My backpack makes a makeshift pillow, propping up my back as I rest on this wooden bridge that crosses over a tiny stream. Feeling like a troll who got sick of the view from underneath and came up for a better view. This shirt reminds me of twenty-seven - new travels, a new look, a new band, new love and a few love-adjacent moments before and after. This wristband reminds me of being thirty and kneeling on the hospital floor trying to swallow some bad news I always hoped wouldn’t come but suspected would. These shoes remind me of being thirty-two and sitting on this bridge writing this sentence about these shoes reminding me of being thirty-two and sitting on this bridge writing this sentence.
I am alone right now and I like alone. The circle of love keeps getting bigger, though. I liked the toast that Marcella’s dad raised to me on my birthday. These shoes remind me of people I got close to when the world was ending. It’s always beginning and ending, I guess - just depends on how widely you can open your eyes the next day. The forest looks very similar to the way it did when I was eighteen, many beginnings and endings ago. My dad was walking with me and my sister was walking with me. I climbed a tree and asked to be photographed in it. My scalp was buzzed and my soul was, too - high on existence, ready for travel and acclaim and money and sex and a house and love. In the meantime, I was content to walk up a sideways, barkless tree and mug for the 35mm camera.
I made a ten-second movie of myself spinning slowly as if in a forest tornado. 360 degrees of green things shimmering under the sun. Round and round and et cetera. The trees weren’t spinning; it was my head. Anxiety as invisible as the unrealized ideas it squashes like wildflowers. A jammed conveyor belt. Laying on this bridge helps. And the non-metaphorical flowers smell intoxicating. I’ve been still long enough that the once-startled frogs have reemerged.
I can hear a forest’s worth of chirping birds as loudly as I can hear heavy, Route One rush hour traffic. Here, you learn to tune it out. Here, you learn to accept that a ten-to-twenty-minute car ride is always between you and nature, that nature closes at 8:00. Here, it takes a lot of effort to experience the nothing that my soul craves.
Last year, I booked a lot of work that required long drives. It helped burn off some of the stress of the days spent in hospice. I’ve had some pretty wild travel days this year, too, and as much as my camera loves it, my body keeps requesting that I be still. Not inactive, but still. Able to be still. The kind of stillness that, paradoxically, makes you more productive. One of my closer friends hatched a plan that centers around a southern town that sounds like it spins at about 33 ⅓ RPM. Somewhere that wouldn’t require you to escape every time you want a dose of nature and/or culture. There sure is a lot of love up here for this northern troll. Still, it might be nice to take a big whiff of southern air.
It always seems like the wrong time, so I go to sleep in my haunted house and wake up surrounded by ghosts. I try to entertain them. I spend my days trying to put out fires. Or at least contain them. But you can’t put out the fire just by lookin’ at it. I spend a lot of time trying to get back to zero, but zero isn't where I want to go. Sometimes you gotta pick up the pace by going slow.
For now, I'm going home.