Monday, December 21, 2009

Four Walls vs. The Elements

Today my husband and dog and I went for a ski in the woods. We chose the "red" trail, which was new to us and a bit challenging in terms of curves and hills. At one point as I stopped to rest on a little, wooden bridge over a dark and cold stream, I just stood and breathed. I could hear the softness of a light snow on the trail, the sounds of Tansy splashing into the creek, and the flutter of wings in the lower branches of nearby bushes and trees. My cheeks were cold and the rest of me beat in time with my heart and was toasty warm. I felt like lying down on that snow-covered bridge and just becoming part of everything around me.

The interruption of Doug's cell phone was a text message from his youngest daughter who was "getting to go bowling". Instantly my mind was transported to one of those places and I felt like shuddering the image away. No wonder bowling is an activity I have always abhorred. For me, the dim, smoky, airless room filled with the smell of fried food, cheap beer, and people's socks is one of my worst nightmares. To be trapped without a window or light, beneath ceilings that feel as if they are closing in on me... I pushed the mental image away and let the white light of the woods enter me again, and I knew then that I will not spend a minute of my life in places that make me unhappy unless I am forced to do so. My soul feeds on the movement and stillness of my body through places that have plants, earth, water and air.

The older I become and the more often I find myself contrasting places that I love with places I avoid, the more I realize what is essentially me. Even in my own home, during the hours I spend between walls, I choose to have living plants draping over my arm-chair, ivy crawling up my curtain, photographs of Lake Michigan and tree tops, and when there is light to be had, my curtains are flung wide to capture as much as possible. There are no artificial scents to be found, and so my nose can smell the earth of my plants, the coming of snow, and the scent of my own skin, so that I know myself to be non-artificial and whether clean or unclean, I am real.

These things which grow and die, and are silent in their purposes, though their purposes are obvious, are where I find myself and my spirit. I am ever more convinced that this is the critical connection for all people, but I can only make this choice for myself, and watch as my loved ones struggle with all that is between four walls.

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