A small park next to the library in my neighborhood has a statue that I’ve idly noticed for years. “The Readers” by artist Russell Faxon is a life size bronze of a little girl and an older man sitting on a park bench. Each has a book in hand, and the man is peering toward the girl to see what she’s reading. It’s intricately crafted and fun, and I never gave it much thought beyond that observation.

That benign disregard changed in the last couple of years as I’ve been engaged in a powerful therapeutic process that has more deeply connected me with the little girl inside. Knowing her isn’t new; learning about and connecting with her has been an important part of my process since I began a healing journey in 1991. Yet this season has been different. Much deeper.

I have come to welcome all parts of myself in an intentional process anchored in a combination of experiential therapy, Internal Family Systems, and somatic (body) work. Changing life circumstances have pushed me deeper into my heart, my experiences, my needs and desires, and my relationships with significant people and with God. It’s been a powerfully healing process, even after decades of healing work.

Around the same time that I began this interior journey, as part of my physical self-care I started walking twice daily up the steep hill to the library park. Sometimes, as I looped around the sidewalk, I paused and paid attention to the statue. I was drawn to the little girl and before long, I was stopping to visit with her every time.

Daily, usually more than once, I stood or sat beside her. I talked to her and listened to her and nurtured her. She came to represent both my hurting and my healing self, as both are present within me. I came to delight in her and stroked her face and kissed the top of her head each time before walking on.

These things might sound crazy to you, and sometimes people have looked at me oddly. I didn’t and don’t care. Connecting with this little girl connected me with the MamaGod who has always been with me, even before I was aware of Her presence. Despite the wrenching loneliness I had felt all my life, I never was and never am alone. Something about this physical representation of the little girl, so reliably visible and substantial, solidified that belief. As I connected with this sculpture, I became both the little girl and her mom, both receiver and giver.

Before long I realized that other park visitors also enjoy the statues. During the COVID mask mandate they were regularly protected by a variety of masks; in the summer they often sport hats; and in winter they are wrapped in scarves and sometimes coats that are put around their shoulders by concerned passersby. Tending to the readers has become a fun neighborhood activity.

When the weather turned quite cold recently, on a whim I decided to take a scarf to the little girl. I chose a blue one that a dear friend had made for me. It’s a gentle light shade, soft and luscious and unusually long. I thought it would be perfect to wrap around her head and neck and upper body. I placed it carefully around her and told her about the friend who crafted it.

The next morning I felt some anxiety when I couldn’t see the scarf from a distance, but when I got closer I found that the wind had only loosened it from her head. The sun was bright and I just tied the scarf in a square knot around her so that the long ends draped across her body. She looked pleased and beautiful.

After being away for a few days, one of the first things I did when I got home was to walk to the library park. I became anxious when, once again, I rounded the corner and didn’t see the blue scarf around the little girl, then angry when I stood by her and saw that the scarf was definitely gone.

WHO TOOK MY LITTLE GIRL’S SCARF???” shrieked my internal irate voice. My Enneagram One fumed that someone had violated the rule I was sure must be in effect: the one that says whoever places something on one of the statues decides whether and when to remove it. Such things are special to whoever leaves them, and no one else has the right to mess with those engagements! Who would be so disrespectful, so thoughtlessly selfish?

For hours I fumed about the loss of her scarf. (Yep, that angry one inside is still alive and strong and apt to be activated.) Later that evening, it occurred to me that maybe someone really needed the scarf. Occasionally, I see someone who appears to be homeless sitting in the park, and maybe the scarf’s presence was seen as a gift from his or her own MamaGod. I felt better about that possibility.

Then late that night a mental picture came unbidden and stayed with persistence. The little girl was off her bronze bench and twirling with her scarf around the sidewalk. She explained that someone admired the scarf’s beauty, and she quickly held it out for the taking. Her new friend was delighted by the gift of the blue scarf, offered freely with love, and the little girl returned happily to her bench, full.

Ah, the youngster had schooled me again by providing a fresh, expansive viewpoint. What a vision!

I want to live like that: forgiving and generous and open-hearted, even to the things that may feel like loss in the moment. The blue scarf was made with love during a difficult time in my friend’s life when she needed a distraction, and I had received and enjoyed it with love and gratitude. I gave it to the little girl, who told me she delighted in it, then she passed the gift along to another.

I’ll choose to embrace and to do my best to replicate that story of blue-scarf living. It’s who MamaGod is growing me to be.

Marnie C. Ferree