I’m writing in the dark, or more like from out of the darkness, tonight in a lonely place, where I feel like everything I love is disappearing…
For awhile I will forget about it, but the second a shadow falls, a flash of hope or memory caresses my cheek, and it begins again. It is a tired, worn out, annoying love story that clings to me like a coat of mud I can never quite wash completely off. Like the tea stain old age spot under my right eye. In the shape of a horse it is, a stain so strong my dermatologist couldn’t even burn it off with the laser. Stubborn symbol refuses to let go of me — so I accept it — a tattoo the Goddess gave me. Like the other new mark under my generous chin, yet another sign that the Crone is coming, youthful times are getting shorter just as my strands of silver hair are growing longer. I am liking the new hair color, however, but that will soon change, too. I plan on dying my locks a deep crimson soon.
Everyday I am more aware things and people are fading. My loves are leaving. My new neighbors are strangers. I’m not adjusting well to this next set of circumstances. I don’t mind change — if only it could come in small doses! It seems all the things that give me joy are doomed to sink away into places I cannot follow. I want to offer them my life to extend theirs. I’ve already lived forty-one years, that’s more than some people already have, and I need to be free of this constant pain. But, no. Nope. You can’t go walk deep back into the woods to die yet, Valentina. You still belong to this world. You are loved more than you know. But why, oh, WHY aren’t they here?!
I’m also reminded too well that my Aunt Sylette died at an early age, just a few years away now from my age. Although I’m told I have no signs of fatal illness, there are times when my heart hurts like a burning coal and my blood is like fire, everything boiling within me in a tearful rage that forces me to the ground and makes me think I’ll just die! It’s all normal, the doctors say. Just sit back, relax, breathe, accept what’s happening, let it go, it’s only natural…
I look for my heart’s-ease in simple things. The best things. My pillows, tea, poetry, art, reading the blogs of friends, and Mr. Snuggles. His nose pushes into my face a lot these days. He licks at my tears, head-butts me to get up and out of bed, and gives me a look of concern that no human can make, one of innocent longing, pure and sweet and of complete understanding. Unconditional devotion, the kind I give back to him. If it weren’t for him, I would not leave the apartment. I carry him on my shoulder like a baby and sing to him, sing to keep from crying, and laugh in the sunshine to hide my swollen eyes from my neighbors. I’m okay, I say, when I want to tell the entire world, help me out of these feelings!
There is no escape, you know.
So it is best to do what I can with my life and make some use of my time. Once again the summer brings things to do. The trees and wildlife call me to volunteer. Last night I saved a toad from a swift and sure death in the middle of the road…
It peed on me, but I paid it no mind, cupped it in my hand and hummed to it as I carried it back into a deeper, wetter part of the woods closer to my place. But before I deposited it where the other toads like to hang out, I paused to snap a photo of us together. Every summer the toads and frogs are a common sight here. I get to see them grow bigger as the season grows long, and, yes, I weep when they are gone, too. I weep for every thing that comes and goes by. Why?
I’ve been like this for as long as I’ve been alive. I remember the day when I learned that not every creature likes it when I try to rescue it. When I was four years old, I tried to save a group of army ants from getting crushed on the sidewalk. I picked a handful of them up and a dozen of them all bit into my hand. For a moment I felt more shock than pain. I stood there staring at the ants digging into my skin. The first thought I had: So that’s what those shapes in front of their heads are for! and I ran screaming home because all those little jaws felt like pieces of glass slicing into me. Before an adult could get to me, I tried to pull off a few of the ants and, even in pain, I did not want to harm the creatures. Trying to pull them off made them bite into me deeper! Then when I could not bear the pain, I pulled too hard on some of their bodies, only to discover their heads and jaws still clamped on tightly to my skin.
Before I could get all the way home, a neighbor saw me fall into the grass. He and his wife took one look at me and a series of events happened afterward so fast, I don’t quite remember how it all ended, but the man knew what to do to get those stubborn army ants off me. He stuck my hand into steaming hot water, almost hotter than I could stand. In seconds my mother was there, and we took off to the hospital, yet I needed only a few stitches on my left ring finger. I still have a slight scar to remind me of my misadventure.
Sometimes I still feel that sense of sorrow and betrayal like I did with those army ants. I want to reach out and protect all living things, but some things are not supposed to be within my care.
I just pray that my simple act of caring from a distance is enough, that my tears will buy some future happiness, and my worries repaid by my friends keeping themselves safe. I do not want to imagine life without someone I love. It would be the death of me. Like a part of me dies again right now just thinking about it. I do not want to be all doom and gloom, but… for once I will be a little selfish and say that there are times I feel like my joy was stolen from me all because my emotions are too much, they scare people I love away from me, and I am afraid to see them for fear of breaking down in front of them.
So, from this distance, I breathe slowly and move on. I give my love freely and as much as I would to someone who cannot be here. Every creature, every plant, every person I come across I just give them that love that isn’t accepted by someone faraway. That’s what I have to do. That’s what I’ve been doing for years. It is what I plan on doing for the rest of my life, just so I can stay alive, and not spoil my life on something hopeless. The work — the art — what I’m meant to do and why I’m here — sometimes I feel it is worth more than my own personal happiness.
Like yesterday, after I could not stop myself from crying, I paused to sob underneath a linden tree. The flowers of the tree soon stopped me from weeping. The spirit of the tree itself had a healing power to it, and my instinct was to put my face into the flowers, rub my eyes with its heart-shaped leaves, and hug at the bark. Yes, I’m that kind of person, and I didn’t care who saw me. When I had sufficiently lost my sadness for some time, I thanked the tree and left an offering of strands of my hair.
A few feet away from me I saw another woman crying, no, sobbing loudly. She had just got off the phone talking to whomever, sighed, wiped at her eyes with her sleeve, and was about to put earplugs in to listen to some music. By her accent I could tell she was Thai. I felt the urge to ask her what was wrong, so I did. She immediately, and exaggeratedly, bobbed her head up and down to reassure me that everything was alright, but she was lying. So, boldly, I said, “I know you’re missing someone, just like I am, but I want to tell you it will get better.” I gave her a hug with my eyes, and smiled as I started to cry again. Oh, and the tears gushed out of her, too! I put a hand over my heart as if I were holding it back from bursting out as she squeaked out a meek thank you and I left her to her music.
I surprised myself I had said what I did. I told her what I had wanted to hear myself. I gave her heart ease and that made me feel better for a little while, good enough to weep with a joy in my heavy heart, reminding myself that, yes, it will be okay, somehow, more than okay, it will get better, and I won’t have to say good-bye anymore soon.