This is a quotation in a book given to me for Christmas by an amazing colleague. The byline is “Something Corporate” which kind of shrivels my soul. But then, I look out my window and search for the sky and I realize that this is the perfect quote for me.
Ironically, I can’t see the sky right now. The night has fallen and I’m sitting in my kitchen under a bright light. The reflection in the blackened glass yields nothing but an obsidian sky hovering over a doubly skewed reflection of me, my twin, my smaller triplet.
In the end, though, this is very much a part of me. Not the weird window reflections (although I have always preferred my reflection in the window at night when my face blurs into darkness and is replaced by the lights outside my neighbor’s house) but the fact that sometimes I just happily stare at the sky.
I run almost every day. As I train for the half marathon, for the AT, for a new body to replace the old detritus hanging on the edges of my skin, I will stare at the painfully slow unfurling pavement under my feet. When this becomes dizzying and morally degenerating, I lift my eyes to my shadow.
My shadow that is slowly, very slowly thinning and taking on more of a concave shape as opposed to convex. I see the bobbling of my body as I bound up and over each step, over each impulse to stop and turn around and go home, over each moment when I feel like I can’t breathe but force myself forward.
And then, when this starts to feel discouraging, I find the sky.
The ever changing sky. The nucleus-wall that holds together our world and is a shared parcel of our lives. I stare at the clouds, stare at the sun banking behind the clouds. I watch the hours of daylight flood into the horizon and race against the deadening of time and the cold that makes my lungs thicken and squeeze out air.
I stare at the colors hidden in the nuances of the world that I love and long to make mine. I stare at the way the clouds metastasize from harmless puffs to storm clouds. And then I stare at the bands of rain ribboning to the Earth and glory in the water streaking down my face, cooling the heat pulsating from my skin.
I stare at the solemn skeleton of the trees against a brilliant azure and know that hope is always within reach. I stare at the fluttering of sunlight when I am running on the forest trails and feeling like maybe, just maybe, I will succeed.
From living in Germany and hiking in the mountains to working at a lake in Washington DC, I learned how to read the clouds. At least, in a non-meteorologist kind of way. I watch the way the clouds broil into a tempest, send the wind skittering into the hollows of our lives and gust out the dusty secrets tucked into our quiet niches.
I watch the way the clouds form ribs and settle against the arch of the Earth, becoming a pleated dress unfurled as we dance through the universe.
I watch the sky. I stare at the sky. I stare at the horizon that I want to touch and will never in spite of my bucket list and dreams.
I stare at and read the fortunes being unraveled in bird flight, in the way tiny birds will undulate and swirl together, form a heaving cloud of feathers and blood and part, thin out into long lines. A black rainbow that becomes a heart beat on a monitor screen. A wall of life. A line of time that tells the fortunes of the seasons.
I watch the sky for the rainbows that form just on the other side of the street. I have seen the end of the rainbow. It was three houses from me and glittered with iridescence and promises impossible to keep. I wanted to dance within the colors, feel them on my skin. But to leave the confines of my door, the arch of my door threshold and walk across the steaming pavement to enter into God’s gift felt like a defilement. What is my footfalls made the rainbow skitter back into the sky?
Rainbows are shy. They are meant to be seen but never indulged in. I would wrap it around my shoulders like a shawl and hide beneath the colors. But that is a desecration.
When I was on the AT and summiting low-lying mountains, I stared at the sky. When the storms threatened to rain Owl Singer and me into our tent, I stared at the sky. And when I finally collapsed against the pressure of ignorance and painfully swollen feet, I stared at the sky and wept.
I stare at the sky.
I am forty-four years old. I am supposed to be mature and old and dignified. I am supposed to be an adult.
Instead, I stare at the sky and exult in its beauty and color. I stare at the stars and pretend that I not only know the names of the constellations but their stories as well.
I stare at the planets and wish I could see their colors with my own eyes.
I stare at the snowflakes tumbling towards me and love it when they melt in my eyelashes.
I stare at the sky and release myself from the boundaries of age and dignity and exult that for those moments, I am nothing more than an atomic speck in history, staring at the sky and singing “Amen.”