On Acacia Munn

If my sister was a tree, then this woman was the wild wind in her branches.

How she soared. Like an oil-slick Camaro down an empty, lamp-lit highway, all contenders eating her exhaust fumes. She had cool factor in spades, from her black eyeliner to her skinny jeans to her mouthy attitude. You might tell her how to live, but she wouldn’t listen. She had her own way to go.

A woman like that, raising a couple of kids… I know someday, she and her family will be hell on wheels, burning rubber on their way to global domination along the world’s fastest racetrack.

On Sara Fuller

At first she was a friendly face, existing in a liminal time, just outside of everyone else’s clock. I’m not sure when she arrived, but it was sudden, with a splatter of toner ink on my purse and profuse apologies. (Personally, I thought it made the thing look cool and grungy.) Once she did show up, however, it was as if she had always been around, a half hour’s conversation I could sometimes look forward to at the end of the day.

She was a peaceful warrior, ready to improve the world with patience and understanding, no matter how small an action it took. She shared what she had with a smile and an open hand of giving to those in need. Hers were bright eyes, full of nebulae and galaxies and planets. The greatest gift she gave to me was the chance to look through a powerful telescope at the distant cosmos, the home of her heart. To her, I think, there under an overturned bowl of stars, it wasn’t a gift at all. Just an understanding that of course she would share this beauty with me.

Of course.

On Bob Baker

The steady hum of the ballgame on TV in the other room, or the distant banging of a hammer against a nail, always let me know where he was. Sometimes, on summer evenings, his song rang out over the open countryside, his fingers strumming an accompanying rhythm on his guitar strings. When I walked in the door, he greeted me with a booming hello. When I had to leave, he never said goodbye, just “see you later.” Because of course he would see me later.

He taught me how to sing and he taught me how to swear. He taught me how to use my voice to stand up for what moves me. He lived loud and allowed me space enough to yell.

He was the sound of home.

On Michael Sanders II

He was a point of stillness in a maelstrom. To find him in a whirling, busy crowd, you had only to look for the one anchored to the earth like a steadfast pillar. When he smiled, and stretched out his hand, it was to the quiet ones, the displaced ones, the rejected ones. He helped us up and brought us into his place of peace.

We conversed for hours, me and him and others, well into the night. Puns, jokes, silly things. Measuring out minutes with his warm voice, so that it felt like no time passed at all. He made us feel welcomed, accepted. Capable of facing the storm again when we stepped back out into the world. His wave and murmured “good luck” were enough to get us by for a while, until someday when it would be time to come back.

On Destiny Perez

She was a tall tree, strong as an oak, with wisdom flowing through her branches and a sense of home stretching into the earth alongside her roots. Her trunk was hollowed out by adversity and time, a comfortable space for the passing weary traveler to rest, a place to forget your troubles for a while.

Her leaves sighed and whispered in the breeze like a telephone conversation in the middle of the night. Or they pattered and chattered as she told those seated at her feet stories she’d heard on the wind. Her protective canopy provided equal parts shade from the sun and cover from storms.

I found when I felt lost in my journey, my steps often turned toward her. When I needed comfort, that hollow space would squeeze my shoulders just enough to be a hug. I wasn’t the only one, either. Many others bided their time with me, with her. She was our tree. We knew she would always be there for us.

On Jay Gurley

Between the silvered trunks of a mighty, alien forest, I came upon a wounded man. He sat next to a small campfire, one he had built himself. Pensiveness filled his eyes. A heavy, lead-lined cloak dragged at his shoulders, the red and gold hem crusted with mud. He had one hand pressed to his side and a puddle of crimson surrounded him, too much for him to still live.

When I gasped, he looked up at me. “I’m fine,” he said, flashing me a cocky grin.

“You’re not,” I retorted.

But when he pulled his hand away from his side, there was no blood. He showed his clean palm to me. “See? Nothing wrong.”

More blood seeped up from the ground, the puddle growing larger until it lapped at my bare toes. I went away from that place, feeling that I had let the world down somehow. I think he must have been a magician. A tricksy one, who pulled a blindfold down over my eyes.

On Joshua Edwards

His was a voice that often followed mine. I could drop a snappy comment and he would snatch it up, shift the trick sideways, and lob it back at me. You had to be quick on your toes around him, because you found that you didn’t want to disappoint him by dropping the ball.

Conversely, if he believed in you, you could do anything.

In his words was the wistfulness of a dreamer. He gave much and asked for little in return. But if you watched closely enough, you could see how, when he believed no one was looking, his gaze would drift toward the stars, the ache in his heart for something more becoming the ache in your own. I think he thought himself unnoticeable, invisible, and if you’re shifty enough, you can be. But I saw him. He’s real. If you’re quick enough to catch him, cup him gently in your palm, because starlight cannot be imprisoned.

On Adam Zielinski

Forever in my mind, he relaxed at a table surrounded by friends, the neck of a beer bottle held loosely between long fingers, his other hand gesturing a narrative point to support his story. He had an intensity about him, the electromagnetic capacity to hold his audience spellbound in a way I never could. But no matter the gravity of a topic, he couldn’t remain serious for long, often dissolving into laughter, along with the rest of us. When he listened, he listened. When he spoke, he spoke. But, I thought, when someone could make him laugh, that person gifted us with something small, yet wonderful.

On Lyle Hall

I came upon a solitary scarecrow in the middle of an empty field. At first, he wasn’t there, and then he was, just in the corner of my vision. He hunched against the elements, head bowed in the red evening sunlight. When I approached him, he seemed nearly translucent, so faded with the sun and the wind. But in his very human eyes I found a glint of mischief; humor was tucked into the corners of his smiling mouth.

I asked him which way to go and he pointed me in the right direction, keen to help. As he did, he became tangible again, not from my acknowledgement of his existence, but from his direct impact on reality. He had made change. Before I went on my way, he slipped a witty quip into my pocket. I keep it folded there even now, in case of nosey crows.