Last week, when I was in the grumpy mood from hell, I noticed a single maple leaf had failed on my car. Smack dab in the middle of my car’s hood, the leaf was beautifully plastered on to my car’s exoskeleton.
Its stem was pointed towards my windshield. The tip of the leaf was pointed along the spine of my car, pointing me forward.
I’m obsessed with the compass rose. Seriously. I love it. I love the diamond patterns and the colors which are used to contrast each lovely angle. I love that it points me in the right direction or the direction that I think is right or is right for me right now.
If I had the courage, the ability, the real desire, I would love to have a compass rose tattooed on to my back, on to my palette which represents who I am and who I want to be. I love the four cardinal directions and then the angles for the sub-directions. Love how they splay out and challenge the viewer to choose a direction and move boldly in that direction.
So last week, yeah. I was in a ferocious mood. And for no real good reason other than chemicals mixed with the weather patterns mixed with sleep deprivation mixed with stress created a toxic acid that burned through my emotional veins.
But there was this leaf on my car. Pointing me forward. Pointing me towards whatever horizon I wanted to find and to breach and to put under the heel of my boot as I walked on to the next horizon.
And then to the next.
And the next.
And the next.
I miss the trails that crisscross the mountain sides. Today, I took my daughter running. She hated it. Complained the entire time, tried to make it look like she was running when, in reality, she was fast-walking. We were on a trail in a local state park and as we rounded bends or ran up hills, I could almost stretch my imagination enough to feel like I was in Germany.
I miss Germany. At this point, I imagine that the town and the valley are covered in the first snows of the year. I would that I was wearing a heavy pair of boots and my mother’s warm, wool coat and I was trudging down snow-covered lanes.
I would that I had on my pack and was on the Appalachian Trail.
I would that I was on my mountain in West Virginia, breathing in the smoke from the wood fire while I was making smores.
In some respects, the maple leaf on my car was reminding me that I am the bearer of my own emotional compass rose.
I can choose to be grumpy and ugly and upset.
Or I can choose to be quiet and calm and even happy when my emotional compass rose was definitely not pointing in that direction.
I should have shoved myself in my car and driven to the mountains. I should have grabbed my hiking boots and ran away and given my family peace from my grumpiness.
But I didn’t. And I feel a little guilty about that.
But those emotions are also a week old and not really important anymore when I am sitting in my recliner, still wearing my running clothes and remembering all the lovely things that have happened in the last week.
Thanksgiving has ended and, yesterday, I really did take that time to think about what I had and why I need to be grateful. Today, as I was driving around and braving the Black Friday chaos so I could buy coffee grounds, I listened to news reports about the memorial services happening in Paris.
In a month, Christmas will be fast upon me and I will be living in an emotional roller coaster of pressure and tension to do everything in my power that Christmas is wonderful and joyful for my children and my family. Because I love Christmas but I also find that Christmas is difficult because I want to do everything in my power to give my family a magical Christmas much like what is on TV or sung about on the 24-hour Christmas music radio stations.
I am going to make a promise to myself. I am going to allow myself the ability to run away, to follow the emotional magnetic north that the leaf was inviting me to follow. Because I am so very fallible and will make so many mistakes that I can’t ignore or dismiss. No matter how good my intentions, I won’t buy all the right presents and will likely miss all the right deals that will make everyone happy.
This is not an emotional declaration of independence from the world. I am too much in love with my family for this to be considered that I am running away to avoid responsibility. I am saying, though, that I need to remember the joys I experienced on the Appalachian Trail when it was me and my pack and the birds’ songs surrounding me.
I need to remember the joy of dipping my hands into cold mountain streams and just being, just living, just thrusting myself back into the existential primality of life.
Life is a beautiful, wonderful thing. I write this as my son and I watch The Walking Dead and another tragedy unfolds itself. I write this as he readies to watch another episode of apocalyptic dystopia.
I write this while I dream about mountain trails or “the peace that passeth all understanding.”