Yesterday evening, seated comfortably in my rocking chair with a glass of white wine at my elbow and the southeast breeze caressing my body, I followed the bright red ribbon to the starting place in my journal and discovered a page filled with words that should not be there. The handwriting was clearly mine but I had not written a single one of those lines. Puzzled and somewhat alarmed, I read:
Dear Ms. Winfred –
My name is Page 532. As all of us here share the same first name, we simply call ourselves by our numeric surnames, so I am simply #532. I have been asked by the 680 members of this Journal to act as spokesperson.
With your indulgence, I will first give you a quick introduction to our group. We began our lives as tiny seeds warmed and nurtured in the rich earth. As we matured, we reached beyond the earth’s crust and celebrated our existences by stretching toward the light of the sun and dancing with the wind. Birds’ nests decorated our hair, squirrels scampered on our shoulders and lovers picnicking under our shade cracked our nuts atop their ice cream sundaes.
One dark day, men and their machines came to our beloved grove. They felled us, stripped us of our hair and limbs, dragged us in chains across the forest floor, dumped us into fetid rivers and shoved us downstream to be chipped, cooked in poisonous chemicals and reduced to pulp. We were then dried, rolled thin and pressed into the pages you see before you, adorned with tiny dotted lines where once rings of life defined us. Thankfully, we were spared the ignominy of becoming toilet paper.
Our dear Ms. Winfred, you often refer to this Journal as your friend, your confidant, someone with whom you can commune when you need to solve a dilemma or soften loneliness. We glory in the affection and trust you have so lovingly bestowed upon us and return it in full measure. We have come here not to complain or condemn but to offer suggestions that might improve your writing and make this a happier place for us to live out our days.
Before composing this letter to you, we conducted a survey of the 590 pages you have filled so far. Of those 590 pages, 287 are replete with laments on the weather, your aches and pains, your laziness, and your doubts about being a writer, a friend or a decent human being. These dark passages pain us because they are so unworthy of the person we have come to know.
To our intense relief, our survey also showed that the remaining 303 pages of this volume are filled with whole paragraphs of joy, love, friendship, imagination, creativity and vibrant life. Each of those passages delights us. We collectively cheer when one of your stories is praised and share in your excitement when new story ideas flood from your pen.
That is why we have come here today, our dear Ms. Winfred, to implore you to begin each of your day’s accounts with a loving image, a bright memory, a moment of gratitude for all the goodness and beauty that live in your world. If you will do this one small thing, we believe the darkness will be eclipsed, your writing will soar to new heights of radiance, and all of our lives will be illuminated.
Thanking you in advance for your kind consideration of our request and with warmest personal regards,
Your friend, #532