Photo: Sue Vincent
She’d needed this for so long she almost did not know what to do with it. The sense of expansion felt as if it would crush her chest from the inside. The freedom felt disorienting. The quiet deafened. The freshness of the air dug splinters in her lungs.
It was the yearning, really. The slow release of what she had compressed herself into, for absolutely way too long.
Like pins and needles of a ‘fallen asleep’ limb waking up, it was. Only that this was her soul awakening, her spirit that she’d squelched into an air-tight packet and had pushed into a too-small drawer. Her way to survive.
She’d done this to herself, in a way. She realized. Sure, she could blame others for the part they played, but in the end it was her own small choices to ignore and minimize and shrug off and explain away, that slowly but resolutely coiled herself into herself, and did it so completely that she’d began believing herself to be devoid of need or want or urges to do more than what was outwardly expected.
So she’d stopped taking time for herself. She’d stopped going into nature. She’d stopped asking what she loved, or inquiring what she lost, or still required.
Till that day, when the small worm of “maybe,” fed by events that almost forced her hand, led to a gap in her calendar, and to a decision she could not quite explain to herself. A caprice, it felt, to rent a car and go — without a definite plan or conscious understanding of its meaning — into the wilder parts outside the concrete jungle that had become home.
And with the first crunch of her feet onto the leaf-strewn path, something inside her belly and right above her heart began to crack.
She let the wind carry her tears in zigzags on her cheeks. She used her sleeve to wipe her nose, as heedless as a child and as contentedly miserable. She cried because she could. She felt the ache and wronged bewilderment rise in her, slow at first, then unrestrained in its demand to be freed from the confines of denial and regret.
When she’d first left the car at the makeshift parking by the hiking trail, she thought she’d just stretch her legs a bit and perhaps take a few photos of the foliage. She didn’t realize — or perhaps she had but her spirit guarded it a secret so that, too, not be squashed — that there was far more inside her that needed a bit of stretching out. And that once out of the box that confined it, it swelled and would not be going back.
The air around her rustled and a flock of geese curved a misshapen arrow overhead, heading to a warmer clime. She spread her arms and closed her eyes and twirled a slow circle around.
She’d needed this for so long that she almost did not know what to do with it. But she was going to find out.
As the space in her chest fought to accommodate the rise of feelings, the rush of hope finally allowed her to truly inflate her lungs. The leaves around her crumbled to the touch even as more of them floated down to crown her head and shoulders. Some things in her were crumbling, too, even as others — light as golden feathers — came to rest like beacons on a path back to who she was.