In the centre of my vision, in the dappled sunlight outside the window among the other grasses and leaves, I see a deeply green reed, slightly separate from the others, moving about in the wind. It has seen strong currents of all kinds, wind and water. The sun reflecting on it is bright and white; it is shining, rinsed, waving, pulsating, bending, straightening, bending again, ever in motion, silent. Silent, but not entirely: her bending and reaching is a kind of voice too.

Some of the reeds around it are broken and felled, flattened. Not this one.

The car I am in accelerates now; there is a blurring of the grasses, prairies flying by, detail running together. Then focus again, the air just a light breeze, almost calm now. I step out. I want to know more, explore this place a little.

As far as I can see, there are fields: long, long rows of small bright green plants lined with black dirt, in the distance a small shack, a tiny spot inside in which to lay down weary bones, trembling knees and soul.

I hear echoes of voices, some intelligible, some only background sound, some familiar, some not. In the sky is the searing hot sun, all around are unfamiliar sights and sounds and foods. Aching muscles, a hollow in their bellies—is this really their life now? Was all that real? Did we really lose her forever, and him? Did we really all lose each other for so long? Will we feel carefree again someday? Alongside the ache and disorientation though, deep in the belly, is a spark of extraordinary determination.

fall fieldsThen, I feel cool nights, see endless green fields turned golden. A sudden flash of recognition for me, a shift in time; I am here, now, and I know why I’ve always been drawn to these golden fields, why September holds such a delicious magnetic pull for me, why I’m compelled to grab the phone from my bag to snap photos of these prairies when I see them—fall, especially that first one, once brought intense relief.

The fear in her belly was powerful, but she was determined—she had a life to live. She had life to give, life to protect and nurture, life she would protect at any cost. Nobody, nobody, was ever going to steal from her as they had in the past, from her, from her mother and father, from all of them.

This—without words, without thought—became her voice, her being, her eyes, her turning toward, her turning away from. This is how she lived. In a bright flash of sun on the summer breeze outside the window on a late summer morning, I saw deeply into her soul, saw what she could not say, saw what she had to turn from, what she embraced with passion. Saw how she learned to sway and bend, and just how deeply she had to learn to bend with the loss of her home, the tearing away of her baby sister, her innocence, her mother, her father, and over time, her other brothers and sisters too. I saw what this bending gave her, and how much it cost her too.

The reed is in the centre of my vision again, less defined now, perhaps a little frayed and blurred, but still bending and swaying, the sun reflecting off it more brilliantly than ever, and now I am a reed also, nearby. Separate, but connected too. And I know that I too will sway with the winds for as long as I continue to bend, I too will eat the sun for as long as I can reach for it, I too will shine in its reflection for as long as I can stand in the cleansing rivers and rains.

And then, an ordinary couple walking by outside the window breaks into my reverie on this ordinary late-summer Saturday, and I remember last night, the smile on my mother’s face after she’d been baptized in the sound of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra performing under the August sky—Walt Disney songs of innocence, and innocence lost; songs of happiness, of love and determination and courage and hope and beauty in the face of cruelty, rejection, loss, not fitting in, not having a voice. I will always remember the strength of her gaze in that moment, her voice, the light in her eyes.

And I will always remember the words of the very kind man seated a few rows directly behind my mother and father, the one who gave up his perfectly normal-height chair for my mother so she wouldn’t have to sit slouched inches from the ground on one of our low-rise, back-killing options: “The entire show was worth it for this alone: watching her obvious pleasure and enthusiasm, watching the two of them together.”