Not long ago, Angelica’s soul had discovered a new way to fly. At times, it was as though she had been able to see herself from just outside herself, soaring to transcendent highs she had only ever dreamed of. She had marvelled at how those who surrounded her had finally spied the potential locked tightly inside her, finally giving her permission to break free from the dull cocoon that had kept her bright wings tightly bound. Slowly, eagerly, in the sunlight of encouragement, she had felt her whole self wriggle against the cocoon’s tightly woven confines, slowly building her strength until one bright day she had burst forth in a radiant mosaic of colour, unfolding her fragile wings until she could hold them tall above her as if proclaiming ‘This is I – ready to fly’. She was not some hand-cut, paper butterfly dangling in imitation flight from a glittery piece of string. Angelica’s transformation had been utter and complete.
The grey world she had inhabited had flooded instantly with luminous rainbows of joy and inspiration. A tall tree cast long, cool shadows infused with dappled-light and through its strong branches she took her first delicate, stringless flight. One by one, the green leaves crumpled, falling into a lush pile at the base of the tree’s wide trunk while prisms of sun-dappled light playfully painted the butterfly’s very strong yet extremely delicate wings. Without inhibition, she danced upon a breeze as a child dances in the shallows near the water’s edge. Steadily, her bright wings lifted her high above the common flowers and higher into the treetops, each flutter of her brightly coloured wings lifting her high and still higher, proclaiming: ‘This is my potential finally fulfilled. Now I can soar higher than falcon and farther than a gull. For the first time, I feel alive. For the first time, I feel as though I can feel anything at all.’ The euphoria transported her higher still into the starry night, moonbeams streaming through the canopy of leaves overhead, shiny wings glittering with all the intensity of a galaxy of sparkling stars.
Angelica struggled to pinpoint the precise moment when the glowing radiance of all things new had started to fade, when the colours of her bright wings had lost their iridescence, something indefinable sapping their strength and the lightness that brought them flight. Staring out over the ocean’s unsettled surface, Angelica heard herself sigh deeply, overwhelmed by a troubling sense of disconnect. Defeated, she closed her weary eyes against the gnawing realisation that somehow when she believed her eyes had been open, everything had irrevocably changed, without her noticing when or understanding why. She blinked, then blinked again, like a camera shutter clicking twice, first to focus, then to capture the image with greater clarity. The unnamable joys she had waited a lifetime to experience had excited her intensely at first, then without warning, they had somehow become difficult – impossible? – to keep in focus.
‘Where has all the magic gone?’ she finally found the words to ask. She felt the heart within her crack just a little, distorting the small, silver mirror of her self-definition. But at the same moment, she felt the sinking heart within her begin to lift, as in finally naming the core of her disconnect, she felt there might be some way to mend whatever it was that had started to fracture, to heal whatever small wound had begun to pinch inside her, threatening to tear and bleed. When was the last time she had found a way to connect deeply with the people who mattered most to her? When had there been opportunity to peel away the layers that had begun to consume her time and her mind, to simply find the time to laugh and talk deeply as only children can do – and to play?
Yes, somehow she had lost her gift of flight and was now once again no more than a pale pink paper butterfly dangling on a string, and somehow she had become utterly entangled. True flight had become little more than a distant memory or the hollow echo of some long lost sound that had once filled and thrilled her ears, but now resounded emptily in her heart. “But the magic can surely be brought back again,’ she told herself, at first tentatively, then with growing certainty, as the shadowy outlines of her friend’s almost forgotten face began to take sharper, more solid shape in the eye of her mind, and she heard his voice in her ear once more.
The boy with white hair smiled to her as warmly as though he had never been far from her side. His familiar smile twinkled more brightly than many of the stars suspended in the dark sky above him. It had been so long since the bright gleam of that smile had illuminated the growing dullness of Angelica’s world, and indeed, he himself had wondered whether his face would ever really beam so brightly again. ‘When you grow old, I grow old too,’ he told her, and brief sadness formed small clouds in both of their eyes as they realised the truth that had begun to settle upon them as they had drifted in different directions over the past few months. ‘Somehow,we keep each other very young, and you may not be able to hear it, but the Child inside each one of us is calling us to come and play once more, before …’ – he paused, a tear forming in his eye,’Before they are lost forever. I know where those children are waiting for us right now, and the time has come for us to rescue them’ he motioned. Angelica followed the white haired boy down the dark path towards the sound of the even darker ocean, hidden from sight under thick blanket of night.
