I feel like I am being thrown, spinning, at the mercy of some playful, surging force that tosses me up above dark clouds into brilliant, spearing light–and then lets me fall, plummeting, hard and heavy, through darkness and mist, wondering where all the light has gone and desperately dreaming of how I can fly back up, even as I fall, with a leaden, sinking feeling.
I grasp hard to memories, fighting off pangs of loss and black fear even as I experience some of the most beautiful sights and warmest moments and purest joys of my life. I know that I will lose them, even as they come to me and pieces of them stay and promise to return, and this tears me to pieces. I hate goodbyes. I hate searchings. I hate letting go. Somehow I manage to push this darkness away in these hours of sun-shafted wonder, yet I am aware of the struggle.
The grey road back to the city feels like the walk into the gladiator ring–inevitable, exhausting, flat, stony. In a way, almost without feeling at all, just a hardness in my body and my chest and my head and a savage bite in my eyes. The city closes about me like a cage, wrapping my world in slatted steel. I close my eyes to it all, holding onto the last vestiges of green tree and stormy, windswept sky. The van is quiet. The trailer rattling in the back makes it sound like we’re in a train. I wonder if the others feel like I do.
And now, in this utter free fall, indulging my despondent self with sleep and a warm red blanket and soft acoustics, I can grasp the essence of the past hours of adventure, the two days that seemed much longer than so, in the most beautiful way possible. It’s a funny thing, I can never grasp the essence until something has passed, and still I cannot put it into words–it is always a feeling warm and glowing somewhere deep inside my darkness, and I hold onto it like it’s my life I’m keeping lit. This time it’s like a wooden floor, and feathers on dreamcatchers blowing in the wind, the smell of loose dirt and pine needles and wood, laughter, peppermint tea, the wind on my face, and a warm touch on my arm. Even that’s not quite right, but it’s the closest I can explain it. It’s an essence, a spirit, a memory in a golden, transparent bubble. Something you let fill you and try to keep there by hoping with all your hope that it stays… not something graspable with flesh and bone.
In my playful moments, I call this ‘adventure withdrawal,’ although it really isn’t something that lighthearted at all. In the grand scheme of things, I guess it’s ‘no big deal’… but for me, it’s something between withdrawal and depression and an awakening and looking through a window to a world full of color from within a grey, bare, dusty house. Sometimes it lasts a day or two, and others a week or more. It depends on the length of the adventure, and the intensity of it’s grip on me. But even two days can be a heck of a lot more powerful than you’d think. I hate this stage of the experience–coming down from the mountaintop to realize that world has stayed the same since you’ve been gone, although everything looks weirdly different, and you have to return to it–yet, that’s still what it is, part of the experience. As much as I loathe the coming home from my world of sparkling moments and whimsical blue daydreams, I don’t know if these adventures (for that’s what they are, whatever they entail) would be the same without the pits. I don’t know if I would so sharply realize who I was and who I am and who I am becoming. I don’t know if I’d discover so bitingly what makes me happy and what doesn’t, how my life needs to change and what needs to remain. I don’t know if I’d learn so much about people, both in general and individually, if I didn’t see them when the rightness and personality inside is shining out through every pore and when the oppressive buildings of the city somehow bring out something unattractive and darker and equally true. I don’t know if I’d make these glorious days so much a part of my identity, if I’d hold them as close, if I’d treasure them up in my heart and hide them from skeptical eyes. I don’t know if I’d feel so alone, yet so found by others. I know that I am made up of so many other things, and some more important than this, but in some ways, these essences make up me. And I have never seen this more clearly than now, in the valley, looking up at the mountain I just climbed. I may not like the valley, but it sure does make the beauty of the heights stand out clear and sharp against the sky.
