A year ago, on my 28th birthday, I wrote the poem that follows titled "Boulder Fields." At that point, simply stepping out of my apartment felt daunting, so the poem was more of a prayer of things to come rather than a reflection of my reality. It was an intention that I would rejoin the world of the living again someday.
Today I will step out into the world
Leaving behind a prison of my own design
The world does not mind if I come or go
It is gentle and cold like that
But I am ready to come out into the rain
(or sun, if that is what the day provides)
I am ready to walk on solid ground,
which floats on a less than solid mantle
which circles around an unknowable core
I have wanted to touch
my forehead to the earth
and feel grounded
I thought that grounded meant stillness
An idea birthed inside my prison walls
Walking today in the boulder field
Large rocks shifting under my feet
Like pebbles in the surf
I am stepping out into the world.
Several years ago I hiked through real boulder fields in the Wind River Range of Wyoming for the first time, and they terrified me. I am a person who wants firm plans, guarantees, iron clad promises, detailed itineraries, the feeling that I can always count on certain people for comfort, help and love. Leaning into the inevitable uncertainty of the real world felt like something to be avoided as much as possible. Walking through the Wyoming boulder fields was like physically treading through my personal existential crisis.
This time last year, I was treading through the even more treacherous boulder field of my own mind. It is bad enough when something someone else does triggers your breakdown, but when you are both the source and the expression of your suffering the reality of how little control you have flares so bright that you cannot ignore its message.
I've led a charmed life, but despite the luck and love and beauty that has fallen into my lap, I couldn't stop myself from tripping into my personal rabbit hole of dark thoughts and deep sadness. So I spent a winter wading in the muck of my heart and soul, feeling wretched and damaged and unforgivable. And as I cracked wider open, wonderful people came into my life, and people I'd known forever opened up to me in ways that made me feel like I was meeting them for the first time.
I wanted one of these remarkable people to have my answer for me, and it felt achingly lonely that nobody could provide what I so desperately wanted. And so this collection was born. Seeking my answer, ending up empty handed and also, paradoxically discovering a growing sense of fulfillment anyways. I turn 29 today, and my life is very different from what I imagined it would look like. I still chaff against the uncertainty and am still learning how to give myself permission to be forgiven, but I am doing the best I can, and in some moments--and even some long stretches of time--I am profoundly happy.
I've spent the last nine months rooting into the lower, craggy Appalachian mountains, whose shiftiness is much more subtle. While out in these ancient mountains this fall I wrote:
I feel as full as a womb carrying a child
I feel my sitz bones grow roots that curl below the leaves, below the moss,
down into the Earth
where they gnarl like old lovers hands
around Birch, Rhodo, Oak and Chestnut roots
I can drink the air here and be cradled by the ground.
These mountains are so old and strong that they can bear my bad
The heft of my insecurities, fears, hurt, wrongdoing,
And also, my love, my passion, my joy
there is room for all of it
The unbearable weight of my humanness barely dimples this land
Pain, so fresh and fierce to me is able to float out here
I find laughter gurgling up
I feel beautiful and bold
I am a wise, old, child-woman
I am an Amazon River Princess
I am heft and lightness
I do not even think of the dark hole I have called home
It exists in another universe
Where dark and twisty stories kept the key to my cell
How fresh and light to walk along the ridge line now
To look purposefully up towards the silver moon and to call out
with all the wildness in my being: YES!
(If you hear shades of Carl Sandburg's "Wilderness" and Oriah Mountain Dreamer's "The Invitation" above, you are right. They are always in my pack when I am out for an extended trip.)
To honor this human birth I was given and to express profound gratitude for the many people who didn't give me my answer, but who did hold me in their light and love, I am marking my birthday this year by sharing this personal project--collectivewisdomcircle.com. In so doing, I hope to live in alignment with one of the truths that stands out most clearly from this year of study, articulated by Brene Brown: vulnerability fosters connection and connection is why we are here. Here's to another year of walking through boulder fields in good company.