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by Emily Rayow •

FLOW: Spring Melt and the Unearthing of Ancient Secrets

The air had shifted in that way that you knew - winter had loosened her grip.. no longer clenched in a frigid lip lock, one all of a sudden noticed that it was just cold fingertips trailing along the lower back. The intensity had faded so that one could begin to somewhat enjoy the last few cold touches.. knowing they’d soon feel like such a distant memory. It was in this knowing that I ventured along the rushing creek that fateful morning in March. March is such a wild thing - she doesn’t know what to wear or how to sing. But you have to love her for her wildness - for her sweet awkwardness. Anyway, I wore a white gown that was audacious considering those last, aforementioned frigid touches. I didn’t care. Longing to be unburdened from the stifling layers of winter dress, I only cared to feel the stiff wind brushing my ankles and collarbones. I was dying to trail my fingertips in the frothy, mountain-fed water. In the belly of winter, the water ceased to flow. It lay in frozen veins down the sloped land, through the forests. A wood frog does this. In the coldest part of the year, its body freezes solid. It is the most brutal love affair. The frog so longs to continue on, that its body becomes ice- one with the earth. I saw no wood frogs out this day. But surely they were there, somewhere - thawed and becoming reacquainted with the pulse of life. As was I. In my too-thin boots and drapings of white cotton dress. Looking for signs of life - both within and outside of myself. Are we all wood frogs in a way.. in the darkest, hardest times..? But that’s a musing for another day. On this day, the only thing on my mind was reemergence. Becoming one with the renewed flow of the creek, of the world at large. I was edging along the water, studying my footsteps so as not to accidentally plunge ankle-deep into the frigid froth. One foot after another, searching for sprouts - worms - snakes… when all of a sudden, I saw something most unexpected just barely peeking out of the soil. I’d heard my mother recount stories of finding old artifacts along the southern creeks where she grew up. Keys, coins, trinkets of lifetimes long past.. perhaps only memorialized all these years later by whatever little metal treasure lay corroding in the muddy bed. Maybe because of this, I always paid particular attention when walking along the water’s edge. And today that curious eye and meandering pace all of a sudden paid off - with the glimpse of what appeared to be a blue stone, planted.. as if growing from the wet earth. Perhaps it was a robin’s egg shard..? But so early in the season.. Perhaps some shattered glass tossed carelessly along the creek..? But it appeared so perfectly round… I crouched down, muddying the hem of my dress, sinking my boots into the wetness.. and pulled it out of the earth. At that moment, a sensation washed over my whole body. I felt myself there, crouched down, the cold air coming off the water, the wetness seeping into my boots… but I also felt as if I floated above myself, and somehow inhabited all the air around my body, the trees, the open sky above. I was myself, in that moment, and I was also an ancient knowing - an ancient loving. I was every pain, joy, shriek, birth, and death across the land, across all time - and then, in a second, it stopped. I felt dizzy.. and all I could manage to do was gaze at this blue gem that I was holding in my hand. The color of the sky on a miraculously clear day - the kind of sky that makes you sing praises for simply being alive. Bordered in metal - copper? brass? - that had clearly seen generations roll by above, as she laid there. I could not have told you, until that moment, whether I believed in this thing called magic. But that moment changed everything. I held the sky-colored gem in my hand, still slick with creek mud, leaves tangled in the blackened chain - and in an instant, I knew I was standing on sacred ground. *All* ground is sacred, really.. if you think about it. Every bit of earth connects us. But THIS bit of earth, in this moment, connected me to an ancient story. I knew it. Could feel it. I started rooting around in the mud, digging deeper with my bare hands.. and every time I plunged my hand further down, I would feel something more. The edge of metal, a chain, a stone face… I would pull these artifacts, caked black with sediment, from the earth, one after one.. wiping their faces with my fingers - dipping them in the rushing creek water.. to reveal more shades of blue, some polished.. some raw.. every piece more luminous than the last. Finally, when my dress was fully stained the color of the creek bed, and my hands were overflowing with crusty chains and gems of all hues and sizes and states of seeming-decay… I decided I had to turn back home. It was starting to grow dark and the air was quickly growing cold. Luckily I’d brought my basket for collecting early nettles and chickweed - I was HOPING for a wild violet-! I could never have guessed what I would actually end up foraging on this blustery, late March day. I stood up - achey and drenched from my frenzied afternoon of digging around in the creek - and I…  I heard music. I whipped my head around to see where it could be coming from. I was deep into this forest on an old, sequestered trail that was long since out of use. In the decades I’d been walking this way, I never ran into another soul. But.. I heard flute. And strings. And some rustic kind of drum beat. Singing — full, howling, primal — singing. The way one sings with every cell in the body. And all of a sudden, as surely as I saw the rushing creek beside me, a face appeared in front of mine. A woman’s face.. slightly elongated features - foreign, fae-like? I’d heard tales, always, but… never seen… until now. Her face glimmered. I stood, motionless, transfixed. Full of love. Every fiber of me - was nothing but love, in that moment. A whiskey-like warmth spreading from my very soul. She kissed me. She pressed those ephemeral, bluish-tinted lips against mine, I closed my eyes.. this all happened in one moment. And when I opened my eyes… I only saw the creek. The trees just bursting with buds. My muddy dress. Basket full of treasure. This day would change me forever… I knew it then, and it has remained true - nothing would ever be the same.