The Arrangement of Nature and Me by Francesca Gundrum

As sunbeams spilled though the glass windows and walls encasing the dining room, I melted into my post-dinner rituals. Wiping a stray caramel ringlet from my face with one of my soap-coated gloves, I shifted my melancholy gaze towards the lake in front of me. In an instant, a spark ignited, excited as my eyes acquired the sight before me. My ceramic grasp softened as the dishes collided with the bottom of the silver sink; I stripped my fingers from their cadmium shackles and slid into a threadbare pair of my Father’s boots. I precipitated down towards the water’s edge—enraptured with the orchestra of life before me. I slowly stepped onto the mold- tinged dock and laid, navel-to-pine—absorbing this moment of utmost natural harmony.

The sun effortlessly balanced its golden tendrils on the tops of the coniferous trees that laced the rocky shore to the sable ripples of the lake. The water slowly swallowed the last remaining moments of the day into its depths. Just barely out of my reach, a family of beavers unzipped the glassy surface with their tangerine teeth brimming with layers of debarked sticks and twigs and branches to be bricks. A doe and her buck swam alongside the beavers— dissecting the water’s skin with every simultaneous stroke of their hooves. Their every tread beat the blood through my veins; the sights around me defrosted my inner-mammal and scraped away my human. The bullfrogs’ cavernous croaks and peepers’ cheeps peppered together as they tangoed the chimes of twilight. The gust above the water’s surface coaxed the cobalt-colored feathers of a Great blue heron to her treetop throne. The high-pitched prattling of a bat colony flooded my kaleidoscope spine as their ash-like wings contorted in the air above me; their every click and cry beat the drums within my ears with a rhythmic cacophony of calls. Beneath the water’s wrinkled complexion, I saw only the rose-tipped dorsal fins of the sunfish as they painlessly parted the grasses of the lake floor. I felt my pupils desperately stretching to absorb the fleeting scarlet sparks dancing along their spines.

A wave of warmth traversed through the marrow of my bones. My every synapse slid from neuron-to-neuron, delighted to pass this world throughout my mind. Like a symphony designed for the divine, each organism depended on the existence, persistence of another— mammals, reptiles, birds, fish, and I, we fit together in a painting of momentary unity.

In the distance, a stream of steel wool screams grated through my ear canals. My Mother gripped the bleach-white porch of our cedar home, demanding I return to the stainless steel chamber. Her howls pried me from this world unseen, untouched—her squawks like cadaverous knuckles clawing at the anima in me. I scraped a final inhale down my windpipe, blotting the elements of this alternate space to and through the meat of my nuclei. In an instant, the slap of a beaver’s tail, another, another, and another punished my human. Every sound of their strike boiled the vessels in my cherry cheeks. The deer darted onto shore with ivory tails blinding my baby-blue eyes. The treetop throne was without its queen. The tango of the frogs abandoned their dance. I quickly scanned the water’s surface: not a single crimson flicker. It was all over; the moment had vanished as if it had never existed.

I dragged my limbs back to humanity. Every step pounding the earth with the knowledge that I was once again a modern biped and unbelievably separated from her: the wilderness. For an instant, I was granted access to exist, persist, perceive in a cosmos that conceals itself from our distracted animations. I was not a human being; I was a human doing—actively a part of an orchestration of organic harmony.