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October 2018, vol 14 no 3

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Mary Ellen Gambutti

Sacred Space

A grove of black oak and pine stretches behind the American housing enclave in the heart of Tokyo. A girl of ten, I roam mossy ground and wide dirt paths, a Druid under a domed canopy. Under dapple of summer, or bare winter chiaroscuro, we carve hearts in bark, peel cambium scars to renew initials. We lift brown slipped shells of cicadas – gripped papery skins cling to rough bark – affix threatening, lifeless badges to our shirts. Rainy season, in sockless boots, we wade in waving grass – the path a stream. One-hundred and seventy acres of evergreens planted in 1926 surround inner gardens of Meiji Shrine. A forest fragment spills over a fieldstone wall that undulates along the edge, banks and borders my own sanctuary.

Winter light –
her red parka
chirp of Cardinal

Note: A different version of this piece was first published in Nature Writing.