Every time it is a bit different. Today, I feel the sea–the salt, the wind, the air, the spray, the expanse, the colors, the sand, the shells, the energy, the storms, the foam–becoming a part of me in a way that it never has. Today, I don’t want to turn my heater on, because I know how much fossil fuel went into making that electricity. Today, I slept with my anklet of shells held close. Today, I think fondly on the ways I’ve been embraced and loved by people who barely know me. Today, I think of the ways I’m falling in love with them, despite our sins and flaws. Today, I think of how I followed my heart instead of my head, said things and did things and reached out and was terribly transparent in ways that I never would have dreamed many months ago. Today, I think of how I don’t know if what I did was right, but I think I can know that it was good. Today, I think of how I messed up and how I might of, and how I can do things differently, or maybe I won’t, and how the consequences are hearteningly small either way. Today, I think of how I love to create, and how easy and wonderful it is to create, and how everyone has this inner child that loves to see and touch and make and experience the world, no matter how much they hide it. Today, I think of how much of creativity and friendships and community is openness and acceptance. Today, I think of how sleep is such an intimate, revealing, trustful, growing thing, almost like eating communally but more so, and how much I love sleeping in a room full of people. Today, I think of how if one person reaches out in a touch, breaks down that transparent barrier, says lets be true friends who aren’t afraid to be present, then the other person usually readily does the same, and is glad and grateful you asked. Today, I think of how darkness breaks down the physical and emotional barriers we put up around each other, how bumbling around in the night on a beach with blindfolds experiencing something totally new and different and bizarre and strange and wonderful makes people giggle and grin and speak up and pull and push and hug and lean on and discover again a bursting wonder for the world and be silly and vocal and not put too much importance on themselves or anything else and laugh and laugh and laugh. Today, I think of how if you ask someone to share a piece of their soul with you, they often will. Today, I think of how there is always such a glorious tangle of multicolored threads inside someone’s mind, so much more value and activity than what meets the surface; how if you ask what’s going on in there, they’ll open a window. Today, I think of how much meaning and value there is in a hug, and much more in many of them. Today, I think of how the whole natural world is much more alive in unseen, almost spiritual ways than most people ever take the time to experience or dare to think, and how it is so easy to forget that the elements themselves are not gods, but have such deep essences because they are pieces of the God that created them. Today, I think of how freeing it is to be done with second guessing. Today, I remember flow and freedom and hope alive and ocean blue and grasshopper. Today, I remember what they all said out on that beach in the night and I just wanted to feel goosebumps all up and down my arms with the thrill and the wonder and almost wanted to cry, my mouth often open in a startled breath of wonder. Today, I remember how I will never forget. Today, I remember sea blue and fine tan sand and a dead black swan and the sound the feathers made as we pulled them out, wincing and apologetic. Today, I remember what it feels like to find your people, your kin, to feel like you have found another piece of your family. Today, I remember when my eyes looked out over the green Otago hills and my mind said ‘home.’ Today, I remember walking through the mud in my bare feet and digging up cockles and laughing as the boys tried to sink their way deeper and hanging around the kitchen and stealing the shells as they came steaming out of the pot. Today, I remember a long row of dreamcatchers blowing in the wind. Today, I remember the sadness I felt deep in my chest when I had to paint my coral white. Today, I remember his mischievous smile and warm brown eyes. Today, I remember how laughably expressive her face was when we played mafia. Today, I remember how kind and real her words were, how I could see the depth in her face. Today, I remember the wonderfully peculiar blue of his eyes, light and almost icy but with a hint of ocean green–I wanted to tell him that his eyes looked like the sea and knew he’d like that. Today, I remember what he looked like asleep–it was like seeing someone as they really are. Today, I remember how I was forgiven for something I didn’t even know was wrong, or not. Today, I remember how one small heater can give so many warmth. Today, I remember how the strumming of one guitar can make a room light up. Today, I remember how one hand on a shoulder and the sound of many feet in the darkness can incite such a feeling of deep, deep trust. Today, I remember we don’t need light to see. Today, I remember what it feels like to be surrounded by people who are all pieces of yourself. Today, I remember what it feels like to belong.
And today, as I struggle with the dead reality of being not in that place, not soaking in that essence and just being, today as I grapple with being not, I remember what I am, what the world is, what people are, what I have never really lost, and what I will soon be again.