Excerpted from Love, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli Copyright © 2007 by Jerry Spinelli. Excerpted by permission of Knopf Books for Young Readers, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
I love beginnings. If I were in charge of calendars, every day would be January 1.
And what better way to celebrate this New Year’s Day than to begin writing a letter to my once (and future?) boyfriend.
I found something today. Something special. The thing is, it’s been right in front of me ever since we moved here last year, but today is the first time I really saw it. It’s a field. A plain old vacant field. No house in view except a little white stucco bungalow off to the right. It’s a mile out of town, a one-minute bike ride from my house. It’s on a hill—the flat top of a hill shaped like an upside-down frying pan. It used to be a pick-your-own-strawberries patch, but now it grows only weeds and rocks.
The field is on the other side of Route 113, which is where my street (Rapps Dam Road) dead-ends. I’ve biked past this field a hundred times, but for some reason today I stopped. I looked at it. I parked my bike and walked into it. The winter weeds were scraggly and matted down, like my hair in the morning. The frozen ground was cloddy and rock-hard. The sky was gray. I walked to the center and just stood there.
How can I explain it? Alone, on the top of that hill, in the middle of that “empty” field (Ha!—write this down, Leo: nothing is empty), I felt as if the universe radiated from me, as if I were standing on the X that marked the center of the cosmos. Until then I had done my daily meditation in many different places in and around town, but never here. Now I did. I sat down. I barely noticed the cold ground. I held my hands on my thighs, palms up to the world. I closed my eyes and dissolved out of myself. I now call it washing my mind.
The next thing I noticed was a golden tinge beyond my eyelids. I opened my eyes. The sun was seeping through the clouds. It was setting over the treetops in the west. I closed my eyes again and let the gold wash over me.
Night was coming on when I got up. As I headed for my bike, I knew I had found an enchanted place.
Oh, Leo, I’m sad. I’m crying. I used to cry a lot when I was little. If I stepped on a bug I’d burst into tears. Funny thing—I was so busy crying for everything else, I never cried for myself. Now I cry for me.
And now I’m smiling through my tears. Remember the first time I saw you? In the lunchroom? I was walking toward your table. Your eyes—that’s what almost stopped me in my tracks. They boggled. I think it wasn’t just the sight of me—long frontier dress, ukulele sticking out of my sunflower shoulder sack—it was something else too. It was terror. You knew what was coming. You knew I was going to sing to someone, and you were terrified it might be you. You quick looked away, and I breezed on by and didn’t stop until I found Alan Ferko and sang “Happy Birthday” to him. But I felt your eyes on me the whole time, Leo. Oh yes! Every second. And with every note I sang to Alan Ferko I thought: Someday I’m going to sing to that boy with the terrified eyes. I never did sing to you, Leo, not really. You, of all people. It’s my biggest regret. . . . Now, see, I’m sad again.
As I said last week, I wash my mind all over the place. Since the idea—and ideal—is to erase myself from wherever and whenever I am, I think I should not allow myself to become too attached to any one location, not even Enchanted Hill, as I call it now, or to any particular time of day or night.
So that’s why this morning I was riding my bike in search of a new place to meditate. Cinnamon was hitching a ride in my pocket. As I rode past a cemetery a splash of brightness caught my eye. It was a man sitting in a chair in front of a gravestone. At least I think it was a man, he was so bundled up against the cold. The bright splash was the red and yellow plaid scarf he wore around his neck. He seemed to be talking.
Before long I found myself back near my house, in a park called Bemus. I climbed onto a picnic table and got into my meditation position. (OK, back up . . . I’m homeschooling again. Gee, I wonder why—my Mica High School experience went so well! Ha ha. So I have to meet all the state requirements, right?—math, English, etc. Which I do. But I don’t stop there. I have other courses too. Unofficial ones. Like Principles of Swooning. Life Under Rocks. Beginner’s Whistling. Elves. We call it our shadow curriculum. ((Don’t tell the State of—oops, almost told you what state I’m living in.)) My favorite shadow subject is Elements of Nothingness. That’s where the mind wash comes in. Totally wiping myself out. Erasing myself. (((Remember the lesson I gave you in the desert?))) Which, when you think about it, is really not nothing. I mean, when I’m really doing it right, getting myself totally erased, I’m the opposite of nothing—I’m everything. I’m everything but myself. I’ve evaporated like water vapor into the universe. I am no longer Stargirl. I am tree. Wind. Earth.)
OK, sorry for the detour (and parenthetical overkill). . . . So there I was, sitting cross-legged on the picnic table, eyes closed, washing my mind (and getting school credit for it!), and suddenly I felt something on my eyelid. Probably a bug, I thought, and promptly washed away the thought, and the something on my eyelid just became part of everything else. But then the something moved. It traced across my eyelid and went down my nose and around the outline of my lips.