I was born in a town named for water and trees. Lake Forest, Illinois. Lived my first five years in that place where the puddles on our street were dark pools that reflected high branches and were simply too scary to step in for how endless and deep they appeared. I feared I might fall into another world entirely.
We moved to Phoenix, named for the bird born of ashes and fire. A city where the streets appeared wet from a distance, but weren’t in the least; where a new box of crayons could be reduced to a disappointing puddle in the back of our station wagon. In all my efforts to miss those dark and drawn trap doors, I still managed to fall, not sure how, through the cool dark wetness to this hot blinding place. Opening the door was like opening an oven. Another world entirely.
And Joy did not live here. Wasn’t even heard of really. Would she choose to reside in cinderblock tract houses, in such heat, among breaking families that crackle like kindling? Seems doubtful. And would the heat ever relent? I didn’t know.
But the barren and scalding summer did give way finally and cracked the door open for her. In winter coolness, she just showed up on the way to school one day. Appeared out of nowhere, kind of like a shooting star, the kind that moves slow and long across the sky. I was walking with my sisters, shortcutting through the neighbor’s neglected backyard, having just stepped through the gate, over snails, into the back with tall weeds and nothing more.
Except the dew that clung. And shone in the chilly morning sun.
She didn’t jump out and startle or frighten. She rose up like a time elapsed film of a flower blooming or a bean sprouting. Maybe like the mythical bird would have risen slowly and beautifully from the ruin. And I felt wonder. And refreshment. They tugged at the corners of my mouth without my permission -without even asking.
The glimmer of dew on a weed, now vast as a lake in a forest, was all the window I would need. Was all the window she needed. Joy snuck in through that window. Or maybe I snuck out. And together we looked out on a world where peace and comfort outshone my worries and fears.
Another world entirely.
Megan Robertson lives with her family in Santa Barbara, California.