She was a quirky little girl: pale skin, mousy brown hair, and bluest eyes. She never dared say much, as she had been taught that “children speak when chickens pee,” meaning never. Away from the shadows of her adored, larger-than-life mother, the little girl adventured to speak to other children in school and her teachers a little bit. Early in her life, she learned that she liked animals more than people. They, too, didn’t speak.
Cartoons were her escape. They taught her to love classical music and create an imaginary world where animals spoke a language she understood. Since reading was a silent activity, she embraced reading with both hands. It did not matter if she understood the language or the subject in the book or magazine; she read it repeatedly until she understood it. That is how she learned more than the average person about anything and everything.
At an early age, she realized she was morbidly timid and decided to learn to imitate her larger-than-life Mother on how to talk to people in a friendly and self-assured way. The little girl built a new persona. The new character in her life was full of confidence, talkative, glamorous, and daring. And so the total contrary to her true self was created. Only one person persistently noticed this change throughout her life, her father. He never discussed it with her but mentioned her change often to other people.
This new personality served the girl well. While the new, joyful person lived to engage with others, the hidden timid person, quietly living within her, created stories that entertained her. Could two souls live within one body? Anything is possible.
Life and time. Time and life. They both took their toll. That vibrant, joyful person took many hard hits. If she had so desired, she could have continued her winning ways until her body was claimed, but the silent one within needed to see the world. She had stories that needed to be told. Writing did not involve speaking, and it became her comfort zone.
A deal was reached. The outspoken woman would retire within until called to action, and the quiet one within would take a front seat to their life. As soon as Silent stretched her arms and breathed, she started her journey, writing the stories she had imagined throughout her life. So many exciting things happened all at once. Her newfound freedom was exhilarating. She had existed in the dark and now could see colors, smell scents, and touch everything. Such pleasure should have never been denied her, but she wanted to please her greater-than-life Mother. She did so by hiding for a very long time.
Silent’s greatest wish was that when she left her body, she could join all her animal friends in a place where they would share eternity or whatever time allotted, and they could speak freely. You see, she had lost interest in talking to people. The true essence of nature and life is within the language of non-human life. They know all the secrets and are more than willing to share them with those capable of listening.
She imagined their home would be a glass house in the middle of a forest where Silent and her friends could engage in conversation forever more. She would be remiss if she did not confess to you also wanting endless calory free eclairs in this heaven of hers. She knows how silly this sounds, but honesty is honesty.
One good morning Silent woke, as usual, very early and went about her chores. She suddenly understood that her time to return the loan of her body would happen soon. Two years. There was no reason to know this, but she did, as she always knew she would. Excitement and much to look forward to. She rapidly inventoried the ages versus life expectancies of her pets. Some would be rehomed within a year. Others were at the edge of their time. Those left needed to be given some thought.
Silent always kept a list on her refrigerator of all of her pets who had passed. She liked seeing their names. She would whisper them throughout the day. The odd person she is, she always believed that her pets would conquer their short lives by returning to her in another shape or form.
When Beba was a puppy, Silent noticed that she opened her eyes, then opened them again. Sitting before her was deceased Lola. It was a breakthrough that confirmed what she had always suspected. They return to continue their journey along your side. Sublime love. From that instant forward, she watched for her animal family to return to her. When one of them was about to pass, she would quietly explain what they were about to go through, and she tried to diminish any fear by staying close without interrupting their process. Dying is a beautiful event. You walk through a door. Just as relevant and important as being born. Departing is a sacred process. First breath in. Last breath out. The spirit remains. Some of those spirits would stay with her for a while. Playful, running around, then puff, gone for a while. Sounds crazy? Think again. We are much more than we seem.
Silent lives surrounded by her loved ones, these dogs, birds, turtles, and roaming lizards that came to walk her to her end and her beginning. Silent does not know why she is worthy of such an honor, but why question the gift?
She suspects they want to join her in the glass house surrounded by trees in the forest and calorie-free eclairs. Hey, worse things could happen to us.
