“The soul is like a wild animal — tough, resilient, savvy, self-sufficient and yet exceedingly shy. If we want to see a wild animal, the last thing we should do is to go crashing through the woods, shouting for the creature to come out. But if we are willing to walk quietly into the woods and sit silently for an hour or two at the base of a tree, the creature we are waiting for may well emerge and out of the corner of an eye we will catch a glimpse of the precious wildness we seek.”
— Parker Palmer, A Hidden Wholeness
We have been living on the land for ten weeks. It has been lovely and dirty and physical and everything I could have never imagined. This summer, as a whole, has been the same.
Mostly: wonderful. Mostly: hard.
Living in an open field with no running water and an unpredictable power source has caused everything to become visceral, uninsulated.
Each morning I slug my soggy birks toward the outhouse, slurping my half hot coffee brewed through lurching power and I try to form a grumble, or at least an exasperated sigh, and every day I find myself unable to sulk as I watch the sky wake in every direction.
It is as if every ordinary thing is amplified here, with the buffer of comfort and convenience removed. The things that were once whispering are now shouting, refusing to remain unseen.
These days we know afternoon heat in its total and steaming strength — how it curls the hair that falls from her ponytail, how it forces us to find relief in the power of an ordinary breeze, an evening shadow.
We walk the rocky driveway, watching for wild turkeys, inspecting the latest tracks. We read aloud, feeling sudden kinship with The Ingalls (minus the nespresso). We scoop lentils and rice from jars around our evening fire, we dust our strawberries with sugar, we lick our fingers, we wash our feet.
I crane my neck as we brush our teeth at the edge of the weeds; I find that we are soaked in silent stars. How can the ordinary and extraordinary co exist like this? I hold a plastic toothbrush in my hand, I gape at the galaxy, I don’t get it.
The air bites as we wrap our babes in full jammies, pull up their wool socks, close each window, tuck the covers around their growing bodies. I wake hours later to find their bodies wrapped around mine instead.
I pull them close and burrow further.
And when the storm tumbles through at two am, he brews two mugs and we sit together as lighting strobes and strips the open sky all around. We know there is no sleep left in this night.
These days feel something like being alive.
These days feel like finally noticing that you are.
And as I start noticing I am alive, I begin to feel the things I’d rather not confront — but it seems we cannot hold the full capacity of wonder and awe without also holding the full weight of disappointment and fear, too. This wild animal of a soul has come around to visiting more often and I’m trying to be okay with the beast brushing against my legs from time to time. I am still holding my breath, not making a move, hoping not to be bit.
Please be gentle, please be kind.
I’ve said goodbye to many things lately and each loss has excavated a new place in me — at first all I felt were the deep tracks of a machine too heavy for the tender and interior places it shoved through, the clawed bucket scraping and cruel.
For awhile, I listened to the warning bells, I stayed away, I remained cautious.
Now, as the dirt dusting the air begins to settle some, I can survey the scene. I inhale, feeling brave enough to confront the damage.
And once again, I am unable to remain sulky.
I see it.
The view from here is not one of destruction, but beauty.
The excavation was not cruel, it was necessary, foundational.
It will not remain dirt and dust; but it will remain: free and wild and at peace.
This open space was meant for me all along, these days have been unstolen.