There are swallowtail butterflies in the echinacea patch. There are swallowtail butterflies everywhere, really. The gardens outside the studio door are meant for butterflies and hummingbirds. Its a soulful pace. I wish it was mine. I will build and grow my own garden like this someday, when we finally land for good.
A swallowtail butterfly landed on my ribcage while I was sitting on the edge of the lake over the weekend. I felt its papery wings beating against my skin, I felt our two hearts separated by the wall of my bones and sinew. Its thorny feet forced a laugh from me and then it flew off into the wind over the water.
In the same place, yesterday, a hummingbird hovered inches from the tip of my nose for a handful of seconds (a handful of seconds is an eternity to a hummingbird) before it sat on a branch beside me and stared at me for a while. Simultaneously, a bee was crawling on me and the feeling if its feet against the skin of my stomach was lovely and sensual.
Regularly, the male bluebird, who happens to be raising a family with his drab wife in the nesting box behind the Airstream, perches on a pine branch outside the trailer door and allows me to approach within a couple of feet of where he sits wherein we both simply look at each other, cock our heads to one side, and then eventually part ways. I sometimes wish my skin was that shade of blue.
While I was picking raspberries this morning, a cedar waxwing alighted on a cane next to me, looked at me with one unblinking eye (what a handsome profile), picked a berry with his clever beak and flew away into the sun.
I think everything knows I am feeling sad, for a myriad of reasons — for myself, of course, but I have these occasional bouts of general melancholy for all of humanity and our planet and a kind of hopelessness sinks into my bones and i just have to let it fester there for a bit until it passes on and I find faith and grace and love again. I’m also feeling hyper-sensitive about being a pest lately; I’m walking on self-imposed egg shells. It makes me insular and hermity (more insular and hermity that usual, that is).
I am sitting on an Adirondack chair by the bee balm. My legs, from the knees down, are being blasted by late morning sunshine. The heat is almost burning, down there on my toes. As I sat down this morning, I realized one of life’s greatest pleasures must be the simple movement of sliding into an Adirondack chair, the careful schloop of the arse across a series of parallel wooden slats, the gentle recline of the upper body until it comes, solidly, to rest.
There is a piece of heaven in a well built chair.
My friend sent me an exquisite essay about hearts and blue whales and hummingbirds. The words are like a soft security to wrap myself in.
Which reminds me, I vowed to re-read all of Hemingway’s works this summer. A Tour de Hemingway! Will you join me? I read the Ten Letters Project last week which I discovered through my (brilliant and ever evolving) friend, Esme — one of my favorite lines in the book (I underlined dozens of things in every letter) is this: ”Take all the risks.” I think I shouted out YES when I read those four words. The other thing I appreciated about this collection of letters is the fact that they make me feel like it’s normal to be a creative weirdo…if that makes sense… Doing creative work can be complicated. Doing creative work for a living can be complicated. Being an independent artist can be complicated. There are also times when you are faking the depth of your work and making it complicated when it isn’t and you’re tricking everyone, including yourself, except in your heart of hearts where you know, always, that you’re a fraud. There are also times when the depth of your creative work is very real and is uncomplicated. There are times when the complication is uncomplicated. I’ve said the word aloud now so many times that it sounds bizarre.
I always think there should be two zeds in the word “bizarre” instead of two r’s.
I am also reading The Emerald Mile which is beautiful and makes me bitter in my heart of hearts that I cannot be in a boat every moment of the day on a river somewhere. It’s an account of the Powell expedition of the Grand Canyon as well as a natural history of the Colorado River and also a tale of modern day adventure — to boot, it is wonderfully written. It’s everything a superb book should be.
Last night, I went fishing, as usual. I parked my truck in a little turn out along the Chewuch River, set up my rod, tied on a big dry fly and scrambled down the cliff towards the water. The soft portions of the slope shifted and crumbled beneath my feet, grit found its way uncomfortably between the sole of my foot and the bed of my sandal, I paused a few times to shake my feet, loosen the coarse dust, dislodge small stones from my ginger arches. The granite rubble held the heat of the day and was warm on the palms of my hands and fingertips. I was sticky with sweat and bug bites and the moment I reached the bottom of the cliff and slid my feet into the water I felt one hundred degrees cooler. I bent low, dipped my free hand in the river, and splashed a piece of it up into my face. I stepped out and made my way across the current, fly rod in one hand and the other groping for steadiness, reaching for stone. My well placed feet slipped off the slime of submerged river cobble and I said to myself, “Steady now.” I made my way to the opposite bank, to the edge of night, to the musk of the willows and the killdeer piping. I loosened my line and began to cast my way upriver.
“Just do your work. And if the world needs your work it will come and get you. And if it doesn’t, do your work anyway. You can have fantasies about having control over the world, but I know I can barely control my kitchen sink. That is the grace I’m given. Because when one can control things, one is limited to one’s own vision.”
I realized, last week, when I read this quote, that there is something that has been shattering me, over and over again, that I have been trying to control, trying to keep my finger on, trying to guard myself from, trying to fight, trying to create a distance from. I am dismantling (I am working on dismantling) my need to control it. I am working on not being hurt about it anymore. I am working on loosening my grip and letting it go. I am working on allowing it to figure its own way out of the maze of bull shunky it has been building for itself.
I’m not free yet. But I am going to be. And it will be a sweet day when I am.
When I am free.