It isn’t hard to imagine it. Find any forest with thick-trunked threes, any shafts of light slicing through the canopy, and cicadas’ sound needles piercing the air. A scent of wet soil, a velvet of moss at your fingertips, and the wind swirling whispers around you from beyond. Not the dark beyond, no one’s died, unless I count my childhood.
A red mushroom on a twig at the bottom of a pine. The blue of a wild violet, the flame of an early crocus. Like Gretel, I follow the crumbs and step over the fog’s gossamer net into the place with no questions.
The river is here. My cousin and I are barefoot, barely taller than the dust-powdered bush along the road. The sun roasts the back of the stones, and they crumble in soft protest. Small fish dart, away from our fishing rods — mulberry branches with goose-feather floats. We cast, we wait, hours spill. The evening sways its purple wings, splashes inky shadows.
The luck is mine. I pull the fish out, golden with the sun’s last glance.
‘Make a wish, and let me go,’ he says.
‘I want to come back here. Whenever life is the hardest.’