A Summer Storm

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The skies opened in the early evening. I was folding my laundry, neatly; domestically.

You should never put a window in the laundry room. Unexpectedly you will have to choose: the great immensity of the wild outdoors; the calm clutter of your daily life.

Tap, tap, tap. Raindrops like small pebbles on the glass; calling me for an illicit daylight tryst.

I put the laundry down and went to it.

No hoodie; no heavy clothes for me. After days of heat, the wind is refreshing and the rain sweet and inviting; a thousand cold little kisses at once. I shiver, and start running.

The wind sweeps my bangs out of my ponytail. The first casualty of the hour; the first scrap of civilized life, falling, discarded in the street.

My glasses come off next, tucked into a pocket, zipped away. The rain is too heavy; I would rather run impaired than pause to keep wiping them.

Here I am; bare-faced, ponytail dripping. Running, running, running down the street, becoming more and more my human animal with every step.

“It’s raining,” an old man calls to me, concerned on my behalf. “You’ll catch a cold.”

But I am feral; the rain turns to steam where it touches me, and in that moment, I don’t remember what “cold” means.

Running, running, running. Turn onto the main street; now I am running in the road, towards the traffic. I am more alive than them. I am more than a silly person hiding in my car, cowering from the rain. I am a human animal, running.

Off the road. Into the eucalyptus grove, the massive wind-tunnel of tall trees. There is no pavement here, only mud and sand, and as if the rain weren’t heavy enough, fat drops spill from the leaves and land squarely on the back of my neck and snake their way inside my shirt. Soaked at this point; my wet clothes start to chafe uncomfortably against my skin. I’m ready to drop being human at all. I pull off my shirt. Running, running, running in my sports bra and shorts.

I’m nothing more than a wild animal in the woods.

I’m nothing more than living.

My ponytail drips all the way to the small of my back.

Ahhh… that’s cold. Now I remember what “cold” is…

Close-Up Photography of Wet Leaves

A thought of “home” rises in my mind; warm, blankets; a hot drink; a hot shower.

Within a single second, I want it, and here I am, miles away from all of it…

Is it just me, or is it raining heavier now? The wind that had seemed “bracing” when I ran into it before now feels like a thousand hands holding me back. My foot slips in the mud and I feel a muscle tighten where it shouldn’t have – ah, great. Great, great, great.

Running, running, running.

I take the ponytail out. There’s no use pretending it serves any purpose anymore. My loose hair lashes on my shoulders like a cat o’ nine, and pushes me forward.

At the crossroads, a family in their car stares at me and my disheveled mien. I look right back and wish I was in MY car, and laugh at my own hypocrisy as they pull away.

Last stretch; I have to choose between the longer, winding path, or the short, direct, uphill one.

Uphill it is. I’m miserable. I just want to be home already.

It’s raining so hard I can’t even open my eyes anymore. Just running blind. There’s nothing romantic or glorious about this. I’m just a drenched animal, dumb enough to fall for the rain’s sweet lies.

My thighs are burning. My sides are hurting. Some guy in a pick-up truck honks his horn at me; thank you, random cheerleader.

Finally: home.

Home, where I stand on the porch and hesitate – just a moment.

… I hope it’s still raining tomorrow.

 

Originally published on Anima Monday, April 2019

On Keeping a Soft Heart

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It is morning, the sun unfolding upon me as I push back the heavy drapes. I explain my plans to replace them to my lover, half-drowsing; I don’t know if he hears, both of us tangled together, lovingly sleepy. It doesn’t matter. Serenity, as our spirits slowly un-entwine; serenity, as we regain our Selves beneath the laughing dance of a single, trickling sunbeam. I push back the drapes all the way to luxuriate fully in the light of the new day. Sacred, my mind whispers to me, and I shiver for the truth of it.

The hardened heart does not know the the love of the sun, the caress of a summer wind, the ache in the heart to dance with the verdant grasses on the highest mountain; it is only a soft heart that can yield and be entirely without defenses that can open and receive the gifts the world has to give.

Hardened hearts are born of pain, and fear of pain. They are born of hardships, and subsequent fear of hardship. This is a dark world, where the sun can be seen, but only as a burning mass millions of years away of little consequence to us, and no longer as hope, as god. Dim, the sun sun seems then – dim, and unimportant. It is fleeting, temporary, because the hardened heart knows that rain will soon come anyway. Far more important to build walls to keep the rain out, than it is to enjoy the sun.

Are all people this sad? They forget easily the joys of the sun, and call those that dwell in it “foolish”, or “naive”.

