I don’t know what you are, but your song reminds me of California. Makes me think of thick warm fog, spicy and eucalyptus-flavoured. Waking up and thinking I’m in a dream, your song a thread that pulls me through.
And you make me think of driving along the California coast, the long windy roads that still make me queasy to remember, the ones with little houses stuffed into huge evergreen-scapes above and below the sinuous two-lane stretches. Makes me think of the vows I made that I would one day live in a place like that, a place where skinny threads of smoke weave together home and sky and the air is actually warm-spicy-water-fir-foggy-balmy-magic that made me believe it was possible.
Dear bird, you make me smile and remember my dream, and realize it is real.
Did you know I used to dream about you? I walked through you this year, learning your intimate twists and turns, your ins and outs and secret valleys and sudden heights. I walked through your thickets of maple carpeted with pendulous green moss and perky ferns, through your tiny white velvet water falls, and had de ja vu. I dreamed this too as a kid, not day dreams and wishes and vows, but the dreams that filled my nights and drifted me through my fears and sadnesses and youthful angst. The more corners I turn, the more you feel like an old friend rediscovered, someone I knew long ago and forgot and found, the familiar joys shared again. I look at you out my window and feel comforted. You’re there, and here, and I’m not alone.
I couldn’t think of anything fun to do last week. I had an afternoon free, no work, and I wanted to do something fun, but I couldn’t think of anything. What’s fun? I wracked my brain. But you get me through, shower. Maybe its stupid how good you make me feel, but you are my moment to myself, my watery, warm bubble of safety and solace, of cleanliness and order. You are joy. You are pleasure and sensation, you wash away the hurt. You are a tiny detail with huge effects.
I’m so sorry. By which I mean sorrowful. You feel my abuse. You ache right now, after days of only moderate use. You remind me of my grandmother’s hands, twisted and claw like from rheumatoid arthritis. She never complained, but I hear it hurts. You hurt. This ache, I dont know how to fix it. Was it the cold, all those frozen boxes at my last job? Did I induce arthritis? Did I damage you beyond fixing, beyond repair?
I’m scared of this pain, not because it hurts, which I can bear, but because of what it means for my future. Will they heal? Will they always ache, this cold inflammation? Am I getting old? Is this the first (hardly) sign of deterioration? I can’t lose you. You are everything. How can I type? How can I write? How can I work? How can I eat, pet my dogs, tie my shoes, wipe my ass? You are independence. You are freedom. I can’t lose you. I’m probably overreacting. I hope so. I really hope so. I’m really sorry, hands. Please be okay.
I used to love writing you, and then someone told me I was bad at poetry. She read my stuff and looked down her nose at it and tried to be polite, suggesting it was too sentimental, not right for her publication. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have been crushed but I was. I haven’t written, and have read little, of you since that moment. You are that cheesy, guilty, embarrassing, vulnerable act, as risky as taking my clothes off in front of a boy for the first time. You are the nerdy kid hunched over her scribbler, sitting alone in the high school hallways, the one that everyone shuns except to pick on. Notebook stolen from her hands and read aloud to shame…not my nightmare, but someone’s.
You’re that risky every time. You are personal. You are mine. You are too much me to share. But you are most beautiful when shared, when you create human connection. You are different than prose. You are more heart and less head. I’ve missed you. I wasn’t sure I’d come back to you.
I was angry at you for making me seem stupid and pathetic and for making me the subject of someone’s disdain, her judgment. Maybe it was because of you, and her, and that first interaction that I’ve always felt bad about my writing. But you’ve changed…or maybe I’ve changed. Now you are a choice. Now you are an act of growth–maybe small–of intentional vulnerability, which brings courage and strength. But mostly you are me, you are my voice speaking back to me. I’ve missed you. Welcome home.