I have an incredible pressure in my chest. No, I am not suffering from a heart attack, a panic attack, heartburn, gas, or anything medical, emotional, etc.
The first couple of Fridays of summer vacation are a bit disconcerting. Within me is this powerful urge to do anything and everything that hasn’t been done in the last nine months because, if I don’t get it done immediately then it won’t happen at all. And these emotions are truly disorienting because my sense of time loses its sense of meaning and takes on a weird, dry-rotted elasticity. One moment, I completely lose track of what day it is. The next, I am paying incredibly close attention to the minutes changing and am stressing because I’m not ready.
Ready? For what? Life? Living?
I have noble intentions: finish re-editing the novel one more time, compose a query letter, start researching agents, work on the next novel (or two), write poetry every day, write on the blog every day, read books, plan out my new class, run, hike, work in the garden….
In looking at this list, no wonder I am feeling anxious. I can’t complete half of that on any day, and I am trying to do this daily.
But the urge is there because once school starts, my life falls into the routine of teacher, mother, and wife. If I am lucky, I will carve out the twenty or so minutes I want for blogging. But I know that I need to keep pushing myself. I need to learn how to edit poetry. That might sound weird, but I really don’t know how to edit poetry. And I need to collect my courage in both hands and start sending out my poetry to literary magazines with the hopes of publication and the expectation of rejection. But every writer has his/her collection of rejection letters and I need to continue collecting mine.
Noble intentions list part two: lose weight, get into shape, prepare for the Appalachian Trail, save money so I can buy new clothes at the end of the summer because my current clothing doesn’t fit anymore but I have so much more weight to lose, play video games with my children, keep my children from living non-stop on rectangles and squares (technology), read the Bible, pray….
I can stare at these lists and start feeling defeated and berate myself for not getting half of this work done. Or, I can celebrate the little successes that I have already experienced. Hiking at least three to four miles of the AT out of the 105 that I wanted to accomplish but is starting to look a bit unlikely. That’s okay. I’m not ready to die yet. I will fulfill this dream. I will do this. I will not be defeated.
The King’s Speech is on and I am watching as Colin Firth, the king, struggles with his stutter, with his inability to communicate, and I feel as though I am inhabiting his skin. He didn’t give up.
I won’t give up.
I still have hours of daylight ahead of me. I will not give up. I have many more miles to run, to walk, to hike. I have many more adventures for this summer. Maybe the query letter won’t get written. Maybe I won’t reach the magic number I want to see on the scale.
But I will always remember cupping a butterfly on my hands and releasing it to the wind. If that is the closest thing I hold to a trophy to celebrate this summer’s successes…then I have done enough.
Poem for the day:
Eating Blackberries Under Power Lines
Slipping the bonds of the shadows, we step out onto
A partially worn path that splices the thick power lines
Swollen with electricity.
We are tourists on this path, you in your Hawaiian shirt, me
With torturously white legs and running shoes.
We don’t fit in here. Our flabby middle-aged bodies,
Our naiveté about the path and the codes that may or may not exist,
We stand out in sharp, painful contrast against the slim young-people
With tanned, toned bodies. They carry bulging backpacks that hold
Their lives within oblong snail shells.
We carry clear plastic water bottles partially filled with ice.
We didn’t wait thirty minutes for filtration.
We didn’t sprinkle chemicasl into our water to prevent illness.
We didn’t boil for twenty minutes and then wait for another
Hour so that the water would no longer burn our throats as
We greedily drank to satiate the aching thirst.
Here, on this path beneath the power lines that hiss with crisp,
Staccato pulsations, I just want to retreat to my car and hide,
Forego this journey that I have only walked a mile of.
I am not worthy.
We step aside for yet another couple who are better, faster, stronger than us
And in that moment, I stop focusing on my unworthiness and
See, deep within the prickles and the thorns,
Beads of ripening blackberries.
Here, under the surging, furiously popping power lines,
Grows this constellation of berries, individual nebulas of seeds
Suspended within sacs of juice and flesh…
We pluck the ripest berries, place them in our mouths…
A communion on a dirt path under the scorching sun and the power lines.
A quick bite, an explosion of taste. Nature and sun and life explodes in our
Mouths and we join this world. No longer separate.
No longer apart.
But a part of it.
The seconds elapse.
The moment passes, and I reach out, take your hand,
And we resume the path, leaving behind the power lines,
The wild blackberry bushes,
The blinding sun,
And regain the calm of the shadows and the forest.
Our footsteps echo in quiet harmony as we overtake a young couple
And their dog. We give a brief greeting, pat the dog on the head,
And continue moving forward, back to the car, back to our world,
But not before I run my hand on the stone post that marks the trail
And commit to myself, to you, to God, to anyone watching my intention to
Return and leave my footprints here, among the many scattered
Tread patterns embedded in the mud and decaying leaves.