I’ve toed a lot of lines in my life. I’ve toed them recently. I will toe them again today.
My spring out of bed has become inconsistent. My sleep, interrupted. I wake to report to that line again, and that is a different kind of waking. To take my shift to relieve my unconscious self to defend my inner sanctuary boundary-border. Again. It’s exhausting. Physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. It’s not what I was designed for.
I am more than this.
I was beaten when they breached my outer border. But I’ve since recovered. Now I stand resolute at the final white-picket fence, last patch of wildflowers inside. I feel strong again. Weaponless by choice. A pacifist maybe.
The dust of the corporate stampede settles as the hooves come to a halt. And here we are again. At the line. I toe the dirt with my bare feet, my dress hemline soiled. My head is not bowed. I took into eyes. I look to the heavens. I look back into the eyes.
I am passionate. In all things. I used to think it was my blessing and my curse. But then self-love took hold and merged with my faith in loving, divine, individual creation, so now I think, though I’m still on the journey of discovery and understanding and potential, that my passion is only a blessing.
I taste the indignant feelings rising, mixed into the saliva of my mouth. It is not fear that causes me to swallow it back down. There is no fight or flight in me now. There is only strength and unhurried contemplation. I weigh it all. I need to free myself from the weight.
I hear your voice. And I still myself in hopes of His.
It is silent enough inside me that I can hear the whisper of each petal the breeze gives voice to. There is indeed a great injustice here. A war of the world and the self. A war of the ages. And the individual never wins. I feel I was born to take this stand, though I know it will make no difference in the war. It is indeed personal. But it is mostly the morality that is part of my blood, flowing in and out of my heart.
I will bow gracefully. But not for them. For me. For my wildflower patch.
The two-headed serpent will reside among us. Its poison can no longer make me sick. I will see to it that my flowers flourish despite his presence, slithering so deceitfully all around us.
The corporate stampede stand-off I have stirred in my rebellion retreats with patronizing words I pretend I am too ignorant to perceive.
I turn my attention away from them and him, and begin again to love, to mother,
The dirt returns to white sand, the waves resume their soothing music. I return to showing my flowers how unique each is and all they are capable of becoming, come the May winds….
When I was a child, I simply and casually went with the flow. I don’t think that’s common, but maybe it is for the good middle children, as such was I. Even when my parents announced their divorce, I took it in stride, felt it was best for all. Mom said it would hit me, affect me, someday. It never did.
In grade school, maybe sooner, I discovered the joy of being funny, of making others laugh. I’ve never shied away from a performance; I’m quite comfortable on stage, enjoy being the center of attention, the life of the party. Later in life, I believe being a comedian became a defense mechanism. But at the same time, I did and still do truly like making people smile. All people. That is not to say, as I will have come to learn, that I was ever actually an extrovert.
I think humor became a defense mechanism as an adult when I began hiding my personal life, all of those pesky elephants that kept trying to escape from the horrific circus of my home; we never discussed those giants, inside or outside those walls, as families tend to not do when alcoholism and addiction and denial are involved.
Eventually, my smile became that wall, and evolved further into a fortress, as many smiles do, I suppose, separating inner and outer worlds. Eventually, I even kept the fake one on at home. In front of the children anyway. And to avoid upsetting the alcoholic. I made my alcoholic’s life as cushy as possible. I became a liar, to everyone. To myself. I lost myself eventually, as spouses of alcoholics often do, I suppose.
It must be my nature, it seems, to be a peacemaker, a people pleaser. At work, I still go with the flow; I’m the one you can give the difficult tasks and people to. I don’t complain. I don’t resent. I am intrinsically motivated. I make do. I succeed. As resistant as they are, I relentlessly try to make my teenage students smile.
Where am I going with this as I sit on my patio watching the sun set, filling a blank screen with a supposed “nature essay?” As I recount my life, as I flip through my mental album, I search for the point in which nature infused my soul. No epiphany comes to mind. This seems essential as an essayist. To reflect on those pivotal or deeply seared moments.
I was very regularly exposed to nature as a child, so I am happy to give my parents partial credit: dad took us fishing and camping, we went to week-long summer camps each year, we were sent outside to play as a lifestyle. It became natural then for me to take my own family camping and on nature walks and outings as a lifestyle. And as my nest becomes emptier and my tie to one alcoholic dissolved, I am finding the ability, the freedom, to be able to be present in nature’s moments, more so than ever before, even as a child.
