I painted a picture with a four year old girl today. My name is Arianna, she told me, but my friend’s name is Sophia and that sounds prettier so call me that, k?
As Sophia-who-is-Arianna talked about mermaids swimming in a pink sea under a green sun next to an island with a tree, I dipped my brush into the water. And then, as blue and purple swam together across my page, my mind wandered back in time.
Even as a child, the sky at sunset amazed me. I didn’t know much about anything, but I knew that sky, those colors, the way orange turned to red turned to pink turned to purple turned to blue, I knew this was a God gift. I knew enough to appreciate the beauty above.
I knew how to sneak up on a lightning bug, how to cup my hands just right so I could catch one without causing harm. I knew they needed friends, companions and light to comfort them throughout the night, just like me. I knew they needed leaves in their new home, a Duke’s mayonnaise jar, and holes poked through the lid, because they also needed air. Living things must breathe, I knew this much.
And I knew when the sun rose again, I had to release them because freedom, room to fly, space to just be, that is the most necessary of all.
I didn’t know much, but I knew these things.
I like those stars you painted, Sophia-who-is-Arianna told me. I almost corrected her. Almost said no. Almost told her they were lightning bugs. And then I realized she was right. I didn’t know it back then, but those bugs against that perfect sunset sky, they were my stars, guiding me through my childhood. They were teaching me about life before the time would come when I needed those lessons learned. They must’ve known. Known I would lose you, that I would not know how to go on without you. Not until I remembered.
Look up for God. Feel small against the sky. Appreciate beauty. Be gentle, with myself, with others, with this world. Surround myself with friends. Keep a soft place to land and fly when I can. Bring light to others. And make sure I have holes in my jar, moments when I can step away from it all and just breathe. Just. Breathe.
My childhood summertime night lights became my stars, my navigation system for life. This is what you need to survive, they said. This is how to be alive. This is how you live.