Somewhere a woman puts her hand atop a brush to scrub the floor. She sees the spills meet the bristles, senses life that has passed and life that is to come, working with an even rhythm which maintains a meditation with life, for the moment grateful for the stains on the floor and the necessity of the brush, so that her hand can know where it is.
She grows older, sees the value in a quieter prayer. The one she can sing in the super market aisles. The one which requires no beads, which can be induced by the circular motion she uses to apply her face cream. She says God is the bread baking in my oven, the oat bran I have carried home with care. She says God is my avocado green refrigerator, the hum of the dish washer, the thump of the washing machine tub against its walls.She was willing to strip everything away, to forget all she had ever known, in order to find the pulse of the last thing that lived in her, the one current of truth to follow. If she could speak she would talk about a heart that hurts in its muscle and skin, how its bulges feel in the chest cavity. She would say how subtle disappointment can become, how insidious. She would talk about falling through space, about having no anchor, no root, about the fatigue of trying to muster life anew out of ashes and smoke. She would try to remember when this time began, when the quitting started.
She planted her feet firmly on the ground as though she meant to root herself to the earth, which was precisely what she was hoping to accomplish. In memory’s embrace she could see that she had lived as an intruder in her own life, more rightless and fearful than a thief. Her footprints scarcely visible, making it difficult to retrace where she had been.
Up came the new anger, different from rage. Clean. Ungnarled. Committed to its rightful place. It either aroused her or was an expression of the fact that she was aroused. She did not need to know which. Her spine straightened and shook itself into place like a wild wind rushing through junipers, through oaks. She was grounded in a woman’s wrath and began to take back her fire by claiming her right to it.
She knew despair at the cellular level, even when all cause was gone it lingered in her neurons. She drew near her those who could not see, could not listen. Those who took from her as though she were a towel rack.
She learned to wait at a very young age until she couldn’t remember that waiting was what she was doing, to hold firm to herself in silence. Through lives she couldn’t claim and work she couldn’t take into her hands, she learned to wait.
And now here she is. Bare. Rootless. Nothing to plant and nowhere to plant it. Here is bare woman in the middle of a journey she didn’t know she was taking. Her life. With its own calluses, and aches and empty yearnings. Waiting becomes less appealing. She looks for new skills. Driving the city streets, thinking she needs roses that are grown at home, the ones which open wide and imperfectly. Angels Hair. Intrigue. She does not want the perfect rose wrapped in cellophane in a florist’s box. She wants to tend with her hands. She wants to belong to the earth, to finger her roots down deep, to survive droughts. She wants to know what the flower knows, that the pistil and stamen can live in harmony. She wants the elements to be at peace again, to feel safe within the fire, and safe with the fire within.
She wanted a place where she might attempt to speak the unspeakable things. How surrender felt to the cells, relinquishing the fierce hold one has over the flesh, the movement which is dissolution and coalescence. A hot stream rushing down spring hills. She wanted to speak the vertigo, the fall, the dizzying tumble which loosened reason’s grip, the sweet descent into her own terrain.
She wondered how one prepares for a journey without knowing the destination, telling herself, “By seeing where one is not.” She said I am not in the cold corridors of urban buildings, in the rooms where there is no breeze, where windows cannot be opened. I am not in suburban homes with dirty towels on the bathroom floor, I am not beside men in stiff clothes. Here I am. My feet are bare against the earth so that I can perceive messages clearly. Here I am, throwing my arms into the wind. I am here, inside my skin which is beginning to wrinkle and dry out from the sun. Here is bare woman. Her body is imperfect, she has grown strong out of necessity, able to support the weight of her own life.
She is a gatherer and has a gatherer’s vision, the ability to see life in hidden places, the willingness to pick and choose, to live with the thorn in the thumb, scratches up the arms, burrs in socks, the possibility of snakes in the grass.
She was more things than she remembered she had ever been. Into the night she whispered, “Who is there?” She said the depths need not be dark. I am water holding firm within rock. Who can say what gives form, what defines space. “After the darkness,” she whispers to the room, “after the darkness, comes the dawn.”
She leaves the house, her cello in the back of her car, her hair an abundance of curls, wearing too much jewelry. She jingles with every breath and step. She is the sound of gardenia perfume, a soft breeze in the chimes. She is something rather Balinesian, slightly off key to the Western ear, she is her own song without knowing she is singing.