets, there stood my dreaming tree… Below it he would sit, for hours at a time, now progress takes away what forever took to find.” But this time it wasn’t progress like urban sprawl, but his own evolution. The evolution where you lose critical genetic information, not gain. He longed with a longing that his body had never known before. And he felt pain in his bones that emerged from a soul that struggled to accept the consequences of what he did.
He remembered walking through that field. As a confident and borderline cocky young man still in college, nothing but promise ahead of him. One day he got lost in a good way and ended up on the side of a road he had never wandered on before. And he was astonished at what he saw. The quiet and peace of an empty place, untouched by man, perfect by nature, it was as if he had found God’s garden. He always thought that if God had a garden He would fill it with sunflowers. And he didn’t know much about them but he saw them as resilient flowers that could brave harsh weather to grow tall and strong and full and most importantly, bright. And there he stood amidst a seemingly endless sea of them. Taken aback by their multitude. Astonished by how his skin almost burned as he stood looking. Their radiance so great his body warmed as he watched. And he watched them for hours that first day. As if he thought they’d leave if he stopped looking. Or as if he thought they might do something spectacular while he was gone. So he stayed until the sun went down, and then stayed a little longer. And as he drove home that night he smiled huge their image emblazoned in his eyes and heart. The lush greens beckoned him to lay down, the shiny yellows capturing the suns’ rays, the fiery oranges burning the field down with colors.
He went back every day too. He didn’t have to do a thing either. It was the perfect deal to him. He could just stand there and enjoy the beauty of what he felt like God had personally given him. He began taking walks through the fields, touching each one like someone with obsessive compulsive disorder. They were beautiful beyond description. Their long slender stalks like a woman in high heels, so majestic and elegant. And as the wind kissed his skin he felt the heat of the sun and it’s flowers and how they worked in harmony and it was his happy. Sometimes he’d even thank God as he walked through for giving him such a beautiful gift, a place that he could see as his sanctuary. He had never had one before, he had never known safety before. He looked for it all his life too but never had he felt like there was a place to get away sometimes. A place that instantly affected his mood. A place that accepted him no matter what.
Sometimes he’d even play guitar while he was there or sing songs he’d learned at a younger age or songs he was learning now. Sometimes he’d improvise and sing about the joy he felt. Something had come over him and he wasn’t quite sure how to deal with it. This was new and exciting and he loved it even though he felt a little uncomfortable, nothing was going to hinder this for him. And he prayed every day about his field of sun and thanked God for it.
And as he sat there, in that same chair he penned songs in, at the same desk he sometimes wept at, sometimes ached at, sometimes felt joy at, his eyes moved along the crevices from his pen, some canyons depending on his mood. It’s as though he was searching in them for the words to describe now. As if all the words he had ever written filled up those hand etched canyons and now he was looking in them for how to describe this deep deep longing. But he couldn’t. And his pen burned a black hole in his linen paper, a black hole that not only soaked the radius around the pen but also seemed to suck the words right out of his head. He had nothing. How he longed to feel nothing.
He closed his eyes and searched harder, wincing and furrowing and clenching. His finger muscles tightened around his pen. And he continued to remember.
He remembered how he felt back then. The promises be made to the sunfield. He remembered the day he began calling it his sunfield. As if it was different than just a field of sunflowers. He had always felt that it was God’s garden and he felt deep down as though it was made for him. He saw it as the heavens reaching down and touching the Earth right there in that field. To him, the angels personally tended this field, and he couldn’t be convinced otherwise.
He grew very fond of it too. Like someone grows fond of a significant other or a puppy. He grew to love it. The memories he had in it and with it. The colors filled his eyes and the joy filled his heart.
He bit his bottom lip and felt the stubble of his beard dig into his top lip. He had always been so good with words. He usually carefully considered each one he spoke unless he was caught of guard. But now he was devoid. He searched his mind, and all of it’s recesses and still couldn’t find anything. Not a damn thing. He gripped the pen tightly hoping to maybe squeeze some eloquent words out of it. And he thought harder. But all he could do was remember.