Years came and went, and one sunny morning, Silent woke up sitting in a rocking chair and heard chirping and singing. When she looked around, she saw hundreds of different varieties of finches, peacocks, and macaws of different colors; Piti, her Lovebird; Robin, her parakeet; they were all flying in and out of the glass house. They started calling out, “She woke up.”
They landed on her, near her, all over the place, “ How are you, Silent? Was your journey a pleasant one?”
“It was a good journey. I traveled to the stars and beyond, remembered my previous engagement, and woke up here. How are you, girls and guys?”
The finches started talking in a singing, chirping voice, “We are fine, Silent. The trees with the little houses are awesome. Thank you for remembering to ask for them. Also, the millet that we love is all over the place. We may become fat finches if they have calories, but we don’t care. We’d like to taste an eclair if it’s okay with you.”
“Eclairs, did you say eclairs? Where are they? I haven’t eaten since I died, and I’m famished.”
“Over here, Silent. Follow us.” And they flew out of the glass house into the woods, and Silent’s mouth fell open when she saw a tree growing white chocolate, dark chocolate, and strawberry chocolate eclairs. She died and went to heaven? Yup, looks that way. Silent walked close to the eclair tree and asked if she could have one, and the tree shook and landed a dark chocolate eclair right on their right hand. Then the tree shook again and landed a white chocolate eclair in her left hand. The strawberry eclair landed on her head.
Silent said, “Thank you,” and bit into the dark chocolate eclair. She held out her hand for the finches to taste the other eclair. They flew around singing their happiness at greeting their beloved Silent home and breaking eclairs with her.
The day grew into night, and off to sleep they went. When the sun showed itself in the morning, all her dogs greeted her. How many, about thirty, since they had returned to her often making it seem like there had been more dogs. Those that had been born several times had parts of their previous physique.
Boggie, the Yorkie, had previously been Papo, a brindled mutt, and Nena afterward. His new physique was beautiful beyond words. A Yorkie face, a brindled body with Nena’s scruffy tail. His voice was beautiful, like nothing Silent had ever heard. He greeted her by jumping on her lap and telling her how much he loved her. “Welcome home, Silent. We know your journey was long and hard, but after five hundred years, we are home at last, together. May I go pick an eclair?”
“Of course, ask Tree, and it will shake a couple off for you.“ Off he went to collect his welcome eclair while the other dogs had a chance to say their hellos.
The rest of the day and many that followed were spent sharing stories of their alive time together. Being alive and unable to communicate made living difficult for everyone, but they made it to the other side.
They took long walks, the birds flying ahead, the dogs and cats walking with Silent side by side. One bright morning they reached a lake, and there they were, the koi and all her goldfish. Silent cried tears of joy when she saw them. |” I thought you’d never want to see me again since I was so bad at taking care of you guys.” They would show their beautiful faces and tell her they loved and understood her shortcoming. She had tried so hard.
“Silent, you are not a fish and tried relentlessly to keep us happy. We are grateful and want to be here with you. Thank you for the Japanese food. Now, we’d love you more if you bring us a bunch of eclairs.”
“Really?” and off she went to collect some eclairs for her beloved fish, who she thought she would never see again. As Silent walked back to the pond, she heard a bit of the rustle of leaves behind her. When she turned and looked, she saw her turtles in a huff trying to catch up.
“I can barely believe it! You made it! I’m so happy to see you.” Silent quietly counted them. “Five!”
“We’d love you more if you put down some of those eclairs for us to taste.” Silent laughed and put six eclairs on the ground for them to gobble up, looking up and smiling at her.
As Silent reached the pond, she called the fish, and when they showed themselves, she tossed the eclairs in the air for them to catch. And catch them, they did! Big toothy mouths flapping, catching, and swallowing the eclairs in one gulp. They smiled and thanked her for her generosity.
The sun was starting to set, and Silent turned to return home, followed by her thirty dogs, six cats, five turtles, hundreds of birds flying above, and a couple of lizards and frogs she had befriended long ago. What an incredible day. She noticed the huge bed, so she crawled under to covers. The dogs started jumping up to join her. She watched as the bed grew, and they jumped up to accompany her. Soon the bed was enormous. It grew perches all over the room, and birds came to rest. A small pond opened up for the frogs, turtles, and lizards. A larger pond opened up, and the fish appeared like magic and went to sleep.
