I’ve told myself from the beginning, I can go home whenever I want. If I hate it, this traveling life, this vagabond existence, this uprooted way, I can go home, climb back into my old life, pick up where I left off. No harm, no foul.
My stay here in Mt. Shasta has been wonderful – restful, interesting, energizing, inspirational. Also confusing, lonely, depressing, frustrating.
Until this extended stop, I hadn’t realized how tired I was. How tired I am. How homesick I have become, looking at pictures of the arrival of spring in the North Carolina High Country – the dreamy misty mornings, the varying layers of green, the lush clusters of lilacs and bright fronds of forsythia and the rhododendrons heavy with voluptuous blooming.
I see in those photos that people have come out of their winter hidey-holes to bike, run, walk, picnic, play. The restaurant porches are open and the crowds at the breweries spill out into the parking lots, and the farmers market is in full swing, all the beautiful produce like paintings, and the music on the wind, a fiddle and a guitar and a bass and your foot tapping along, you can’t help it, you’d have to be dead.
Back home, my kids will be having cookouts and taking hikes and going out to dinner without me. In another month the lightning bugs will be in full concert. They dazzle me every year, the winking lights covering the mountainsides and the meadows, sparking the trees and the grass with magic.
There are hardly any fireflies out here, and most of them are only bioluminescent in the pupal stage.
Next week I’ll head to Mendocino, which I’ve always wanted to see, but I just can’t get that excited about it, because I’m not sure my brain has room for any more new discoveries, new places.
But of course I’m still going. And this morning when I opened the sliding glass door that looks out over the sea of scrubby white-leaved manzanita, I could swear I smelled the ocean, a lure tucked somewhere inside the velvety breeze.
Here is what I learned from writing a book proposal: I am not ready to write a book proposal. This is helpful information and has actually moved me along quite nicely. I have new chapters I did not expect to have. I’ve read new books that have opened new doors down hidden corridors in my mind. But I’m having to readjust my expectations for myself and this journey.
I know that’s okay. It just feels sort of shitty, is all. Insert heavy sigh here: _________
I’ve been battling the urge to quit – both the trip and the book – by stubbornly going forward. Over the years I’ve learned that feeling isn’t always fact – to consider the possibility that on those days when my emotions take a nose-dive, it could be that everything is cratering, or it could as easily be the case that I’m short on magnesium or chromium or vitamin C. Or dark chocolate.
The hard truth is, there is no climbing back into my old life. A door has closed behind me. In fact, I’ve had to take a long hard look at that “old life,” the one in which I had exiled myself, fleeing inward, succumbing to the low-level depression that has been a companion for most of my adult life. My time beneath the protective gaze of Mt. Shasta has given me opportunity to do other readjusting, too.
I’ve dropped my red wine habit and picked up my yoga practice again, only this time with more focus on clearer intention-setting. And having an actual kitchen has helped me get back to my clean eating, which I know helps everything – brain, lungs, joints, muscles – feel better. In the early morning or late afternoon I spoon with the dogs, just a short love-fest that leaves all three of us many degrees happier.
I keep returning to the headwaters, to Big Springs, to drink in more of the water, more of the cool, more of the wonder, more of the companionship with other thirsty people. I make lists of the lovely, kind folks I’ve met in this town – at the laundromat, at the dog park, in stores and restaurants – and marvel at the brief intersecting of our lives, our stories, and in just these chance encounters we’ve altered each other’s trajectories, however slightly.
Last evening, I was out walking the dogs and turned to see the white of Mt. Shasta, still covered with snow, painted the same shade of pink as the dogwoods that bloomed last week, and right then I remembered to breathe. Later I listened to the faint singing of frogs in a nearby pond, and the wind stirring in the tall oak trees and whispering secrets to the pines, and I breathed in sweet perfume from wisteria blossoms just beneath the open window. Right before midnight I went out onto the deck and watched the International Space Station drift by, glimmering gold in the wide black sky. I followed it all the way until it disappeared behind the mountain.
Truth? It’s all good, even when it doesn’t always feel that way.
Reality? There is no climbing back into the old life, just as once a butterfly sheds its chrysalis, its unfurled wings no longer fit the former shell. The only thing it can do is rest its wings while they dry, fully aware that this time of stillness and preparation is also a time of great vulnerability.
Then, when the time is right – she will fly.