Tag Archives: nature

Shifting Winds

I sat on the park bench with a little green notebook in my lap. I covered it in colorful Lisa Frank animal stickers before I left the house, and I brought my pen that had eight different colors of ink, all in the same pen. I was ready. For what, I didn’t know, but I knew that I was ready. I was fresh off of my very first viewing of “Harriet the Spy,” a movie about a young girl who wanted to be a writer and got herself into all kinds of trouble with the honesty in her writing. I looked around, trying to decide what to write about, how to best be Harriet. There was a duck, but that didn’t seem right. A mom and a kid at the swing-set. None of it was interesting to me; I was not a good Harriet. She was interested in everything, while I was interested in seemingly nothing. 

But then I saw the lake. And the dam. I got up from the bench and crossed over to where the water was crashing over the rocks, craning my neck up to see the top of the dam where a small artificial waterfall had been created by the flow of the dam. In front of the waterfall, in the middle of the lake, was a small island covered in trees. 

A pathway made of rocks cut through the water and led to the little island, a la Bridge to Terebithia. I slid the notebook and pen back into my mini backpack and scampered across the rocks onto the island. When I sank into the grass, there was some cover from the trees overhead. The branches dangled low instead of straight out like the trees in my grandma’s backyard, almost as if they were reaching for the river. It was like my own secret world, just like Terebithia. Peering out from between the leaves, I knew I could get away here—from school, from home, from people, from life. 

I want to be a writer, I wrote, because when I write I am a part of nature and the world, and it is a part of me. 

I was, maybe, eight.

*

I sit on the sailboat, watching the birds fly overhead and wondering how they do it. How they just coast through their bird lives without a care in the world while we are down here stuck on one path. While we can’t fly. 

I wish I could fly.

The sail whips from one side of the boat to the other, amidst jokes on how the wind can’t make up its mind where it wants to go. Every time the wind changes, the direction of the sail needs to change to compensate. We drift a bit. But I don’t mind drifting, at least not on a boat. When I’m looking at the water, I can reflect. I like this time. I wish I had it more. 

“What are you going to New York for?” the other woman in the boat asks.

“Graduate school. Creative writing.” I leave it simple.

“Ah. Nice.” A similar reaction to what I normally receive in that it is noncommittal to either the good or the bad. I insert my own thoughts as a tag line: Because who wants to get an English degree?

Another bird swoops by. Have I made up my mind? I mean, I’m going to New York. People keep asking me if I’m excited, if I’m happy to be going. And I am. But at the same time, I’m also changing my entire life. And no one really understands how difficult that is for me. How hard it is to jump, to accept change. To give up a life I have built here and people I have met after being through everything I have been through, to go off into the world and maybe be a writer. 

You will never be anything. His voice echoes in my head. Do I want to go to prove him wrong, or will my going be the thing that proves him right? I am strong; I am brave. I am good. Not only as a writer, but as a person.

This in no way guarantees success. Especially when I don’t even know where I will live. 

The sail whips by again. I watch my head, though I’ve essentially moved past my fear of getting wiped out by the boom. “There’s a life lesson for you,” T tells me. I look at her, confidently settled onto the bench while controlling both the tiller and the sail. She is doing what she loves; I want to be that confident. I cock my head, curious as to what she means. “Sometimes the wind shifts,” she continues, “and you just have to go with it.”

*

My views have changed slightly since I was eight, but not much. I believe that my writing gives me a stronger connection to the world, and to nature within it. But I also believe that allowing myself to be in the world is part of what makes me a better writer. Getting out. Being with people. Hiking. Going to the water. Seeing things for how they really are, at their base level. 

Life is simpler at a base level. When nothing changes. However, the winds of life are always shifting and changing. Going with them, taking risks, is what will make me a better writer, and, in the long run, a better person.

Sometimes the wind shifts, and you just have to go with it. Because, really…there is no other choice.

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Grief (An External Force)

The lake is calm today.  This time three years ago, it wasn’t.  I remember sitting in this very spot, staring down into the water, and wondering what the waves would do to me if I threw myself on the rocks.  Wondering, but not doing.  Never doing.

Water, like people, has moods that are based upon external forces.  When the weather is windy, stormy, and powerful, the waves are large and awe inspiring.  They crash across the rocks with a force that cannot be described by words alone.  And after my son died I sat here many days a week, watching the waves take over the shore, pondering the idea that an emotion could take over my life.  I could not have saved him.  There was nothing I could have done.  My entire being was governed by a powerful external force.

Grief.

Image

It comes in waves.  It is a forest with fifty paths that all cut through the trees, different channels and avenues for handling feelings with no clear direction.  It is a body of water with an undertow that sucks you away faster and deeper than you would suspect possible.  It is that red berry on the ground that looks so sweet and perfect to eat, but will kill you the moment you put it in your mouth.

If you let it, grief will bowl you over.

They planted a tree as a memorial to “all the dead children,” and it sits twenty feet from this very spot where I watch the shoreline.  It’s small, with spindly branches, and the leaves are few and far in between.  It doesn’t seem to grow much, and I’m struck by that fact suddenly—the idea that a memorial for children that will never grow up does not grow.  My heart rings with something I can’t describe.  This stunted tree is the perfect tribute.

The tree is surrounded by bricks, and the bricks are surrounded with flowers.  Clumps of purple and red and pink that take away from the fact that each brick is inscribed with the name of a dead child, the brightest of them tries to negate the pain.  Each brick is all that is left of a life.  The flowers are ridiculous to me.  We give flowers to people when someone dies; I had this thought at his funeral that flowers in the case of death are ridiculously ironic because they die.  Everything dies, eventually.

Between the bricks sprout tiny growths.  Weeds, or perhaps flowers.  Signs of life that will be gone come winter, because everything dies.  Winter brings snow and ice, coating the ground and making it impossible to remember him.  I visit the tree on the anniversary of his death, to place a hand on his brick and be able to touch him.  A simple reminder.  But I can’t find it; the bricks are buried under the snow and I didn’t think to bring a shovel.

A snowflake lands on my cheek, wet and cold.  I am crying.  I use the heel of my shoe to scrape at the bricks, but I can’t make any headway in the snow.  I get down on my knees and claw with my fingers, but I only break through to ice.  He is sealed away behind a wall I can’t break through, an event I cannot penetrate.  Death.

I will never locate the brick.  I will never be able to break through.  I will never find him.

The sky is gray.

I cannot ever have him back.

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