SUNY Jefferson

The Sky is Falling

Rhonda M. Foote
The Sky is Falling

               I clearly remember all the fairy tales and folk tales I heard or read as a child. They fed my over eager imagination and sparked my unending curiosity. Jack climbing his beanstalk, Goldilocks and those three bears, Snow White and that cursed apple…but none captured my young imagination more than Henny Penny and her falling sky.
               My mother would explain repeatedly that the sky would not fall. She would add that it would not, at any point soon, come tumbling down. Still, there I would stand, firmly planted in ankle-deep grass on a hillside, squinting upward at the sky, anxiously looking for The Spot that would first crack like a white egg shell, and then spill forth much like the flowing yellow yolk of an egg. Would the sun burst downward in a ball of fire? Would the clouds float and then, suddenly, plummet onto me like a blanket of cotton balls which would lodge my nose and throat and make it impossible for me to catch my breath? Would the sky be transparent and formless, or would it crash down upon us in a fury of hail and painful wind? I am the first to admit these are not the thoughts of most children, but I firmly plant fault for these nightmarish images in the claws of Henny Penny.
               I wondered, and I worried, and I imagined. Some days, I still pause to remember that fear and wonder rolled into one ball of clenched nausea in the pit of my stomach. Some days, I live that fear.
               You see, as adults, we tend to know that clenched fist in the gut all too well. There have been many, many days when I felt the sky was falling. Not in the graphic way my five-year-old self thought…but in the too real way, and sometimes much worse way, grownups experience. Days like the one when that doctor told me child would not live past age ten. The moment that another doctor walked down a dimly lit hall of a famous New York City hospital to tell us that my mother’s operation could not contain the evil that is cancer, and had settled in her brain. The days when the bills piled higher than the cash. The days you forced a smile for your four-year-old, and bought her ice cream for dinner, because the refrigerator was empty, and you only had a few dollars. The days when you looked at your bright and brilliant offspring, and realized that you would give her all the terra firm of this world if not for that damn sky… that tilting, spiraling, floating form suspended just above your head. Falling. Always falling.
               Henny Penny may have clucked some nonsense, but that chick had a point. What if the sky IS falling… a little every day… or what if it plummets in sudden fury? What if we are so intent on putting one foot in front of the other on the ground in front of us that we miss it—until it is crashing over our heads, and filling our ears with a silent gush of soft wind—emptying our brains and pulling our souls out of our human form?
               I say, look up. Squint into that sun, see the fluffy forms of clouds, and imagine the creatures forming there. Talk to your loved ones who may reside in the deep blue of a Spring sky. Count the stars in a bright Summer night sky. Catch snowflakes on your tongue as they float and fall, and taste the acid in their coldness. Let Autumn’s rain drops splash the lonely tears from your face. You see, Henny Penny was not just some ignorant hen. She knew a little about life. Like Henny, I would much rather embrace the possibility of a falling sky, than have head to ground and peck away at my past missteps. I believe that no being is able to stop what they cannot see. It is, sometimes however, possible to summon super human strength and brace yourself for the fall of the sky above you. Plant feet firmly, slight bend of knees (so as not to injure your back), tense muscles and push, push, push that damn sky back into its intended position in your orbit. I have done this before. I will do this again. And, if I falter, if I fail, I will still gaze upward because after all I have lived through, I do not intend to miss the glory of my falling sky.