Silent looked around her in awe of what she saw. The moon shone through the glass house, allowing enough light for her to see her surroundings. Sleeping, like angels, her beloved dogs who had chosen to spend many of their lives with her during some sorrowful times. The birds helped her understand the true meaning of beauty and love. The cats, born primarily on the street, came for food and water and stayed forever. They are so different from each other but, at the same time, so similar.
The following morning, as the dogs jumped off the bed, it shrunk into a normal-sized bed. Silent went to sit on the rocking chair, enjoying the sweet breeze. She noticed endless ferns waving in the breeze, looking like an orchestra about to play music. Just like that. As if they had read her mind. The ferns stretched their curly tops and started playing musical instruments. All the animals came. Those water bound would get an opening with water, and there they were. Everyone remained silent, listening to music you’d never heard before. The finches decided to dance to the music. They flew to the ground, joined wings, and swirled in a swaying formation. Everyone stood silent, watching and admiring this miracle. Suddenly the ferns stopped, and the tiny finches bowed and flew to a nearby perch.
The dogs were impressed. “That was beautiful, my dear finches. Could you teach me how to dance?
“Pio, Pio, but of course. When do you want to start lessons?
“How about tomorrow morning, after our morning eclairs?”
“Sounds good to me.”
Just like that, the ferns would play music every morning, and the finches would perch on a dog’s head and impart instruction on how to keep rhythm to the music. They did well. Odd little creatures that danced, teaching dogs how to dance. The fern was happy to have an audience and was improvising new sounds. Their Jazz was amazing.
“Silent, is this heaven?” Boggie asked.
“Feels that way to me but keep in mind that heaven is just a word. It does not imply any association with anything other than your personal desires. I wanted to share a glass house, a forest, and some eclairs with those I loved most. Does it feel like heaven to you?”
“Yes, it does. But what does heaven even mean? Are you the only human here? Isn’t that odd?”
“Not really. When I was with my body, I wondered if, when I let go of it, I could spend eternity with those I truly loved, all of you little, in size only, people. I knew no one would miss me, and this was good since I did not feel the obligation to include them in my little heaven. Everyone is happy where they are. By the way, if any of you want to invite your parents and sibling to join us, feel free to.
“Really?” and off they went to do whatever they normally did.
The following day, a thousand dogs, cats, birds, turtles, and so on were roaming around, hugging and kissing their lost relatives. They all enjoyed the eclairs, the breeze, the moon, the sun, and their existence.
Silent had learned to dance to the fern’s music. They were whimsical and magical, all dancing whenever they felt the pull to do so.
As time passed, they would tell stories of their adventures on Earth and the humans that homed and hunted them.
No one was interested in measuring or keeping time. One good morning Silent and the animals woke up. The bed shrunk, and birds flew. The fish reappeared in their big outside pond, and they noticed a crowd of people they had never seen before talking. Silent ran outside to greet the newcomers. About fifty hens and roosters of different colors and sizes were calling her.
“My goodness. What took you so long? I was worried about you. Did you get lost?”
“No, dear Silent. We waited until the eggs hatched, and since you weren’t there to feed us, times got dark for us, but we made it, and here we are. You promised eclairs if we came.” They started flapping their winds as they’d always do when they saw her. She flapped her arms back in greeting and love.
“Yes! Let’s walk to the eclair tree.”
The chickens looked at each other and laughed. “She’s as odd as ever. But we love her.” The tree shook, and down came eclairs for everyone. In case you didn’t know, chickens can smile.
Soon the chickens were dancing to the fern music. After a warm sunny day, rose bushes started growing and blooming. Silent noticed the red roses had faces hidden within their center. Silent stood very quiet and asked the roses if they were ‘her’ roses.
They answered, “But of course, who else has roses with faces?
“Why were your faces always angry faces?” Silence asked, wondering.
“We thought you knew. These aren’t angry faces. These are how roses look. Why do you think we were angry.?”
“You had horns and growling expressions.”
