I haven’t disappeared.
Well, a little bit I have. This whole year, really, my whole 24th year, has been an ebb and flow of disappearance. Half-hearted disappearance. Temporary disappearance–a fog rolls in and you can’t see the trees, then it dissipates and they’re made visible once again. They were there all along, as I’ve been.
All fall and winter, I daydreamed of a small wooden cabin in some woods in the Blue Ridge Mountains where I would escape to for a month or two, alone, to write and breathe and Figure Stuff Out. And when I emerged (in my daydream) I would understand where I have been, and I would know where to go next, how to find my footing to get there.
But I didn’t get to escape to a little cabin in the woods, because I lost my health insurance and had rent to actively pay and credit card debt to actively pay off and once you’re back on the grinding Merry-Go-Round of a certain lifestyle (9-5’s, utility bills, car inspections, a 12-month signed lease) it is complicated to walk away. I can’t tell you how many times this year I’ve had the thought, I just want to disappear. Not forever–just for a little while. To the mountains. To the sea. To the forest. I’ve never sought the wilderness so fervently in my life. It is all I think about these days. It seems to be the only thing that makes sense to me.
I’m not sure exactly when this shift happened. I’ve always loved nature, but I haven’t always felt such a visceral need for it. It wasn’t until recently, maybe in the past year or so, that I began to realize how disconnected I am from the natural world around me, and how marrow deep that fractures–through the world and into the self.
I walk down the sidewalk and admire the handful of florae I can name and the armfuls and armfuls that I can’t. I go to the river when I can, if the weather is okay on my once-weekly day off of work. Several months ago, I happened to have a whole weekend off, so I drove hours to the ocean two consecutive days in a row, by myself. I floated in the sea and stayed until the sun set and watched the peopled beach grow golden and quiet. Watched the moon rise, and the tide creep closer. Both days, I left feeling so full. So calm and grateful and mesmerized. Then California: jagged cliffs and voltaic night skies and endless ocean, collapsing, colossal beauty. And Oregon: deep green and bewitching.
I’m particularly drawn to the mountains. There should be a word in the English language for the feeling of craving the mountains. A certain mountain hunger. I go as often as time allows, to Humpback Rock usually, because at 1.5 hours, it is the closest. But it is not enough. I want to be so much closer, surrounded. Immersed. I find myself more and more often standing and sitting and staring at things that do not matter to me. A lot of screens. A lot of parking lot chaos. Things which–I DO GET IT–are somewhat unavoidable. But I challenge that they must be so all-consuming. Call me crazy. I want to spend days and nights and weekends learning from the landscape. Learning by touch. Learning how to heal others and myself with the world around us, within us, beyond us. This matters to me.
A year or so ago, a friend and I were walking through an open field in Amsterdam and I opened my palms to strum them along the tall wisps of grass that surrounded us. I said to my friend, I want to know the plants. I want to be able to identify them, call them by their names, and understand what they need and what they give.
She responded, Some people dedicate their whole lives to learning that.
I think about that conversation so often.
Some unwonted, taught pride diverts us from our original intent, which is to explore the neighborhood, view the landscape, to discover at least where it is that we have been so startingly set down, if we can’t learn why. -Annie Dillard, Pilgrim At Tinker Creek
I guess I’m not really saying anything concrete with all of this.
Just giving you a glimpse of spider silk while I construct my own intricate web.