Saturday, June 2, 2012

Something bigger

When my thoughts become difficult to think, and unproductive too –- when I lie at night and think of the words I want to say to him, the insults I want to hurl, the apologies I want to seek –- I wrap myself instead in the mountains and the sea, those two disparate worlds that meet here at sharp angles. I close my eyes and imagine the fiddleheads unfurling in the forest while I sleep, the rocks on the beach turning over themselves, turning, turning as the tide pulls in and pushes out, breathing, the whole earth breathing and pulsing while my body, close to sleep, strives for the same. We breathe together, the earth and I, resting when it's time to rest and growing when it's time to grow. I close my eyes at night and escape consciousness into a dreamworld of possibilities. The light grows longer and longer each night, and while my cells and neurons regenerate, ferns spread across bare ground, shoots of fireweed and lupine stretch higher, the starfish in the sea crawl across beds of mussels and clams looking for food. Eat, grow, move, search, die back – we are all in this together. When my thoughts seem like the biggest thing around, I lay back and let the mountains envelop me, squeezing out everything else, their white snowfield arms encircling me, tucking me deep into the green folds of their forests.

I think of Edward Abbey. For 227 pages now, I have been incredulously admirable of his solitary life, and finally, I get a hint that there is more: “I strip and lay back in the sun," he writes, "with nothing between me and the universe but my thoughts. Deliberately I compose my mind, quieting the febrile buzzing of cells and circuits, and strive to open my consciousness directly, nakedly to the cosmos. Under the influence of cosmic rays I try for cosmic intuitions – and end up earthbound as always, with a vision not of the universe but of a small and mortal particular, unique and disparate … her smile, her eyes in firelight, her touch.” Later: “I walk among thistles and coarse dying goldenrod … and ponder the meaning of my solitude. Reaching no conclusions.”

If Abbey can reach no conclusions, what can I, mere mortal, hope to come up with? Even with the shadow of mountains and emptiness of wind and eternity of the sea all around me, there are no conclusions to be reached. But I can still surrender to the earth, let it grow and push itself into the crevices of my consciousness, let it wrap itself around me like a choking vine, a vine that continues to leaf out and unfurl its tendrils while I sleep, soundly, striving for peace. 

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