Barbara Sibbald is an author, editor and journalist. Her previously published works include The Book of Love and Regarding Wanda. A health journalist for over twenty years, she currently works as News and Humanities editor at the Canadian Medical Association Journal. She lives in Ottawa, Ontario.
'Tell me,' he says. 'But, please, may I sit down? My ankle-I broke it a few years ago....'
'Of course, I should have offered.' She gracefully removes a stack of boxes from one of the chairs, perches them on top of another pile-precariously, it seems to him, yet they stay put.
He sits. His legs are cramped, held in at an odd angle against the press of boxes and books, but his ankle is definitely more at ease. 'Thank you,' he says. 'Now, tell me: What's all this about?'
'You're the first who's asked,' she says. 'I don't like to show unless there's interest. I believe that curiosity is life's force.'
She turns and begins shifting boxes from another pile, finally unearthing the one she wants. Its glossy packaging promises a tool for effortlessly dicing rock-hard root vegetables and pungent onions. She places the box on top of a stack of large books beside him so it's level with his head. Rather than opening the box from the top, she pulls at the sides: it falls open. His mouth falls open. He feels as though he's entered another world.
He's in a tree amidst branches, mottled leaves and roughly textured bark. And there, partly hidden, a nest, containing three robin's eggs, the pure blue reflecting a perfect summer sky. A small human finger, a child's, gently touches the edge of the nest. Beyond the nest, other trees tower; it's a forest, yet more. An orchestrated forest. What an ideal forest might look like. A pair of squirrels is poised on a nearby branch; their chatter is almost audible. And he glimpses a deer lying in the grass below, asleep or at rest. Perhaps dead. It's like a set in a play, he thinks. Only real. Yet not.
'It's beautiful,' he says after a moment, aware of the woeful inadequacy of his words. He cannot say more, fears he may begin to cry, though he's not sure why.