Wherever There is Life... by Michelle Street

"Wherever there is life, there is twist and mess." --Annie Dillard

One morning, I was on my way out, and a friend asked me why I drive so far on a Saturday morning to spend time in the woods. It was a fair question, and I can't remember what I said at the time. I just remember that the question took me by surprise, because driving to the woods on the weekends when my daughters are with their dad is essential. It's automatic, and I found that I couldn't explain it. So I did what I do. I went to the woods and I started to think about it.

After much reflection, here is what I know. I know that four years ago, a life I'd built with someone began to fly apart at an alarming rate. During that time, I had occasional weekends to myself. As a parent of young children, this instilled panic. For 48 hours, I had no small body to hold in my arms, no food to prepare, no one to push on the swings, no sippy cups to fill. The silence in my home was deafening, and one Saturday morning, after dropping the girls off with their dad, I began to hyperventilate. So, I did what any irresponsible, hyperventilating person might do. I got in my car. I drove in a direction. The direction ended up being southwest, and I found myself at John Bryan State Park.

I started walking around. I felt a little better. I walked faster. I felt even better. I started running a bit, slipped in the mud, and giggled...

I giggled.

Not two hours earlier, I'd been unable to breathe, my chest tight, my heart steeping in thickness.

The more I moved, the better I felt. I was angry because life was inconsistent, life was not meeting my expectations. I was hurt. I was rejected. I felt confused, lonely, and depleted. Then, I looked up into the trees and realized, nothing in nature is consistent. The changing leaves on the October trees glowed with the beauty of change. They would fall to the loamy floor and prepare the way for new life.

So this is why I go there...

Because somewhere out there, the sun flirts with the leaves on the trees. Together they create life. Because photosynthesis is a green sugar miracle that I need to see. Because when the leaves laugh, light spills onto the forest floor in sunspots. Light plays on the ground like a litter of kittens at my feet.

And even on my bad days, even on my worst days, I can run from sunspot to sunspot. First one, then another. I play this game with myself and before long, I've run to thirty sunspots and I'm sweating, and it feels good because all the bad things are rolling down my back. All the weekly muck that has kept me from a little human flight, all the cynicism and bits that have killed my joy, all the sharp things in the world that I seem to notice, absorb, and carry drip from me, and I am free and clear in the trees.

I go out there because the trees are my friends.

And sometimes there is a brook or creek to my left, or to my right incanting spells in a language I know because the language is water and water is me.

Because trees are such a patient form of life. So are snails. I spend time with both. Slow.

The trees listen, tall and silent when I breathe hard, when I cry, when I sigh and sing. They stand tall and silent when I question. They let me find the way, but always provide direction.

Just last night, something on the trail shimmered and caught the corner of my eye. There was a leaf, the color of a brown paper bag, cupping and cradling rainwater. The leaf looked like an open hand. An open hand.

There are rocks and roots. The rocks are solid and the roots reach far and deep.

I go out there because the cool fog rolls in early in the evening and it's fog. But, it also looks like fairy dust, and sometimes my brain says, "fog" and sometimes my imagination says, "fairy dust." Last night, while I was running, I went with "fairy dust," and though my body hurt, I smiled and that act of smiling brought a tingle to my head and I laughed out loud at my tingling human head being carried above my shoulders, through the tree branches, on my own silly feet...goofy. Fun.

So, that's why. I probably won't share these reasons when people ask. I might say something like, "it's just what I do," and smile.

My response will be loving and brief because as much as I cherish every moment with my family and friends, I also need to get out there again as soon as I can.

Posted on August 28, 2017 .