Soft hearts are born of pain, and love of pain. They are born of a thousand tears wept, and each tear honest and pure. The person with the soft heart weeps and cries and wails, and – oh gods – the wailing is terrible! “It hurts,” weeps the person with the soft heart. “Oh, how it hurts.”

There are no walls that keep the soft heart from the pain. This is a garden that knows sun and rain, and is at the mercy of the weather’s whims. And so it knows every drop of rain. But the sun, the hope – this is not kept out. This god wanders freely, and can teach the heart to say, ”I love myself, my poor, injured self.” And, “I love you as well,” the soft heart can say, “You poor, injured soul that saw no other recourse than to lash out and bite me, when I extended my hand.” And here the sun will shine and rain will fall – the land is green and flowers will grow in shades of compassion, forgiveness, truth and a thousand other things.

I call those that dwell in this “bold”, and “courageous”. “Beautiful.”

Not all flowers are beautiful. My own garden contains seeds of pride, spite, a thousand vicious barbed thorns. But the seeds are there! They have been with me since I was born, and to hack these bushes back too closely will make them angry and all the more fierce. The soft heart allows room in their garden for all to be present. The soft heart can handle the thorns, will wince when it cuts, and knowing the thorn and knowing how best to treat the wound, will tend to it. The soft heart can let the rose and the lily live side by side, the mandrake with the valerian. And let each have their place, their turn, their permission to be.

When we give ourselves permission to “be” ourselves, that is when we can give permission to others to be themselves as well.

And I do look upon hardened hearts trapped within their walls, and I do pray for them. They’re cubes of stone and brick to me that pass through life without windows. They will pass their hours counting the reasons why rain is bad, reminding themselves why they locked themselves away. For the most part I will leave them alone. I give them permission to be themselves in their square, stone boxes.

Myself; I hope I will remain free to run with the wolves and with the sheep; I love the teeth that hurt me and the touch that caresses me. I love the warming sun and the drowning rain; and the burning sun and the quenching rain! I love the heart that is wounded and yet unfolds to embrace as a flower unfolds always to the promise of new light. She does not know whether the sun brings warmth today or if it will burn her; still, she unfolds, and does not let fear of pain prevent her.

I know that I will always have water enough, sun enough, love enough to take care of myself. I know that no pain can shatter me because I feel my pain, fully, terribly, weeping and wracked with it. I am not afraid of dying of it. That I could invite the people in boxes to feel the terrible thunder of their pains! To feel it, to be immersed in it, soaking, drowning, desperate. Because their own logic – that the sun will not last – is true as well of the storm! And if they would only permit themselves to survive one, blinking, staring upward at the beauty of the warm sun and fluffy clouds, they would know they can survive them all. And that the world goes on, relentless & beautiful. Sacred, my mind whispers to me. To Live, to Love, is something sacred.

Rain

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It rained last week.

The promise of fresh grass and damp soil opened the window of my small dorm with expectant zeal. But the only scent that met me was wet, stained tarmac, and the city’s heavy, waterlogged smoke.

It is hard to move the body when it is depressed. Limbs that are usually eager to dance feel heavy with the weight of past disappointments, and the grief that has burrowed inside my bones reminds me it is still there, my skeleton riddled with its holes and so fragile today that one real feeling will crumble it to dust.

I move, anyway.

I resist the urge to reach for my slacks; those safe garments that enable the body to curl up into its catatonic, clenched little fist. I choose instead the hip-hugging pencil skirt, and bright colors of the rainbow that will shine in defiance of the gloomy, rainy day; colors that invite the attention of people around me, an outfit that invites compliments and forces me to smile, even if only to be polite. I whisper promises to myself of “later”; “later” we will let the darkness in, and curl up in our soft pajamas like the injured animal we are, and we will cry and we won’t move; we’ll be still as a dead thing beneath the stars in the winter of our grief…

But we are not dead yet, and our days are for living; and to be alive is to be painful. It’s the stretched muscle of a good run; it’s the freshly made bed rumpled with the laughter of friends who flung themselves on it like a couch. If my heart is heavy today it is only because it still loves; and if it still loves then it still beats, and I am still here, and here is still a good place to be. With enough rain the smoke will pass, and the soil here will become good and dark and fertile. The spring will stir the flower buds of the many trees and cause them to flower under the weight of the unnatural clouds. And I will spend the winter listening to the stories that others tell me of how their strange, unique lives have changed them, and warm my hands by their fire until my skin too is ready to split and blossom into whatever creature I will be after this experience.

And I will look forward to the rain, when it comes; the rains that make all things clean and fresh, and soothe the tired throat of the thirsty child within me; the rains that make all things good and dark and fertile again.