I took a blanket off the back of the chair and went to lay on the grass. Feeling aimless, a little lost, an outsider returning to the house I grew up in, I wrap myself in wool. I feel so small here and then realize it’s because the trees have all grown so much. I always thought I would feel bigger, coming back. It’s odd to feel so little again. A few stars lay bare in the sky and I spread one of my mothers handmade quilts out on the lawn under the wide leafy shrub that wasn’t there when I left. New friends. I enjoy listening to the sound of the biggest leaves in the breeze, chafing up against each other.
The clouds are coming from the west, pulling across the sky like the sheet I pulled over my feverish son. Today was hot, but there’s a strange wind blowing. I watch the sky getting whiter and then pinker and then slightly orange. Flashes of lightning puncture the air. I think about the fires back in California and how the sky turned that eerie shade of brown. I remind myself of where I am. There’s no rain, just wind and lightning. An electrical storm. Is that what they call it? I lay still next to the cabin with the big leafy plant sheltering me and remember, pachamama, pachamama, she is still here, she is with me, beneath me, holding me, she’s always been here. This part of the world seems so foreign and strange to me, even though I grew big here.
The wind picks up and I test myself to see how long I want to stay in the tension. Am I creating this? Is this me? When the fig tree starts swaying in grief I have to close my eyes because of the dust and debris barreling through the air. I get up. The tree above the cabin is washed with the chaos of the wind. Seeds and sticks are falling from the branches onto the corrugated tin roof. I walk inside to the shelter of a sturdy house and close the doors with their curtains flirting desperately. I go upstairs and get my laptop and return to the back patio. When I arrive the wind is gone. The fig tree is still, quivering. No more lightning, no more chaotic wind. I wait and I watch. A few raindrops on the roof? A summer storm. The fever has broken and the rain comes now. Driplets then droplets and then a steady sheet of nails hammers down. Rain. A novelty for my dusty Californian feet so used to a land parched of this exoticism, a different kind of drama.
I heard today that a writer needs three things, something to say, the means with which to say it, and the courage to say it, which is the hardest part. I’m not sure I have so much to say anymore. I am intent on observing at the moment, just watching, bearing witness, learning from my inner landscape without sharing it, except in the transformational sense of it becoming who I will be tomorrow. I certainly haven’t been the most graceful parent of late. Julius has been sick and I have been frustrated by the sheer length of the virus pervading his body. I’m tired. It’s hard parenting alone. I’m bored, restless, uncertain. I forget who I am when I am not surrounded by the things that remind me of who I am, or at least who I once was. A potent experience this is, then. When I do not have Isaac, and I do not have an active child to create entertainment and adventure for, when I do not have my daily chores, my community, my beaten paths, the familiar faces and comforts of home, who do I become? What is left? I watch my mother cleaning and making bread and running her errands, and my father goes to work and comes home and goes to work and comes home, and my brother reads and writes, and Jules and I just lay on the bed and doze in and out of reveries, some peaceful, some not. His voice pierces through the house when he needs me, crying out for water or just some company. Another week until my beloved arrives, and then we will be together for Christmas before heading back to California.
It feels as though I am part of a system, an organism, a family, and when I leave, or we fracture apart, the singular parts of the system become compromised. I once felt so sure of myself, so solid and self-sufficient and full of valor and enthusiasm for my life and my dreams and all of the golden bricks I was laying in front of myself, one after another. Now I live amongst those golden bricks and they have forged the path of my life – the devoted, passionate marriage, the vibrant and loving community, the quirkily elegant home of our own, the sweet puppy, the satisfying work we are both doing in the world, the sensational soul of the little boy we are raising. So much gold. And yet I do not grasp any more, and I do not dream like I once did. There are things I would like to work towards this year, but my yearnings are not as they were when I was 20. I think this is a good thing. I am wiser, tempered by the wind and the electrical storms, battered by the falling branches, and aware of when to get out of the rain, and when to go out in it. I feel the maturity within me like the sturdier branches of these trees here, the bigger ones, their bodies so much more able to withstand the storms and winds that roll across from the sea, their girdles thickened with the strength of their age.
And so I suppose I am a different woman, a much different woman. The maiden in me is still there as a spark, a flash of electricity, but she doesn’t live in this body any more. She is a memory. A grateful one. I am delighted by my time with her. Oh the things that we wrote!!! The words that tumbled out, a menagerie of wilderness, my heart in motion. I was 23 and 24 and 25 and then I met my husband, and I didn’t need to shout anymore. The New York streets and the Pennsylvania river valley carved the edges of my soul like Australia did. I put it all in a book, and closed the cover. Seven years later, I am whispering. And when I’m not doing that, I am finally listening again. In a culture of so much noise, that feels like a really good place to rest.