I woke up this morning at 5:45, pre-alarm, not moving just waking slowly, buzzing softly in the dark – feeling good — just lying there, still and quiet, listening to the world around me.
This morning I moved easily through the routine, like milk in glass, spilling into the shower, lotion, skirt. I felt light, ready, expectant. My whole mood was one of kinetics — the fluid crouch at the mark before the race begins. A breath to cool the head, every muscle prepared, at the ready — every cell craving that airborne gunshot.
I’ve been dreaming of swimming, of running… but not track-bound, in laced-up Nikes… Like this: leaping through how-high weeds and beach grasses on all fours like a lioness, thrumming uphill in the snow with drifts to my belly like a snowshoe hare, bright white and fluffy in the winter sun.
I have been a dolphin with rubbery skin stretched tight over my lean muscular frame — no wrinkles or excess flesh — coursing through turquoise waves, drunk on the feeling of fluid ease.
I have been a Gypsy Vanner horse with piebald feathered feet, racing my shadow on the sand.
(I hear Hugh McGuire at age 10, asking me, “Kristin, what animal are you today?” Because I was always pretending to be an animal. And again, at age 17, running into Hugh downtown, when he asked me the same question and answered with a flourish, “You, girl, are a FOX!” But the answer was, more accurately, “a peacock.”)
I have been all of these things, at night, in dreams, in the quiet spaces of days intoxicated by the winter sunshine, my cells insatiable for it. Each breath feels like foxfire, my hands and feet transformed into massive paws, into emerald wings, into this lithe animal grace I carry just beneath my own flawed human skin.
So I went to Florida – my pilgrimage of sorts. I have put much of my endeavors on hold in the abyss, unsure what to make of them, knowing the best plan of action in times like these (especially with world-weary head and no context for happiness or success) is no action at all.
I waited, paused, my life in suspended animation.
I thought space would bring the answers – that somehow distance and air would inspire clarity. I sat for hours and hours in the southern sunshine and tropical air filtered through the massive screens of my parents’ patio, veranda, lanai (actually, “Florida Room”), not really waiting, but letting go in that anti-Buddhist way way I have, like giving a gift selflessly but secretly expecting one in return (I blame my gypsy heritage).
But no answers came.
I felt peace, yes… I was given the gift of context, of measure, the realization of how crazy/stressful/painful life has been when the sanity, peace and health returns. Surviving the chaos through that special brand of oblivion that enables us to conquer horrible stretches out of our control — a coping mechanism that easily becomes a way of life if one is not careful.
I saw the madness of the past 6 months (more accurately, 2 years) — saw its detrimental effect thrown in bas relief in my life. I was grateful to have found a way past all that and a shield against its return in future months
But I did not get Answers – specific concrete decisions eluded me. The running, yes, and the paying off debt, yes – but what about livelihood? My Path? My PLAN?
I had no idea which direction to take. It all seemed equally worthy, and yet simultaneously uninspiring.
After a gracious and peaceful holiday with my family (no freak-outs, outbursts, terse discussion or annoyance — miraculous!) I was in the back seat of the Taurus, air conditioned on grain leather seats, heavy and sad to be homeward bound so soon, leaving that floaty narcotic head of southern Florida, sand still in my toes and sandals from my secret sunrise morning, indescribably beautiful and opening.
We passed a string of businesses outside Ft. Lauderdale and there was a sign for “The Country’s Best Marine Taxidermiest.” (I thought briefly of Jason – my star-crossed, Alaska-bound lover at the Green Tortoise Hostel the week before my 27th birthday – 10 years gone now.) I remarked how wildly brilliant it was — the marketing — talk about a niche – knowing your target user profile! And I said absently how great it must be to have such a specific craft – to know from birth you were meant to be the best at this ONE THING – because really, there’s no other way to become the World’s Best Marine Taxidermy Provider — a singleness of purpose, laser focus – oh to be so chosen! To know your destiny!
And for one second I thought about what that must feel like to have that goal, to be on that path — to not be diverted. Darren The Taxidermiest is not torn between being an accountant or prepping pike for over-tanned millionaires, NO: he is a fish stuffer and fish stuffer only…
Until my head blew open and I realized the scope of my own ridiculousness.
Little Kristin at age 8 writing “The Windfields” and mailing it to her Grandma to type up, pre-PC, sheafs and volumes of short stories told for their own sake. A fifth grade novel, and summers spent crouched at the Commodore 64 drinking ginger ale and writing like my life depended on it – knowing I had to write, knowing I was born to this.
Lusting after the tangle of language, dancing with it like a dream, feeling so smug when adults asked me what I wanted to be when I “grew up,” knowing already I was a writer — right fucking NOW.
Saying, always, that I write for the same reason I breathe: to stay alive.
Yet I have never let that be enough.
And through the years, packing that wanderlust into smaller and smaller boxes, more delicately decorated but each less spacious than the last, opening them with failing frequency, until I am left with this corroded machine, and a pile of boxes, and the ache of wasted muscles mired in atrophy.
Something enormous came untethered in my head as we rode along in our suburban air-conditioned comfort to the airport – one thought shook loose and blazed through my consciousness like a hot pink vintage neon marquee: There could just be words.
There could just be words.
All this strife and planning and schooling and coding and frustration and anguish could all fall away and there could just be words.
Just me, and the words. Like in the beginning.
Because Darren the Taxidermiest and I have this in common: We were born to do this.
Like the otters. I am born to swim, and I’m swimming. I didn’t get their message before – heard it and documented it without full understanding — but it sounds like the voice of oracles now.
There could just be words.
And it wouldn’t have to be anything specific. I could just make room for them daily and they would rush in, like the flood beyond the door, water seeking its own level.
I could make the space – that would be my job. And the words would come in and fill the space. And after I could decide – could ask the words what they wanted to be, where they wanted to go.
In the back seat of that car, the whole world grew silent as we rushed smooth as silk along the Interstate and the bleached Florida skyline of terra cotta and peach melted into sepia tone and then faded to black and white – like an old grungy slide projection with filed corners and everything…
I felt weightless, some giant thrombosis broke and dissolved and the blood rushed to my brain.
I felt it sparkling in my veins, my fingers, my feet.
I felt my wings unfurling behind me on the leather seat with climate control and lumbar massage.
I stared out at this newsprint city, making more and more space in my head for this idea to stretch out and relax, to languish and loll like a lion the sun, stay awhile – and then I realized my parents were talking to me – had asked me a question.
I caught the faint echoes of my name being spoken and I couldn’t turn to look at them but I offered some hazy smile or remark of comfort that I was still with them.
And I was, in a way… but I was also out there dancing in the newsprint, with the summer rain cascading down my face, sand in my wings, searching for a snowy mountain to tharump up, wings itching for flight.
Wings itching for flight.