This time he recalled the other fields. Fields that he thought were also gifts. Fields that he had also prayed for and thanked God for, and walked through and played songs in. There was the field of lilies and that of tulips. Fields that were closer and less of a drive. Fields that sometimes looked prettier because he had lost sight of godly beauty and began paying attention to world’s beauty; and because of this, the different colors and shades adorning each petal of the flowers stood out to him more. And then he thought about how these fields allowed him to feel the sun more rather than reflecting it’s glory. How they never got taller than him. How they were different and how he liked that. And he knew his heart was always with his sunfield but for the moment he felt good there too, not as good, but still pretty good.
And sometimes when he’d go back to his sun field, he thought about the other flowers and was distracted by the smells and the images that they too burned into his mind. He knew all their fragrances. He memorized their touches too as he walked through. They even felt different than the sunflowers; their stems less course. Sometimes even their colors popped more; the vibrant hues of yellows and reds and purples. He never felt the same warmth from them but he settled because it was different and he liked it.
He banged his hand on the table, and forced the pen through the linen paper and into the dark wood. The pain made veins in the bottom of his hand. He clenched his teeth as his brain recognized the pain.
He remembered one day when he traveled back to his sunfield how he complained in his head that they didn’t smell like the others. He questioned why his sunflowers didn’t feel like the others or look like them; not better or worse, just different. And as he walked through, he left his guitar at the gate that he noticed started to squeak a little and he prayed and thanked God for them, but his heart, even though grateful, was not in the place that it used to be. His heart had suffered over the years. The beauty that once captivated his heart was now almost boring if not embittering.
“But why? But how?” He thought it best not to verbalize these questions. Best not to ask God. He ignored the browning leaves because he didn’t think it was important enough to ask about. He hadn’t gotten any answers recently anyway, so for something so insignificant should he pose these questions to an already distant God? He decided not to and left. He knew however that he didn’t look at them the same. Others now caught his eye and he accepted this. The bright greens and varying shades of yellow had less impact on his blind eyes and heart now. The bursts of orange that once enchanted him became like copper which oxidized over time. He was under the charms of the others, like an incantation had been cast upon him. He still loved them, but it was a different love now.
And then he recalled how he smiled and laughed in his sunfield. As he thought about the other fields it was though this memory was cutting in and vying for his attention. And it worked. He began to recall lying there basking in their brilliance as they reflected the warmth of the sun as if reaching into heaven and pulling it down just for him. They were the only ones close enough to reach up to God to do so and he knew it. And he felt it. And he loved it. He cherished it. They were his. But somehow he became convinced that maybe there were less his than they used to be. Because he also smiled with the others and laughed. They were different smiles and laughs but they still occurred. And so sometimes he’d visit them more often, talk to them more frequently, walk through them less quickly, and play guitar for them too.
He looked up at the glass and stared at it for a moment or two, though feeling like it was much longer. And he slowly and contemplatively lowered his pen and placed it down on the linen paper, his tears had dried a little and altered the feel of it. And he reached out and grabbed the glass of water. His hands still young but feeling much older and heavier than his age. And he took a gulp this time, a very emotional gulp, almost forcing it down his throat as he shut his eyes, as if shutting them would help him forget, or make it taste better at least.
He placed the glass back down on the table, making a small and smooth thud as it connected with the hard wood. He hadn’t used a coaster this time. He wondered what they would think when they found out. As if he thought this would make him some kind of barbarian. Some kind of sick and twisted individual. Some kind of uncivilized man devoid of character altogether. But he wasn’t concerned anymore. He had been judged and had judged himself for far too long. He was just tired and sad. And hopeless.
He picked the pen back up, his fingers still red from gripping it and he held it above the paper where he had made the hole. Still unsure but ready. Still searching but sensing a light at the end of the tunnel. There was a new sense of urgency in his hand and mind and he wanted to finish.
