Somewhere hidden among your chromosomes is a small but insistent gene that says, “Find a stick. Carry the stick. Hit things with the stick.” It’s innate, instinctive, irresistible.
When you are a child, your stick neatly whips the heads off your enemies the nettles. Hydra-like, they double and thicken, regrowing from sideshoots to defeat your puny efforts at last.
When your own children begin to toddle through the woods beside you, you find yourself carrying a stick again—the smallest stick, generously handed to you after no-one else wanted it. You find a fallen tree, and together you joyfully knock cascades of dried mud from its crumbling root base. You splinter the ice in winter and measure the depth of mud-puddles in spring. You teach your little ones how to stage a staving-duel like Robin Hood and how to carry a bundle on a stick like Whittington of London. And you try to keep the peace after your husband finds a single long, grey, knobble-ended stick like Gandalf’s wand, and both children passionately want it.
This untidy pile of old sticks disfiguring your front garden: These are the stories you read and wrote together, the plastic toys you didn’t buy, the screen time your children didn’t get.
Fiona M. Jones is a part-time teacher and a parent. She has fiction published this year by Silver Pen, Bethlehem Roundtable, etc, and nonfiction on Folded Word.