field of sweetgrass

There’s an overgrown field of sweetgrass behind Georgia’s childhood home. When it gets cold out, the sweetgrass dries and rough leaves make small cuts on young fingers. Georgia used to go out at dusk and hold a piece under her nose, inhaling as much as she could before her lungs were filled to the brim. On the rock formations nearby, the letters “GL” were scratched into sediment and nearly washed away by months of rainfall. 

In March of her senior year, Georgia sat out in the sweetgrass field for an entire afternoon. She brought with her a notebook, pen, a bottle of water, and a sleeve of Ritz crackers. Under the warmth of her dad’s winter coat, she wrote down how she felt about graduating, how it would feel to leave the safety of her parent’s home, and how she hoped that she would be happy wherever she wound up. She wrote three pages without looking up from her pen scratching the paper. When a plane flew overhead, she turned her eyes to the sky and noticed the light shifting. Golds turned to blues and the sweetgrass softened. She wrote five more pages, closed her book, and went inside.

Before she moved away, Georgia spent an afternoon in the field. She laid down in the sweetgrass that grew taller for the spring and crossed her arms tightly around her own chest, wondering how long she could stay still there before someone came looking for her. The humidity swung back and forth with the breeze and the goosebumps on her forearms perked up. She closed her eyes as long as she could. She listened for the brushing grass, a distant plane, and the low hum of cars from town. When her eyes opened, the sky was still there. The blank, purple wash was framed by tall stalks of sweetgrass tops and the occasional fly. When the April evening overture started, she sat up and watched the sun sink below the mountain. 

On her visit back in December, Georgia’s shoes crunched against fresh snow that covered the field of sweetgrass. Sprigs were visible here and there, scattered around the white sea beneath the boulders. She laid out a blanket on top of the flat rock and sat down. Warm tears fell against cold cheeks and Georgia pulled her legs up against her body and hugged her knees. Her chest was heavy and heaving quickly until she caught her breath to look out at the snow. There was untouched space under the blue sky and the late noon sun sparkled against the ground. She let the emotion rush over her and steadied her breathing. She stayed compact on the rock until a fresh layer of snow began to fall above her. She couldn’t feel her fingers so she went back home. 

Georgia spent some time away from the field of sweetgrass to learn. She fell in and out of love with others and herself. She remembered writing in her senior year and crying in the winter. She came back for the holidays and hid notes under the floorboards. Georgia raised her son next to the field of sweetgrass. The two of them had picnics on Saturday afternoons on the flat rock in the summer. She watched him stumble around loose stones and taught him how to hold the blades of grass under his nose and breathe to fill his lungs. She taught him how to write the alphabet and how to drive a car.

Eventually, he’ll grow up and move away the same way she did, eager to get away from what he’s known and unaware of his lack of experience. He will call on Sunday evenings and tell her about the girl he’s met and the way she sings. He’ll ask if she can come to visit for Thanksgiving and Georgia will offer her a seat at the table. He will take her out to the sweetgrass field and kiss her when her head is resting against the cold ground. After dinner, the three will sit around the coffee table and talk about school and Christmas plans. There will be a moment’s lull in the conversation and Georgia will catch a look from the girl in her living room. While her son watches the fireplace, the girl holding his hand will have her eyes on his face. Georgia will see the devotion in her. It lives in the way she looks at him with the desire to be loved without hesitation and the way she’ll offer to help wash the dishes after dinner and the way she’ll walk beside him into the field. Georgia will remember herself crying in the snow and the freezing dusk, yearning for that trust, and turning up empty-handed. She’ll think of her son and hope that he has the sound mind to give this girl his time without wasting it. She hopes she’s taught him well. 

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