He recalled when he went back to the sunfield after awhile that it had lost some beauty. The years had taken their toll on it. He had originally wondered in an arrogant sort of way if maybe his absence was the reason for the browning of the leaves, but he quickly let the thoughts be taken away by the wind because it seemed too absurd to contain even hints of reasonableness; how could he be the reason for such a natural process, he wondered. And as they faded he continued elsewhere, stopping by on occasion to visit and remember, almost obligated. But his heart still felt something. And then he began to wonder if it was simply what he was used to and that’s why he went back, or whether he truly cared and that’s why he stayed. He wrestled with this internal struggle like Jacob wrestling with the Lord. Deep down he felt like this was one of those matches, where the outcome would determine much of his future, but he knew he had other perfectly beautiful fields and so this clouded how he truly felt about his sunfield.
Or maybe it didn’t. Maybe they were right. Maybe he spent too much time with it. Maybe it was unhealthy. Maybe their reservations about the way he felt about it were all perfectly reasonable. Maybe he should stop. Maybe he should move on.
And he recalled that fateful and now hateful day when he got into his car and went to his sunfield. And he got out and took one last walk through it. And as he did he didn’t thank God and he hardly noticed how some had died. He didn’t notice the lush greens had turned a pale green, as if the life was being choked out of it. He didn’t notice that the brown had spread like a plague among his first love. He didn’t notice because he pretended he had stopped really caring. His appreciation had all but stopped and it showed. He barely even touched them anymore. Just walked through and looked with bitterness in his eyes toward them. He didn’t realize at the time the bitterness was caused by his darkened and changing heart and not them. He didn’t even realize that deep down God preserved his love for them. He just knew what he felt and he forsook what was right for what he felt was right. His selfishness and pride took hold like a weed around his already fragile heart. So he said goodbye with an inappropriate amount of regret compared to the gravity of the situation. And he left. Just like that. He left them. He abandoned them.
And on the drive home he convinced himself what a good decision he had made. He had trusted his heart. After all, isn’t the heart the thing we should trust most? He asked this out loud and almost mockingly because he was so sure of himself. And in that moment he even argued with the same God he used to thank for them. He argued with Him about what He says about a heart and how it can deceive. He thought “how can this be true? I feel free. We grew apart. Our differences became too great. And I don’t love like I used to.”
And so every once in awhile he would visit. Even sometimes just driving by. Sometimes he would sit in his car and just stare for a bit. Bitterness still in his heart. But it was really bitterness toward the man he was becoming, not bitterness toward his lovely sunfield. Sometimes he would get out and sit on his car with his guitar and play and sing, but the songs were no longer joyful, they were no longer soulful, they just were. As if a heart could be disconnected from the words that came out of it. He sang sociopathically, the music was real but the words were lies. But he didn’t even mind this as he grew used to those lies. He never walked through them anymore, never touched them, it was like the time he said goodbye but worse. He told himself he’d be back one day and with each day he almost convinced his sunfield that he would return, if they could even be convinced.
His weary and heavy hand slowly began to pen something. The white paper now marred like crimson on sheets, blood stains crying out that a murder has occurred. This time it was black for the color of his heart. The ink spread quickly like the evil that took him over a long time ago. It spread quickly like the storm clouds that rolled over him and never departed. Like the water through his system and the bitter taste on his tongue. He wrote one letter at a time.
He recalled as he’d revisit his sunfield that he was slowly saying goodbye to it, but differently now. He noticed the greens faded and the same orange that used to consume the field in flames now burned too soft, like dying embers. He noticed the yellows weren’t vibrant anymore and that they had long lost their radiance. He couldn’t feel their warmth anymore but he didn’t lie down in them for long enough to feel it either. The browns had spread too, far faster than he anticipated, the flowers bent over as though they were weeping for their loss. But he remained untouched by their ruined relationship. He couldn’t feel it anymore. And he still maintained he needed to feel it to be in it.