I do have twinges of near epiphany when I think about how many miles I rode my bike as a teenager. Alone. How those wheels and that wind set me free, how I escaped and left my siblings and parents behind, chose my own direction, traveled in and out time. Myself and the outdoors were all the company I needed. I discovered peace. I discovered healing. For as long as I can remember, I also remember not fitting in, feeling a sort of detachment. It is still how I feel, content in my surroundings but still an outsider looking in, bored only in the company of others, never in the company of myself. Especially when I am surrounded by nature.
Never before until now have I had the accumulated experiences I have to see all that I see in the overlooked daily wonders, gifts, and blessings so abundant all about me in the natural world. Perhaps I see myself in these stories that each petal and leaf and shell whisper to me. Perhaps these are the missing pages of my album I collect on the shore, in the trees, in the clouds. Perhaps it is my nature, that deep connection. Perhaps my home. Maybe going with the flow in all of my memories is because I always have been, even before my birth, from the soulline of Mother Nature and the universe.
Maybe I really search only for the light in my lens for myself. But I faithfully reflect the rays as inspiration and positivity to you, because of all the things I remember, I’ve always liked to make people feel better. And maybe each of these clues, each of these messages, each of these revelations are the manageable peanuts I am meant to open one by one, left by those invisible elephants of my past.
I don’t usually like to know the scientific facts about the subjects I find and photograph in nature, even basic identification. It spoils the wonder and mystery to me, the thrill of all my imagination hatches, the magic, the mysticism, the fantasy, the tales, the divine creation we think we know all about. These are my discoveries; I am the first explorer to ever lay eyes on the new species. Instead of sketching them in my diary, I photograph them; I am both from the future and the past.
I couldn’t resist though peeking into the portal of cyberspace regarding this spectacular mushroom variety I haven’t seen before (I don’t think…). “Puffballs” they are, supposedly common. And of course, as reading when you are a born lifelong reader tends to go, I read a bit more… They have a poisonous “Death Cap” doppelgänger, well imposter anyway, being the most interesting fact to me.
These I spotted underfoot between my car and classroom back door going into work the other day. To photograph them meant anyone could be watching and definitely would wonder even more about me. Of course, I risked it all and got down low and took the shot. It was too intriguing in and of itself but also because they were paired and the morning light and shadows were beautiful. I love couplets of anything in nature because I am a romantic. I also champion the overlooked or undervalued in nature, especially weeds and fungi.
Where to begin with what I could spin from this encounter and image souvenir?…
Two as one connected, shadows merging, agreed to be shared,
to increase the surface area so the darkness lightens in lichen-like dual-stabilization: paired.
One absorbs more sun than the other but feeds its partner the light not so directly;
at times they reverse roles when the other needs to shrink into safety awhile and be protected temporarily.
The world passes by, so many times before both cruelly and unknowingly treading upon them;
others of their kind turned poisonous, but these two remain true to themselves and their commitment,
not letting others’ judgement affect their joy or quality of life and above all love,
testament to there being someone for everyone and such a connection vital, to feel that touch, to trust…
or maybe I am seeing too much in these balls of mushroom puffs I stumbled upon on my way to work this morn.
Dense fog advisory. Dark, early Saturday morning. Mild temperatures. A perfect time to… head to the beach! I make my coffee to go.
I love fog and mist, as I do rain and thunderstorms…something about the mood of this kind of weather invigorates my soul. It is another clue in the discovery of my own inner roots, another clue in the direction to go, to finally arrive at home, that place my soul has always tugged me toward. I have come to co-exist with this spiritual restlessness.
As I make the short drive to the bridge, I am fascinated by the “disappearance” of the familiar land and ocean across the bay, parallel to the road. If I didn’t know it existed, it would seem that this was where the flat earth simply ended, the beyond, inaccessible yet really only veiled by the fog, like El Dorado or Atlantis. But I do know it exists, and I take the bridge into the clouds…
I am obsessed with clouds, so I suppose it is no wonder that the ones reaching down to embrace me call to me. It is a strange sort of adrenaline to me to be on a bridge in a cloud; even though I know by heart what surrounds, it is simply “not there” now, and it is “just me” (why I love early mornings) in this bizarre reality.
