She felt it coming. Her days seemed numbered. Not in the typical sense. Not in the expectation of one's life ceasing to exist. No, her days seemed numbered toward a beginning - a hatching of sorts.
She saw it in the purposeful ignoring of a phone call and the way her voice suddenly found itself vibrating against her throat - when was the last time she spoke for herself? She couldn't even remember. She knew something was changing when sitting across from the table she spoke words lodged in her throat for years.
"You abandoned me."
The silence roared in her ears but she expected that - the relief at verbalizing her turmoil made up for any disappointment in the lack of response. She went to bed that night content and strangely comforted.
And so this day, the day she'd been avoiding for months, brought a new anticipation.
She laced her boots and took one last glance in the mirror. Running her fingers around her lips she evened out the color and smiled at her reflection. She wasn't even scared.
She walked out her front door and down the street. Her bag slapped against her knees with every step, and she thought about the notebook and pens jostling themselves around in there and waiting for some kind of release. Kind of like the words in her heart. She straightened her shoulders and focused. Today was not a day for words.
She saw the mountain in the distance and kept walking. She felt the sweat begin to form on the back of her neck and grabbing the hair tie wrapped around her wrist, she threw her hair up and off her shoulders. She wanted water, but knew if she stopped she wouldn't start again. She was already tired, having walked almost an hour. But she continued, feeling an urge greater than her thirst.
The hike up the mountain wasn't as taxing as she anticipated. She made it to the top in more than enough time. She set her bag down and pulled out a canister. Keeping her eyes focused on the clouds forming in the distance, she positioned herself at the edge of a nearby rock formation. She could see for miles here - the city lights flickering in the distance, the patches of land forming an earth quilt, the ocean waves crashing in the distance. The wind was picking up - she knew it was time.
Taking a deep breath, she opened the canister and expected the ashes to catch the wind. For awhile, they just stayed there - in solidarity with the metal around them. She shook the can a little and tilted it only to jump back and stifle a scream as thunder crashed and lightning lit the sky around her. She collected herself.
You can do this. She thought. You have to do this.
With renewed purpose, she closed her eyes and let the ashes fly. She twisted and turned and watched part of her life disappear for the second time. It was a lot more emotional than she anticipated. The anger and resentment resurfaced and she stifled a cry. Soon, in rhythm with the thunder and lightning continuing a serenade, she gave way to the tears.
She knew she probably looked crazy. She also knew people would never understand. She thought back to the many fires she had in the past - the one where she burnt the family pictures, the one where she burnt her marriage certificate, the one where she burnt the letters from her childhood abuser. All of those ashes were scattered against the wind now. Gone.
Her last attempt to start over.
The thunder crashed around her and she breathed deep the air cleaned by rain. The drops were falling hard now - splattering against the rock and bouncing against her boots. She looked toward the sky and drank it all in - the majesty, the mystery, the absolute power of it all. When the storm began to subside, gathered her things and made her way back down the trail, feeling lighter than she had in years.
What she saw stopped her cold. A tree - hundreds of years old by the looks of it - had been struck by lightning and split open. But it wasn't the split that struck her. It wasn't the charred remains of the electric bolt that made her breathe in quick and look around yet again to see if anyone else was witnessing what she saw.
It was the butterflies. Thousands of them. Red and blue and orange and yellow - flying in a whirlwind of color out from the open scar of the tree. Soon, she was enveloped by their wings and she marveled at the music they made - the soft murmur of peace. She sat there for what seemed like ages until the butterflies found a path and continued on their way.
She knew then she was changed. What once brought her pain had become her beauty. She glanced toward the sun shining against the underbelly of the remaining clouds and squinted through the tears. Falling to her knees, her hands caught themselves in the wet earth and her fingers grasped for something - anything to hold on to against her new understanding. The ashes and the majestic thunder and the cleansing rain. The wind and the electric scar and the butterflies.
All of it made sense now.
"I know now." She whispered. "I get it. You've been right here the whole time."
And in the splitting open of her heart, she felt the birth of new life.