And then it happened. Like he had prayed it to for so long. An answer from heaven in a still small voice.
He recalled even more vividly the day it all came crashing back. Like a tsunami of emotions flooding the isolated village that was his heart. And he remembered his love. He was swept away in it’s current. He could smell it once again. Love filled his lungs again like it once did. Its’ fragrances became reintoxicating. He was drinking it’s wine again. He could feel its’ gentle touches upon his skin. He could feel how it kissed him, love’s lips softly caressing his skin.
But it was too late.
And he remembered that drive. How excruciating it was. Every tree along the road, every flower, every sign. Time didn’t stand still but each second stung. He felt like he was in the tell-tale heart but his was the one that beat from beneath the floor. He wanted to get back to his sunfield, to see it once again, to apologize and to pray once more. He wanted nothing more than to walk through it again and play guitar in it. To lie underneath the huge flowers and feel the sun reflecting onto his skin. He yearned to watch the clouds slowly roll by as the sun bowed to the moon and disappeared from sight. And then to drive away with the anticipation that he would see his sunfield once more tomorrow and do the same thing all over. The monotonous and mundane seemed once again exciting. And he wasn’t sure how or why, he just remembered exactly what he wanted. His heart shifted like a plate below the surface, setting off massive aftershocks throughout his embittered and embattled soul.
And as he etched the second word into the paper; carefully and deliberately, his hand started to shake a little. His heart started to beat a little faster. He felt his body get a little hotter, as if fighting something. The tip of the pen finishing a small vertical line which followed directly into a little hill and then down another vertical line, which led straight back up into another vertical line and hill once retraced and then back down. He began to feel tired, and his tears started to dry as he wrote.
And he recalled arriving to see it gone. The flowers in heaps. Brown and withered. Cast aside and unloved. The seeds spilled out. He collected a handful and then let them fall back to the ground as his eyes and then head followed. He grabbed a flower but it crumbled in his hand. He tried to stand another one up but again it crumbled. And he did too.
He collapsed on the ground and wept. And the cloud grew darker over him. And his heart… His heart grew darker than the clouds. He knew now that this was his fault. That God had prepared them for him. And that his dying love had ended them, as if they were connected directly to his heart. And it died with them. And part of him didn’t want it to grow back, even though he ached for it. He knew no amount of tending them could ever bring back what they once had. He knew he’d never lie in them the same way. He knew they’d never warm him like they once did. He had failed them. And now his heart grew weak.
And he remembered the drive home even more. How somber it was. Like a one car funeral procession, and his was the hearse; carrying the dead body to where it would rest forever. Not even peacefully. Just rest. Like a perpetual nightmare that he wouldn’t be able to wake up from. For he lost his greatest joy. He had become distant from His Creator and what his Creator made specifically for Him had died. He had disconnected himself from the vine and his branch died as a result. He was lost once again. But this time it was that aimless and hopeless wandering. The kind you don’t get unlost from.
His pride and selfishness had overcome him. He saw himself as disgusting. He couldn’t even look in the mirror anymore because the face he saw revolted him. And it was because he could see his charred heart through his own eyes. And he faked a smile but it was physically painful. His body fought it because it didn’t feel it. It rebelled against what it hated. And it hated him. And he did too.
He lifted his pen after finishing one last long diagonal, stretching from the right down to the left and just intersecting a diagonal perpendicular to it. He then folded the paper slowly in half and in half again, his hands shaking harder, his mouth becoming dry, his vision blurred a little.
He grabbed the linen envelope and dipped his finger into the water which he then applied to the lip of the envelope and sealed it. His hands moving carefully, like an elderly man with Parkinsons trying to complete a complicated task. And as he closed it he whispered what he wrote, and with his last breath, he apologized to God and to her. She was his sunfield, and her eyes were God’s Garden.