If you want to read the First Draft of this look here and if you want to see the 2nd Draft here. Please comment below on what is missing, what is unclear, what is great, or what needs refining? I am looking to be better in all areas of writing and your assistance would be much appreciated.
I am asking that you take a close look at me. You will see that my light brown hair is colored to hide the ever increasing number of grey hairs. I tell myself that I am not ashamed of the aging, but I wrinkle my nose up in disgust as another breaks through my scalp. The skin of my face is pale, marked with sun damage, large pores and freckles and rises over high cheek bones. I like it–it’s mine and it’s not likely to get ‘better’ or more youthful no matter what my skincare line promises. I have earned all of the fine lines by lost and misplaced sunglasses. I have been gifted the acne, in various stages of healing, by my ovaries. I have hazel eyes–those are a gift, too from my grandma through my dad. If your gaze was to drop to my shoulders, on the right is a large tattoo. It covers most of my shoulder blade and is a twisted pine clinging to a rock cliff with the sunrise or sunset behind.
Scars are always stories, and tattoos are the scars you choose. So the story goes like this:
In the land of Michigan, where a young man and a young woman met, fell in love and married, not long after they welcomed their first child. A girl with hazel eyes and big feet (she grew into them). After four short months into this little girls life, this new father and new mother and new baby moved from the land of Michigan to the plains. And then they would move in another year, three after that, six there, seven in another, and to another until this little girl with hazel eyes found herself a girl with average sized feet (I told you she grew into them) and a high school diploma. She set out in a economy car and moved and moved and moved and moved again until she was 27 she didn’t have the same zip code for longer than six months. Now if you imagine that this kind of moving sounds bohemian and adventurous, good on you—in fact stop reading, just go on thinking that I am some charmed roving soul. If your thought was, “that sounds exhausting” then please continue and perhaps put on the kettle, we may need the tea.
Migrancy or nomadic life is no blemish on my parents, they followed their own Divine path and it lead them from prairie town to seminary back to prairie towns. So hear me when I say that what they did was not wrong, but it did leave me with scars. That is the thing about scars, about pain and about memory–in them is not always the easy labels of “right” or “wrong,” they don’t have villains with evil at the core of their being, or heroes with hearts of gold.
I explore this idea more in: I hope to Never see you
Moving left me with the inability to settle in and start sending out the oh-so-necessary-shoots from my soul, so that my roots could tangle and mingle with the souls that shared it’s location. All of us are organisms that thrive when we are strong in our own understanding of self and strong in our connections with others who are also strong in their understanding of self. Like aspen groves we grow up lifting our life gathering leaves toward the heavens and below supporting each other in a network that feeds and sustains all. Well, that is the ideal sense, I think, we may act more like gnarled old oaks and grow tight in our grains and lonely in our post.
On days when I am particularly wistful I think, “I want to be a stream planted tree, I want deep roots and to be supported by my neighbors and to support them.” But moving made root dropping difficult. I whined and bucked at the fact no one gladly turned over the soil of the community and let me push my self down through dark and fertile silt to nourish my soul. I spent a fair amount of acrylic painting disterra’d trees, floating with no earth, but also no sky to look to for Life. I dated boys with families that cling to the land that their ancestors had turned over with pride and plow, but I could not even graft myself to their rootstock. Each move felt like another scar raised against my soul. Until my thirties I thought very little about what was necessary to ‘be planted,’ I just wish that I had been. What great effort those around would have had to exert to allow me an easy planting, until I wrestled with my scars I resented them and their deep local roots.
Scars are stories and tattoos are the scars you choose. And I found myself at 30 years old faced with a thought and an image. A tree gnarled by the work of digging in, and growing where theirs is little soil, but the wonder of seeing so much of the heavens. I made the choice to have that image inked forever in my flesh, to remind me that home is not always given easily to us, but home is available when we invest in the world at the end of our fingertips–the people, the communities, the environment that is all around us. Those gnarled trees and the plants that cling to rocks do the centuries long work of making a place habitable for others by breaking the barriers micro cracks at a time. I had this sense that as a person without planting in easy places, I have been tasked with making the way for others. My work is not to be a solitary tree in a rocky place, but to reach out to the company of other misfit trees whose seeds have also been blown to this high place and then the work becomes ours. We do not get the ease of the Michigan climate or the wideness of the plains. We are made by wind and journey and the rocks that we wind our strong roots around, slowly but surely making way for others to be planted and to flourish.
I carry the shape of my journey, and I would not push any to follow it themselves. I can tell you when you stop trying to be easily planted and instead dig in, you will find the sunrise and sunset is sweet at these elevations.