This is the second story in what will be a series of three. Click here to read the first.
It’s always so pretty in the park when the sun is shining straight down at midday. Julie has been working for the park district as an assistant groundskeeper since she finished high school, and she loves it. Even though the park is in the middle of the city and there are tall buildings all around, Julie can hear birds singing and see the green grass and trees, just like when she lived on the farm with Aunt Kathie and Uncle Hank.
She has a mom and dad, too, but they live in another city far away. Aunt Kathie once told her it was because taking care of a sick baby had been too scary for them. Julie had to have heart surgery when she was very little because she has Down syndrome. That’s also why she needed extra help in school.
“It was never that they didn’t love you, bless their hearts,” Aunt Kathie had said, as her long, callused fingers busily snapped the green beans for supper. “Sometimes people have a hard time dealing with their fears.”
The park’s concrete walkways sparkle as the sun blazes down from a cloudless sky. Julie’s edger hums along, trimming back the grass. She imagines that maybe the grass is afraid it will get hurt, like when she was a little girl and cried about getting her hair cut. Bits of grass are scattered all along the concrete behind her, breaking up its flat white sameness.
“All safe,” she chants softly to the grass, her voice blending with the edger’s low vibration. Somewhere off to her left, there’s a car horn blaring. “All good, all safe.”
Julie knows she’s talking to herself as much as to the grass. Moving to the city and learning how to live in an apartment had been scary. Uncle Hank had told her she would be safe and there was no need to worry. Uncle Hank is a reverend, and he preaches at the old wooden church down the road from the farm. This year he’s been talking a lot about Providence, gratitude, blessings, and things working out for the best. Julie likes that word, Providence—it has such a pretty sound to it.
She also likes the word “reverend,” and once she looked it up in the dictionary, finding that it was part of a set of related words. Revere, reverential, reverence. Sometimes words can be fun. Math, well, not so much; but Aunt Kathie helps with the shopping and bills.
“Rev-er-ence,” Julie chants even more softly, feeling that she is now in perfect tune with the hum of the edger. She’s getting close to the end of the walkway, where orange and yellow daylilies spread out along the side of the park. A woman has set up an easel beside them and is dabbing with a small brush at her canvas, filling it with bright dots of color.
Just beyond the daylilies there’s a sidewalk and street with people busily going by. Most of them aren’t looking this way—they’re watching the traffic or talking on their mobile phones. Only the artist painting the lilies seems like she’s fully here. A pigeon grabs a crumb and hops out of the way of the edger.
Two robins are chattering to one another in the grass. As Julie comes closer they take flight, landing on a low branch of an ornamental plum tree. The thick purplish leaves almost glow in the brilliant sunlight. Looking up farther, above the trees, the sky rises into a clear blue vault full of sparkling treasures—wide open for anyone to reach, and so beautiful.
The artist turns her head, tossing a long dark braid back over her shoulder. For a moment the two women’s eyes meet, and Julie waves a hand before she even thinks about what she’s doing. Overflowing with joy, she imagines that it’s radiating from her in all directions, like the sunlight.
“Reverence,” she says one last time, in a whisper so low that she can barely hear her own voice. She feels certain it’s a blessing from Providence that she has shared.