I’m taking some time for myself.
And I can’t help it — I feel selfish doing so. There are so many things that need to be done, and in the chaos of all the wanting and needing and striving and trying, how can I presume to steal away a couple of hours alone? But I do. I pack up my notebook, my pens, a book that I both can’t put down and fear to pick up, and drive to an abandoned park where I can wander at will. Find a place where I can be wholly and completely alone.
There’s a faded lawn blanket in the back of the van and I fold the thick fabric into quarters so that the dewy prairie grass won’t soak my jeans. I press the books, the pens, the oversized blanket to my chest and part the morning with the directionless shuffle of my feet. There are little knots of trees stretching between the knee-high grass, and I pick a spot bathed in light. I could lay down here and be lost — and that is precisely why I love it.
I have to tamp down a patch of grass, and even after my graceless stomping the blanket hovers like a magic carpet a foot or so off the ground. I have to lower myself into this makeshift bower, and though it’s downright comical — the blanket, the thrashing efforts to tame the wild, my own feeble attempt at retreat — before I’m settled with my back against the base of a knobby tree, I’ve begun to cry.
I don’t know why.
I’m not sad. I’m not hurt. I’m not angry.
Instead, I feel like I’m seeing the clouds for the very first time. And the newborn leaves above me. There is a perfect curl of grass before me, a wheat-colored sprig that looks as if God wrapped his finger around the stem and created the spiral for fun.
I’ve seen all this before. A hundred times. A thousand. And I’ve appreciated it. Loved it. Wept over it, even, as I am now. But I can’t help wondering if this awakening is something that needs to happen inside of me again and again. If my heart slowly hardens over time and I need to revisit this place of brokenness so that new things can grow in me from the insecurity and selfishness and indifference that is turned over like earth that has gone fallow.
The sun dries my tears, crowns my head, warms my cheeks. It’s hot on my arm, drenching the navy cardigan I’ve thrown over my t-shirt with the promise of summertime. I shrug off the sweater, and a warning spring breeze nips bare skin so quickly I pull it back on in seconds.
And because I am contemplative, and because the sky is just so blue, I can’t help but wonder if this one small moment is metaphor. If this is exactly how I live: full of longing that tilts sideways in the very moment it is quenched. Always wanting something different. Something other. Something more.
Do I ever tip my head back and exist in the now, drink in the sun as warm and sweet and complicated as wine on my tongue?
But I want to.
I lean my head against the trunk of the tree, look up through the leaves to the wind puffed clouds and beyond, and sip. It’s not much, but it’s a beginning. A dot on a map that reminds me I am here. And that is exactly where I want to be — eyes wide open.