Available September 2023
The Courage to Dream Again: Excerpt
My Dream grew from seed to sapling to maturity under the glow of sun and youthful wishes. It leafed into fullness with loving crooning and tears. Then determination followed by surrender brought blossoms to the branches and the buds of fruit with the music of prayer.
And here it is finally, lush and ripe and full of the promise of satisfaction. All I have to do is stretch out a hand and pluck it. What is there to fear?
Is it the absolute knowledge that if I take it, if I reach my hand out and harvest this fruit that I have worked so hard to grow from seed, everything will be changed? Everything will be different?
Such is the nature of what I have yearned for. Such is the life I have struggled to allow. I cannot accept my dreams and gift without being ready to release all that I have at this moment. All that I have today will shift and lurch and become something different the moment I pluck this opportunity. I will never be the same. I may be better, or not. I may be stronger or wiser or more empowered. But I will never again be what I am this day… and isn’t that what I’ve always wanted?
“He seems like a good fit,” Liam mumbled around a mouthful of mini-marshmallows.
I poured more coffee and leaned against the railing. Morning mist lent the trees an air of strangers lingering in the fog across the creek, eavesdropping. “He feels right. The tone is harmonic.”
“Think he’ll join?” he stretched, spreading massive wings out over the deck.
I shrugged. “I don’t know anything anymore. The ground shifts under my feet every day. I feel the rumble of something moving toward me—but I can’t even guess anymore because, well… none of this has been what I thought it would be. I’ve lost the ability to judge or anticipate.”
He sipped his hot chocolate and eyed me, pondering. Then he asked, “Do you want to turn back? There’s still time. You haven’t signed anything.”
Honestly, I’d been asking myself that question a lot lately. I’m happy. I adore my strange little life in the wildwoods. Creative freedom. Absolute autonomy. Space to indulge my imagination and build worlds to my little heart’s contentment.
When I knew I would be giving birth to stories with large scope and scale, I needed a safe, protected space to tuck in and bear down. So, I came out here, built a nest and gave birth for half a decade like a wild animal—and it’s been glorious. I’ve been allowed to be feral, unkempt, close to the earth, communing with sky and seasoned by time. My birthing songs started out angry, hungry, filled with pain—then as love filled my hollows the tone changed and wails became prayer, ache became wonder.
Somehow years went by and I was so enraptured by the magic of the creative process I missed the world turning, and technology evolving. I missed relationships and lost track of the everyday struggle of humanity. I lost touch with the outside. I forgot how to connect organically to others, how to lean into the flow and flux of shared spaces and conversations. I forgot how to be touched by strangers without flinching or weeping.
Though I knew the day would come when the stories would need to leave the nest, I’d fooled myself into thinking I had more time—a few more seasons, at least.
I’ve been squatting on the property line for months now, trying to decide which direction to go. I can remain indefinitely in this state of inner peace and creative bliss… or step outwardly and grow accordingly. I’ve stared at the crossroad so long moss bloomed on my feet.
“I don’t want to turn back, no.” I glanced at Liam. Morning light filtering through the mist, highlighting blond curls. “But I’ve been alchemized into something else in my time here and no longer fit out there. I’m not cut for the Hollywood cloth.”
Liam inhaled, leaned against the railing, and smiled. “No. You’re not.” He reached out and gripped my fingers, offering a gentle squeeze. Then he set his mug on the table, folded his wings in and plucked a pinion feather.
He presented me with a long white feather with an umber tip. “Then re-write the cloth, remake the fabric. Write it to fit you, your voice, your stories—not the other way around. Your new quill, milady.”
I accepted the feather, and the mission implied. The new quill was heavier than I expected. Despite it being a feather, it weighed as much as my favorite blade. I realized he’d given me the tool to cut my umbilicus, and maybe others’ too.
We finished our morning chat with mundane topics. Before Liam left for the day, he leaned in, pecked my cheek, and smiled. “I know you’re scared to leave the nest, but there are beautiful horizons to stretch for out there, and a sky full of stars waiting to greet you.” He touched the pinion feather sitting on the table. “On your terms… when you’re ready.”
The gust from his takeoff blew the napkins off the table. I sat on the deck looking over the water and thought about what he said.
As usual, when I wrap up my morning writing sessions of late, I can’t help but notice the shift in tone. Characters are stepping back, granting space as if they are bracing for something while also offering the opening for me to stretch. There’s a sense of stillness, a calm before the storm. And there’s a tremor in the earth beneath my feet that grows more pronounced every day. I don’t know what it means, if anything. It’s just noticeable.
In the meantime, I have a new quill to carve and a coming out story to write.
Athena lives and writes in the Siuslaw Forest, Oregon.