“We were trying to talk to you since you seemed so happy to see us. We always loved you, Silence. Thank you for the food and water. Most of all, thank you for not clipping our thorns or putting us in fancy vases for others to ignore us. Death in a fancy vase is horrible.”
“You’re welcome. Would you like some eclairs? I can put them on the ground surrounding you, and the water will feed them to you.”
“Yum, sounds like a plan.” So they ate some eclairs and loved them.
Since the original crowd that grown one bright morning, they noticed the eclair tree had two more trees standing tall right beside her.
They all came together, a bit surprised, and asked, “ Tree, why are there two new, full-grown eclair trees standing proud right next to you?”.
“Why not?” she responded in her lovely tree voice. “More mouths clamoring for eclairs require more trees, or had you planned to work me to death?” Tree laughed and shook while hundred of eclairs fell to the ground. She said, “We know of Silent’s suffering, watching our treatment and pain. She silently cried bitter tears for us. She is our friend and family. If Silent wants us to grow sandwiches, we would please her because no one is as deserving as Silent. We, too, like eclairs.”
The animals sat silently in a heartfelt reverie for Silent. Did someone say sandwiches?
Time has no meaning unless you have an appointment. Other than feeding babies and pets, feel free to dispose of your watches and your calendars. They only serve to mark your prison term. We can design our personal heaven in the same manner that we did our hell. It’s just another word.
Silent early into her life, decided what she imagined heaven to be—talking pets and eclairs. A glass house. That was it? Everything else was a gift. All of it was a gift. The secret is wanting it with a true heart. If you want castles and gold stuff, good luck, you may achieve that heaven, but it sounds more like hell, which worries me that you may be wasting this fantastic opportunity. This magic is not for the dogmatic since they are entranced and unable to fly free. Cutting the strings of dogma and finding your heaven is my heartfelt advice.
This all seems irrelevant while we struggle to stay alive. While others are enjoying what is available to be enjoyed, all good and bad things must end. What then? This argument is so old and tiresome. But ignoring it is a bad idea. Take it from Silent, who waited so long to be heard. Tree shook and dropped an eclair on her head so she’d stop thinking about the past.
Boggie, Sophia, and Petite Pois sashayed on over and asked her, “Silent, what are you thinking about while you sit there so still.”
Silent pulled herself back to her forest and smiled. “About how happy I am that we came together. Is the sandwich tree fully gown?”
They all heard and ran together to get a sandwich. The eclair trees laughed and dropped hundreds of eclairs.
“Are those butterflies?” Asked Betsy, the hen.
Fluttering around were thousands of butterflies. Colors, wing designs, sizes, and different little sweet faces. They smiled as they floated around. They, too, could speak and be understood.
Silent thought this was a wonderful opportunity to ask all she always wanted to know about their metamorphosis. Were they aware? Was it painful? How does a butterfly feel when they see a worm? Why are they here? Have they met before? “
The following day, before the dogs and cats got off the bed, Silent invited the butterflies to join her for a chat if they were up to it. They arrived in the thousands and perched up on top of everyone and everything. They folded their wings back and waited for the question.
Silent’s first question was, “Why are you here? We are all delighted that you are, but the question begs to be asked.”
“We felt your pain whenever your kind would kill us before you had a chance to change. We wanted to be with you and get to know Silent for your all-inclusive loving nature. You think we are awesome as caterpillars and as butterflies. One of ours danced with you once, and your joy became legend. A little yellow butterfly, a daredevil, engaged you in a dance, and dance you did. We know. We are here.”
“I remember. One of the high points of my life. Dancing with a butterfly who knew it was dancing with me.” Everyone smiled.
“ I am the black butterfly you allowed into your home after the hurricane. You set water and food for me. Of course, I want to be here. I told my entire family. We are all here.” Hundreds of hand-sized jet-black butterflies flew around Silent.
Silent smiled, remembering her despair while trying to help this beautiful creature after that dreadful hurricane.
Silent reflected on the life that led her into this life and understood that the price for being here was nothing since she never expected her wish to be granted.
To all the people named Silent, dare to want.