I went up high, into a cloud, looking for freedom in the dark cold. When you stand alone in the haunting, dull edges of dimness, it can be easy to feel the tiny kindled flame of the heart burning merrily, underneath it all. Unwavered. It can be a simple thing to comprehend, there in the darkness, that there is the light within. Other times, there in the dark, I suffer a moment when I doubt my identity, I feel I’ve been divided, and divided again, to the point of spoils. I feel the need to reinvent myself after so many pieces of me have been taken, crushed, used, spent like tinny, small currency, passed to and from weak hands that do not bear callouses from dedicated, hard work. I have been used. I have been kind. I have been gracious. I have believed in kindness and graciousness. I still believe. I hate my anger. I lick my wounds. I am a wild beast tired of biting at my own foot. I forgive myself. I motion myself to kindness once again. I divorce myself repeatedly, cut the chains away, until I lay in jagged, unfettered pieces, strewn about on the forest floor. A large hand reaches down from low clouds, meets me where I am, puts me back together again, holds me upright until I find my legs once more. I stand. I reach out my skinny arms, brace myself and sing into the void. My voice falls back into my open mouth. I swallow. I tremble. I plant my feet. I roll my cold fingers into icy fists. I close my eyes. I shake the water from my mane. I sing out, louder this time, I believe in the music, and my voice carries like gold, right and true.
They say we are made of two wolves.
From the forest, from the night, comes a long legged pair of wolves, stepping quick, ruffs whipped by the gale. I place the palm of my left hand on the gentle slope between two golden eyes, dig my fingertips down into thick, white fur. With my right hand, I reach into the endless pocket on the edge of my hip, bring forth something good and rich and I feed the good and holy wolf. I send the other away, slinking and black as night, hungry and alone. I rest then and I realize that not everything in me has been used to death. There is something in me that continues to unfold, something that is valuable and meaningful, worthy and sacred. It is mine for the finding. It is mine to actualize.
[There is a tree on the side slope, upended, root ball exposed, ripe with mosses, and from its horizontal trunk grows a strand of green. Sky reaching in newness. Lit living even in the dim. New comes from the old.]
I am new. I am old.
There in the dark, where I can feel the light, I don’t doubt myself, I don’t recreate myself, I simply am.
Who am I. Oh. Who. What am I.
Pared down, cut to ribbons by the knives of the wind, peeled and scraped, washed and wiped, swaddled in fog. I am not much more than all that has come before.
I rise up. I fall to earth. I rise up. I push off with all my strength. The stones shatter beneath my feet.
I am not afraid of this storm, of this hulking black cloud pierced by mountain peak. I am not scared of the wind that threatens to undo me, cell by cell, or the rain soaking through wool to the tight plains of my skin, the deluge that turns my hair to whips. I do not fear the thing with wild eyes that watches me from the shadows. I starve that thing, even though it is a portion of myself. I won’t be moved. I have no pity. I am washed in rain. I am thin, wasted, bare twigged, free of rust, flexing, shifting, alive and new. I am whittled to bone, alabaster curve, spirit sigh. I am the stone that reaches the sky. I am the stone they say rises forever. I am that stone, igneous and slow to fade. My roots dive through the earth, emerge into a new sky and summit the sun. I am anchored there, tethered to light, drinking it from two directions. My hands howl. My tongue is meek. My eyes are wide bowls filled to the brim with the tilt and spill of milky moons. I shoot through the loops of myself until I am atomic, aware of an ancient energy that binds me in, covalently bonded to the elements around me, held in the palm of the broadest hand.
Every year, no matter the season, I know a thousand springtimes, and all the autumns to match — endless births and deaths, a crown of sorrow that gives way to truth. I am dressed in leaves, curling and unfurling and dropping away.
I am a beggar. I am a queen. I am normal. All this wrestling is beautiful and human.
I named joy when I first came into this world, like every child of God does, when they first arrive. So I name it again, as is my right and my privilege, each time I am reborn.
I left the mountain. Night came fast. I drove through billows of cloud, dropped away over jagged precipices, fell like a river from the lips of stone and beneath my hands the truck growled, purred and lit the way, as all good old trucks do when you find yourself out late and on your way home.