‘I don’t understand,’ she murmered, transfixed by an intense glowing orb suspended high over the water by some eternally long invisible string. ‘What is that light? And where is it coming from?’ An intense, thick beam of sparkling light shimmered in a straight line across the whole expanse of ocean, cutting completely through the blackness far out at sea. It formed a wide, bright path over the rolling waves, connecting the water’s surface to the dark path down which they had walked, illuminating their steps towards the shimmering, sparkling sea. The friends now sat side by side on the grassy hilltop, overlooking all the water in all the ocean.
‘When people think of friendship,’ the boy explained, ‘they think it is something transient and abstract, something less powerful than every other light. But it’s not. Some of the light in this world is powered by True Love, and that light is very, very rare. It is the most intense kind of light you could possibly imagine, like the love I share with my beautiful girl with strawberry lips and sparkling ruby eyes.’ Angelica smiled warmly – the light that streamed brightly across the water towards her and her friend now was certainly not that kind of love. The boy’s face beamed brighter than all the stars in Orion when he spoke about that kind of light – how he treasured it above every other thing! ‘But what is THIS light?’ she repeated, for once she had found a way to ask a question as important as this one, she almost never let go of it.
‘This light is True Friendship – the purest, brightest, strongest beam of light in the world, next to True Love. True love is the sun, but True Friendship is the moon, and its magical glow illuminates the light of every other star that shines in the night sky. It is powered by time and trust and words and smiles. It is very simple, but very deep and very powerful. Its luminance transports those who learn to celebrate its beauty and who take the time to cultivate its richness far from every place where they feel lost and overwhelmed, here to the very edge of the deepest ocean.’
Angelica tuned her ears from the sound of her friend’s voice to the constancy of the waves crashing like the deep, life-sustaining breaths of the very earth itself, crashing again and again all around her at the surface. She nodded quietly. Yes, this inexplicably brilliant orb of light suspended over the ocean was True Friendship itself, as deep as the ocean beneath the watery surface it danced across. Then suddenly, the light was absolutely gone, and her heart filled with a certain kind of dread. Everything was so black, she could no longer make out the outline of the boy sitting next to her.
‘Sometimes it’s a bit like that, isn’t it?’ she whispered to the friend she could no longer see. ‘The light just disappears and I don’t know where you are or how to find you. It’s almost as if the magic was just a dream.’ ‘Sometimes it is,’ the white haired boy agreed, ‘and sometimes the whole planet feels completely dark and cold and the waves crash as though all the world will fall beneath their unfathomable power and be lost. But look -’ he leaned his head backwards towards the sky that now twinkled full of faintly glittering stars. He quickly locked his gaze upon his most beloved constellation, Orion. ‘Even though sometimes we cannot see the moon, it is always suspended high in the sky. It doesn’t vanish from existence when we can no longer find a way to bathe in its bright glow. But sometimes we do need to walk the dark path towards the ocean, even for just a few brief moments, before its light will emerge to illuminate our faces once more. Then we take the essence of that glow with us back into the dullness where its light helps us to see all that is devoid of light and colour with different eyes.’
Rising to her feet once more, Angelica nodded in her dark. It was true – the light was never lost forever. She just needed to find the time – somehow – to make her way to the ocean’s edge to bathe in that strange bright light again to somehow be recharged. It was a lesson she probably already knew to be true, but one she had needed to be reminded of. But one question lingered in her mind. She realised with sadness that when they left the water’s now darkened edge with only the sound of waves rolling continuously into the unseen shore below them, that there would be no escape from the world of Grown Up demands that had come to consume almost every moment of her life. ‘Thank you for showing me the light. But I thought you were bringing me here to find the Children again. Where are they?’ she asked her friend, forbidding her voice from revealing the full extent of her fear and disappointment.
And as the question spilled from her lips like a wish and a fear combined, the whole of the ocean lit up with one last bright burst that entirely eclipsed the bright beams of the first. In the intense glow of the moon’s magic light, the question answered itself. The hand she held in front of her bright, wide eyes was very small and smooth – the hand of a child. Pink laces threaded through tiny shoes that peeked from under the rolled cuffs of a pair of pale pink overalls. It was true – the magical light of friendship had transformed her into the eternal Child once more. She stretched out both of her arms and caught one bright beam of the brightest light in each of her hands, clasping it tightly into a ball as only a child can do. One beam she placed gently into her friend’s waiting hand, while the other she tucked safely into the pocket of her overalls. And as quickly as the light had reappeared, now it was gone again, but its glow would forever bring a bright white light into her child-like mind and heart. Quietly, the two children turned their backs against the darkened depths of the ocean, leaving behind them the haunting hum of waves crashing endlessly under the dark night sky, each with a single bright beam of True Friendship tucked safely and deeply inside their pockets to guide them until they could return together to the water’s edge once more.