I walked through a pine wood and up a birch hill and down the bluff to where the creek bed chatters, wild plum nodding. Then I cross black fields. It is spring, but cold spring, the part in which the possibility of birth is impossibly tied up with the bitterness and sting of death. The part of spring we forget about in nostalgia of green and flowers and new born animals. This is dank, and hard. I have an urgent need to be in it coupled with a pale skin that hurts under the very thought of it.
I am afraid if I don’t walk through it, if I don’t witness it, I will make a mistake. I am afraid of getting lost.
I walk forest and hills and prairie ridges and realized, as I knit my way back to the house, that I have plotted out tracks to avoid the people. I am desperately seeking quiet. But a particular quiet so that quiet may not even be the right word: the woods are noisy, my head is loud. What I am trying to protect is clarity. To not be swayed by the expectations of others, the advice, the shoulds, the newspapers.
Here is summit of the prairie I’ve started calling Soul. It’s a palette of charcoals and greeny blacks. Its edge is oak savannah and its grasses are fallen, crushed, limped and then frozen by the weight of winter. Somewhere, under, there is growth. The surface is clod and scratches.
I reconsider: perhaps I should call this place the Skin.
My skin is blue, and my teeth click.
I need to walk a very long time in order for the tangles in me to unfurl. This takes miles. It is called solitude, contemplation, reflection, stillness, quiet. But these are misnomers.
Quietness reverberates in my head. I think I hear song, or a voice, but it is the sunlight. The light makes a liquid sound, an emotional and female sound as it moves across the textures of the earth.
After a while I realize I hear the light because I am clean. I am sober. Disorientingly clean. In order to endure what my life had become, including my own filth, I had to shut down my senses. As I open to the world again, everything around me is distressingly intense and all things from stone to water glass are possessed of feeling, alive, as they are in dreams. At least, that’s how I imagined dreams or heard of them. The truth is I didn’t dream, not when I was actively drinking. It was a black, deaf, non-consciousness that came from sleep. Neither rest nor dream in it. Dream is only a thing I have, recently.
And with the clarity of that dreaming I know that I go back and forth: skin, soul; soul, skin.
It is frightening, this soul work. Memories intercede, emotions. Fear. To come alive after dying to the self is dangerous.
But under, somewhere, there is growth.