It is 5:00 am on July 30. I agreed to let my son stay the night at the Mother’s house with Bodhi last night after dinner and am supposed to go get him at 5:45 for the Tank. I tossed and turned all night, and have been up and ready to go to the Tank since 3 am. I’m sitting on the couch in our tiny living room in a fog, thinking about yesterday.

.      .     .

     We invited Dorian, Bodhi, and Dorian’s mother, Grace, to come to the Mother’s house for dinner with us after the incident with the toys in the woods. Grace agreed to meet us there a little later, and the boys ran ahead, giving me time to talk to Dorian. I must have seemed like a stuttering idiot, because I kept feeling something tell me to shut up every time I would almost get my questions about Bodhi out. I finally just blurted it out.

     “Is Bodhi magic?”

     Dorian kind of laughed uncomfortably and fell silent for a minute before opening up to me. He talked almost the whole way to the Mother’s house, telling me that Bodhi had never spoken but had developed “ways of communicating and navigating the world” that he thought could only come from some kind of superior intelligence or state of being. When Bodhi was a toddler, doctors told Dorian he was most likely on the autism spectrum, and recommended a special school for him, but he didn’t do well there. He came home upset a lot, and the teachers were very concerned with his behavior, and according to Dorian they seemed a little afraid of him. The commune seemed like the perfect place for him to learn and grow up. I tried to be gentle when I asked if he had considered having Bodhi treated, since the treatment had apparently worked well for people with autism.  

     “He’s not autistic. I haven’t figured out what he is yet, but he’s not autistic. And he told me he didn’t want to do it.”

     My face must have asked my next question for me.

     “He doesn’t need words to communicate. At least not with me. Is that what he did? Talk to you in your head? Or did you see him move something?”

     Dorian looked at me nervously, like maybe he said too much.

     “Yeah, he moved his toys yesterday in the woods.”

     “Well, that’s a new one since we got here actually, but I’ve seen it too. Nothing surprises me anymore. I don’t know how to handle that yet, and I figure it’ll come out soon enough…but can we keep that between us for now?”

     I tell him yes, of course, and we walked the rest of the way in silence.

     At the Mother’s house, Dorian, Bodhi, and my son decided to cook dinner for us while Grace and I went upstairs to check on the Mother. Her bedroom is on the third floor, and is accessed by a spiral staircase that comes straight up through the corner of the floor. I had never seen her room until yesterday, and the sight of it took my breath away. It looked more like a giant library than a bedroom, and the ceilings had to be twenty feet high. A dark wooden drafting table sat near the stairs with a beautiful watercolor painting of sunflowers pinned to it. There were still paintbrushes in a cup of water on the table beside it. In the far corner, enormous painted silk room dividers created a private space where the Mother was resting in bed.

     Grace is a master of energy medicine, and told me on the way up the stairs she’d like some time alone with the Mother to practice Reiki, a form of spiritual healing. When I asked if I should wait downstairs, she said she wanted my energy close by, so I quietly walked around the Mother’s enormous room while I waited. I could live happily ever after in that room. Beautiful warm lights were strung overhead, and in every giant window there was a meticulously cared for orchid. An entire section of the room was dedicated to quilt making, and there were hundreds of drawings and paintings all over the walls. I tiptoed quietly, feeling a little guilty for invading her privacy, but I couldn’t stop looking. Everything in that room was breathtaking. I was relieved when the Mother’s little white dog started following me around, the clicking of her nails on the wood floor masking the creak of my nosy footsteps.

     There were bookshelves everywhere, and the books they housed represented the widest range of topics imaginable. Woodworking. Spirituality and religion. Property law. A history of coal mining. Gardening. Cooking. Every form of art and craft imaginable from cross-stitch to oil painting. I was thumbing through titles when I came to a section of hard-backed journals. I looked over my shoulder, feeling very aware that this was definitely crossing a line. The journals were all different colors and designs, and their spines were unmarked. I tilted them slightly to see the hand-written titles on the front, in the Mother’s perfect fountain pen script:


     Grace cleared her throat, and I jumped like a startled cat. She flashed a very understanding look in my direction, and told me she was going down to check on the boys if I would like to have some time with the Mother.

     I sat down on the Mother’s bed and put her hand in mine. Her eyes were closed, but she squeezed my hand and smiled. She looked different. Frail. After holding my hand in silence for a minute or two, she placed her other hand on top of mine and opened her eyes, now with a look of concern, as if she could feel my anxiety. Her eyes look cloudy, and it is obviously difficult for her to keep them open.

     “Honey. What’s troubling you?” she asked me.

     I immediately started crying. I tried so hard to maintain composure, scolding myself for pouring my troubles out on the woman I was supposed to be here taking care of. I told her how worried I was, how things in the woods were scaring me. I told her about the Tanks feeling different, about Bodhi moving things, about my son thinking he saw Rupa before we left…I told her everything. It spilled out of me until I was laying beside her with my wet cheek on her shoulder. She listened to every word, squeezing my hand the whole time.

     “I’m worried about you, Mother. I’m worried you’re not okay. What would we do without you?”

     “Honey, let me tell you something right now, and this is a secret, ok?”

     I nodded, wiping my tears as she continued.

     “Nothing dies in the Lighted Woods. I’ve lived in these woods for ninety years. They’re a part of me now, but I was scared of them too at first. I was even a little scared for everyone to come here like this, because they really didn’t show themselves to you in our retreats. I think the woods were shy. They must just be opening up to you now that they know you’re here to stay.”

     I felt like my heart was going to beat out of my chest listening to her. She squeezed my hand again and paused, taking slow, deep breaths, motioning to me to do the same.

     “I want you to go over there on my shelf to all my journals.”

     I looked in the direction she pointed, pretending not to know exactly where they were. 

     “There’s one called Magic. Take it with you. For now, though, do me a favor and keep it between you and your boy. He’ll keep a secret, won’t he? I recorded every odd thing I found in these woods for at least twenty years. I think it’ll help ease your mind.”

     I stayed and talked with her for over an hour, until I heard someone making their way up the spiral stairs. The footsteps turned to a loud scratching noise, and I turned to see who was coming up the stairs.

 .      .      .

     I startle awake, realizing my memory of yesterday had morphed into a dream. The clock over the door says 5:33 am. The scratching sound from my dream is coming from the little front porch just outside the door. I slowly open the door and peek around the frame just as a giant grey wolf jumps off the porch and runs toward the woods. I take off too, hoping I run today like I did yesterday. I don’t even turn around until I am on the Mother’s porch, where my son is sitting in his wrap waiting for me.

     We walk to the Tank, enjoying the weather and talking about his sleepover. He is yawning every other word.

     “Guess you didn’t sleep much either, huh?”

     “No…I tried though. I swear. Me and Bodhi both tried but we were having too much fun. Look what he gave me!”

     I look down and see my son’s little hand stretched out, proudly holding a carved wooden toy wolf for me to see.

     We go into the tank and sleep for twelve hours straight.