Those earliest years were a long moment of sun and shade and gentle joy. Then I got older, and knew what worry was, and shame. I learned to accept that truth was not our nature, but must be learned and adhered to, even if it was difficult and against our impulse. So, the world became more grey and through doing what I often did not wish to do, I found a sort of grim satisfaction and thought that made me have worth as a person. Nature became suspect; her beauty was trickery, admiration of her was akin to idolatry. What I had so dearly loved and found joy in became an object of fear.
Sometimes, I think, that when we are taught a certain way of thinking, we absorb it and learn it and somehow along the way we accept it. When this process occurs as a child, and we grow into adults with the same mindset, when do we acknowledge our own responsibility for choosing to continue to accept it? Perhaps we do not know that we have a choice. I do not know if I knew that I did.
All I do know is that I eventually hurt so much that the pain of continuing as I had was more horrifying than going against all that I knew. I knew that I was going to hell for "rebelling", but what I faced if the years went along as they had was worse. So, without knowing it, I made a choice. And in making that choice, my world as I knew it dissolved and the ugliness that lurked beneath the surface of what I had accepted as the "right" way to live, to think, came bursting out.
And in choosing what I thought was my ticket to hell, I found a painful salvation. In breaking from the "safety" I had chosen, however unconsciously, to remain within the boundaries of, I broke from years of heavy chains.
But the process broke my heart. I came to Ohio and those earliest months were a deep struggle to simply get up each day and get dressed and care for my little ones. It is hard when everything you have known has come to an end. Not a graceful, natural ending but an ugly, jagged, painful end. My community, my family, my sense of identity, my sense of purpose was gone. In those early days all I knew was that I had to make sure my children were cared for and with me. I was consumed with grief and lived in a world of memory.
Sometimes the pain was so great that I took my little baby and fled to the woods. Oh, the woods. The mysterious, dark, cool woods that at that time were just leafing into a new cycle of growth and beauty. On the creeks and near the shore of the lake there was thin ice yet, but beneath! A determined moving stream, quiet yet persistent, that wore away at the ice and struggled to break free.
The hills were gentle and comforting. I grew to know and love each swell and curve, each small valley between steep ridges, the scent of damp leaves, decaying into new life-giving earth, the smell of pine needles and cedar, the smell of the soft rot of logs, dotted with pale fungi. I grew to know and love the streams and creeks and the river on its last journey to the great river, which flows onwards beyond sight to another great river, which flows ever farther into the wider world and the ocean, and from that ocean into all oceans. And so, by my little tributary in the woods, I was connected to all the world.
Yet I was sheltered, lovingly, and came to know the earth as Mother and I clung to her as a child does to its Mother, and from her gentle arms I grew stronger and healed, and took steps, which became strides, and so I learned to climb mountains.