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Karen C Vanderlaan

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A Measure of Heaven
By Karen C Vanderlaan
Thursday, November 15, 2007

Rated "G" by the Author.

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           >> View all 6

we all need a bit of escape now and then

         She was cold and needed to potty. So badly that she didn't think she could possibly get up off her cot in the barn isle without wetting herself. And, it was so dark. The seconds ticked by like forever. She finally hoisted her shivering body off the wobbly cot and ran for the barn door grabbing for the roll of toilet paper but dropping in her haste. The horses in the barnyard startled and snorted in surprise. Relief came quickly. Back on her cot, listening to the breathing of her brother and sisters, sleep finally found her again.

         "Time to get up."

          She jumped up, smoothed the cover up to the pillow grabbed her clothes and ran to the front of the barn. Her older sister, already washing at the spigot, was pink and shivering from the cold.

          "Lets Go, breakfast is almost ready."

          She wet the washrag and began the teeth chattering chore.


           Skinny little sister ran naked up to wash, fear on her face at the prospect of punishment for being late. The girl's heart melted at the sight of her baby sister, she did love her so. She threw her shirt over the thin body and shot her an understanding quick smile.

           She had been twelve now for only a month, the same amount of time she had been living in this foreign place. In her past, she had slept in a warm bed. In her past, her toilet flushed. In her past, she had sat around a table in the early morn to have bacon and eggs, swinging her legs under a table with her family. In her past, no one got beat for no reason. In her past, she had been tucked in by her father…

           Out to dig fence post holes she has to get it done. Each hole must be two feet deep it's marked on the handle of the shovel. The pick axe helps with rocks. She feels defeated by the hole but her tears don't make it easier.

         Bone tired she settles into her cot and wraps her hands behind her head. Ritually, she rocks side to side as quietly as she can. It works, no-one yells at her. Maybe they are all asleep already.

           A gentle nudging causes her to open a sleepy eye. Gentle is not much a part of her life. This is strange. Another nudge and both eyes are open as she rolls over. Two velvet nostrils in front of her face blew warm breath, heating her cheeks.

          Sub-consciously she thought, "The horses are out!" She jumped up and reached for a shock of mane to grab in order to lead him back out of the barn. The horse nudged her pushing her to his shoulder. She tugged on his mane, harder this time, "Come on, you need to get out before you make a mess and I get in trouble." Another nudge, more persistent sends her up against his warm, sleek …weird shoulder.

           Suddenly wide awake she knows that something is very, very different about this horse. From his back, magnificent wings are folded above him. Only in her wild imaginings has she seen such an astonishing creature. He nudged her again.  Finally understanding, she deftly leapt onto his back. He turned, then, and silently glided out of the barn window. "Whew, she thought, I was afraid I had left the door unlatched and would get whipped."

          It was the only unhappy thought she had that night.

          And they flew. Up and through the clouds he soared, determined, as if on a mission. Her body reveled in the familiar feel of equine muscles rippling beneath her flesh. She knew no fear.

         "Time to get up."

          Wash, eat, work, it all went by quickly as thoughts of equine magic and flight filled her soul. Even the cutting remarks and degradation by her mother's 'significant other' were imbedded less deeply into her psyche than usual.

          Riding her pony after dinner brought back the surge of freedom from the previous night's adventure as, in full gallop, she just let go and raised her hands and face to the sky. She and her pony were as one as her twelve-year-old troubles seemed far away.

         Each night he came, nuzzling her to swing aboard. They pressed onward progressing in their venture. They flew past Cassiopeia, Orion, and the big and little bears. Flew through the middle of Pegasus and jumped into the Milky Way.

          She named him Astrolabe, a way to measure the heavens.

          The two would fly ever upward and onward searching, on a quest. To him she could tell her secrets and all of everything that her heart could hold. She could tell how she felt like nothing, or maybe even less. She could tell how she just could never, ever seem to be good enough.

          And Astrolabe flew on.

          On a fateful night, their destination close at hand, the night sky opened up to a glorious light. Blinded by its brightness, Astrolabe jerked and tumbled earthward. 

          Separated, Astrolabe recovered and went on.

          She jerked with a start upon that old army cot and lay for a moment in shock. Astrolabe never came again. His mission was complete.

          It wasn't yet her time.


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Reviewed by CJ Heck 5/30/2011
You have a rare talent for grabbing your reader in the first paragraph and gently pulling them along to the very last word, and assuring that they still want more. Excellent writing, Karen. I enjoyed this very much.
Hugs to you,
Reviewed by 000 000 9/10/2008
To have the imagination of a child again. They seem to adjust and have their dreams to protect and make a rough time bearable. This is a touching and emotional story. Sometimes our fantasy dreams keep us safe in adulthood and give us an escape. Our age though, prevents us telling anyone. Wonderful writing, CarolHawks
Reviewed by P-M Terry Lamar 4/6/2008
An excellent story. You made us know and understand this young girl in such a short time and them made us care about her and her fantastic dreams.
Thank you,
Reviewed by Richard Orey 3/3/2008
Being a 12-year-old girl is a difficult time, at best. But to be shackled with a new and burdensome lifestyle dominated by a harsh "significant other" is a reality many know and remember with regret and sadness.

The age of twelve is not the only time in life where harsh reality hits us head-on with the force of a dueling ram, often when we least expect it. It is then that we must recall the prize that an unharbored spirit can provide: "You can rule my body, but you cannot conquer my spirit."

Each in our own way, we must take strength not only in knowing God's presence in our lives but in exercising the mental escapes we can conjure up from within that relieves the pressure of "now" by reminding us of "what will be."

Hope and confidence in our future can be a secret formula in our darkest of times. Know this: We are never alone. God is everywhere.

"A Measure of Heaven" is well written and delivers a powerful message. Well done, Karen Vanderlaan. Well done.

Reviewed by Leo Durrant 11/16/2007

This is a very touching and strongly-written piece. I love stories about young people people finding themselves -- it's such an awkward time in life. That awkwardness is compounded even more when those who are supposed to support you try to tear you down. Great personal triumph here in the escape.
Well done.
Reviewed by Mr. Ed 11/16/2007
Both dreams, and wondrous friends like Astrolabe, truly make life bearable some times.
Reviewed by Randall Barfield 11/16/2007
Enchanting read. Strange sites and living arrangements. Makes me wonder how many moms take their kids into account when taking on a 'significant other'. I don't think many do. 'Twelve-year-old troubles' is a precious phrase. Cheers
Reviewed by Karen Vanderlaan 11/15/2007
sorry about the update so soon-had to make a correction
Reviewed by R Beeman 11/15/2007
Dreams are true pathways straight to our Heaven. Reality is sometimes a cruel teacher that tries to break and reign in our soul, but our dreams are a way to allow us to cope.

Reviewed by Karen Lynn Vidra, The Texas Tornado 11/15/2007
Powerful story, Karen; very well penned! BRAVA!

(((HUGS))) and much love, your friend in Tx., Karen Lynn. :(
Reviewed by Felix Perry 11/15/2007
The escape of a child's brutal existance in a cruel situation is lightened by the hope that maybe in her mind the magic allows her to live and survive till things get better...hope.

Reviewed by Staci Gansky-Wagner 11/15/2007
Great story takes one away for a moment.
Reviewed by Kathy Armijo 11/15/2007
We all need to have that ability to "fly" even if only in our dreams. This is most peaceful inspite of the difficulties in her [and our] daily life.

God bless you. Kathy

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