I was hoping to experience the phenomenon I’ve only driven by before: when the fog hovers above the bay. That is not the case today, so I am a bit disappointed and walk to the ocean side. My soul is thrilled, though, to immediately see the lone fisherman: it is another clue about my timeless soul, the comforting spiritual connection I feel observing (or reading poems about) fishermen and remote fishing villages. I ponder again if I may be part mermaid after all.
A few steps in, I lose vision, my eyesight becoming foggy itself from the sea mist upon my glasses. I will have to look for treasures and take photos partially blind, but always finding the adventure and the positives, I embrace the challenge. It seems more fitting anyway, to have even blurrier vision in the fog; it doesn’t make much of a difference really. For a bit, though, coffee thermos in hand, I sit in the silky white sand and just exist, me and the lone fisherman, phantoms in the mist… I love the coast on days like this, too early or in unfavorable conditions when I can have the world to myself. The fisherman was here first though, an indigenous ghost representing generations of past fishermen lining the coast and not-lost at sea. When the local residents begin their descent on the paved horizon, I will take my leave and return to my bird sanctuary, the lot that contains my abode, never quite a home, though it’s still my favorite place to retreat to.
I find it senseless to come to the sea if you do not at least dip your feet into the magical waters; I am surprised that the water temperature delivers no jolt of briskness. I let the waves wash over my polish-chipped, never-manicured toes, my capris get soaked…oops, but oh well. I walk for a while in the surf, feeling the gentle ebb and flow, benevolent nudges to and fro, the pull teasing, seemingly luring back into the benevolent parts of the deep; I look at my feet, but no tail is morphing.
Back upon the smooth sand-slate, I stoop low to inspect sea-strewn debris and treasures, and I think the difference is truly in the clichéd eye-of-the-beholder; I always favor the forgotten and discarded. I listen with genuine interest to the stories dripping with lessons of the “broken” shells, let them also feel a touch, too often only stepped around and upon, at best inspected and tossed back, seashell hunters looking for “the perfect” ones, visibly whole, sometimes even shunning all and purchasing faux.
I do hold one of those “perfect” formations, though its plainness probably makes it unseen. What I notice most is our prints, and I compare and ponder the non-insignificance, silent lifelines that brand us, as non-related species of different trees, yet neither with roots. We are both free. Both molded with love from the same Creator. Our prints, non-replicable, keep us entirely unique yet give us away, register as “identity,” though no print-reader can ever know me, as none can know the secrets of the story-keepers of the sea.
I get lost for a while in a different time and place, lost in the intriguing details and textures in the muted colors in the calcified, granulated, and liquified elements about me. The wall of a ripple, individual drops, each frothy bubble that comprise the vast ocean collide and linger on a partial sand dollar, and I think to myself how priceless are the macromoments…
Next, I happen upon the jackpot. Or graveyard. Or castaway club. Or secret congregation. Or paradigm peaceful, diversity-infused community. No fog when viewed up close, no excuse of unjust obstruction of revelation, even preconceived notions rinsed with salt-water solution. It all comes down to perception. Yet what we see…how much of our past experiences still renders us blind, keeps our perspective shrouded?
The large beach tangleballs tossed about I can easily “see” without my glasses on, but it is not until I inspect them up close that I realize what is entangled. I see my past. Debris, skeletons, corpses, clutter that the waves of time have purposely weaved and wrapped up and expelled from the waters in its natural self-cleaning process. In my palm, I can hold it all, after the fact. It seemed so large and heavy at the time I experienced each symbol artifact. Droplets of seawater evidence this present expulsion, not even dry yet. Have I added just now to it with this cleansing morning coastal visit?
I take my time on this walk through nirvana, sand grains sparkling like crushed diamonds, priceless like the partial sand dollar, the dusted-jeweled surface soft as sugar with the clouds kissing the surface of earth. I think I see forever, though nothing is clear. I am thankful that what’s behind me has also disappeared. In this muted moment, I feel the celestial peace.
Perhaps limbo is not what we think, for I wish to be suspended for some time in this world of in-between. In between my past and future, in between reality and dreams, in between the highs and lows, snuggled in between these muted sheets where time itself lullaby-sings through the sound waves of the sea. I half expect to see holy spirits from the past and future; I would not be scared for such an encounter. There is no fear here, no extreme emotions, just the sweet, soothing serenity, the peace I knew existed. I wonder if we can take it back with us, have it emanate from our pores, after walking in the clouds so close to heaven’s door, no bright light in sight upon these non-printed, angel-visited shores.