“You never knew which split second might be the zigzag bolt dividing all that went before from everything that comes next.” – Barbara Kingsolver, from Flight Behavior
Gone now from the familiar routine of home for two weeks, I’m struck by the immediacy of outside influences. It can be the words of a stranger, as Kingsolver writes about in her newest breath-taking novel. It can be the lure of a distant valley seen between two mountains in the distance, the watery coolness of a river on a hot summer day, or the decision to make a left turn instead of veering to the right.
As each opportunity or sign appears, I’ve been paying attention to an overall body sense of knowing. When I listen, the answer comes. Yes, let’s stop here on the banks of this creek and soak our achy, sweaty feet instead of waiting for the cold pack and Epsom salts at home. Yes, let go of my assumption about this rundown café, and see what happens (wolfing down the tastiest salsa north of the Mexican border and naming our GPS Thelma in honor of our friendly waitress is what happened).
This knowing has also marked a luminous period of releasing what I call the ‘old stories’— the inevitable turbulence of growing from child to adult etched not in stone, rather into my imperfect memory—stories that are fading gracefully into the past, where they rightly belong. Fading is the key word here; the stories will never disappear, yet instead of defining my life as they once did, they now inform it, fertilizer given back into the soil of each new day.
Back in my hometown for only the fifth time in forty years, my physical self felt comfortably calm and “at home” for the first time in decades. I could see, hear, smell, and touch what I now appreciate as the very soul of my upbringing: the wide open canvas of big skies and ever-changing clouds, the protective backdrop of mountains, the peace of shady streams lined with cottonwoods. Granite outcroppings rough to the touch, full of smooth hollows for daydreaming or reading a book cover to cover, the smell of pine needles giving clues to the weather – soft peppery pungent after summer rains, crackly peppery sharp on a sun-baked day, almost-too-cold-to-smell after snowfall.
Perhaps most importantly is the new insight that under this sky, I learned to view things up-close and take in the long view almost simultaneously with just the swivel of my young eyes. This road trip is giving me ample opportunity to consciously understand how this artful knowing has served me well out there in the world—to swivel these older eyes and continue to practice what I learned all those years ago.