Letting Go

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In a meadow stroked by oven-baked green and grease, a barn rests in the small shade and lean of a prickly-haired rimu tree. Its once fierce butcher's apron pales and peels like a tomato in the boil. Young natives: lanky lancewood chasing the sun; tōtara, knotting at the throat; kauri, thick with jealousy over the others' heights; are spared their blushes by the end-of-life caring lichen, enveloping the building in its vibrant dressing. And the Epiphytes—their keep's well-earned too—have forever tried strangling the timber together. This structure belongs beside Stonehenge, God's playbook, page 42.

But unlike the world's official wonder, the barn will soon collapse. The ra-ta-ta-ra-ta-ta-ra-ta-ta-tah of a single slanted window slamming and yielding as the wind passes through is a heart-rate monitor, a beat that predicts it ends with speed. The pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa of a ten-thousand-strong colony debating what beam to taste next is a professional demolisher, an unwelcome real estate developer. The thunk-a-thunk-a-thunk-a-thwack of a stone drumming the cracks is a spite, a furnace that smelts the soul twelve degrees less than grief.

I could drop the stone and win the lottery of a couple weeks. I could sweep the colony and deprive the decay a month more. I could replace the window and bolt the door but he said to me, "What's life without living?"

Who cares. It will still be too early then too. Too early for the rimu to wriggle its roots a little deeper, too early for the teenage tree to stand on its own thousand feet. Too early for the rimu to grow a shaggier head of hair, too early for the teenage tree to shade its own my dear. Too early to say goodbye.

"What's life without you?"

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The young man throws the stone one last time. It pierces the timber, cutting another wound among many. He hears the thunk as it lands, and he knows it will remain forever in there. Well, until he returns here on the morrow of the final day.

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