If we let the green things go, how will we measure love? We steal our oxygen, those sighs and breaths we use to both make love and hurl insults. Trees give it without knowing how we’ll use it. I stand amongst the trees, firmly planted to give back what I take so much more often. And I take it for such a foolish reason: to avoid the feelings I can’t hold inside myself, the ones I deny and bury in pretty concrete and potted plastic plants with their stature empty and edges cut too perfectly. I wear life to mimic life but don’t give back – because what can I give except the stress and anxiety of not being here, of accomplishing but never allowing myself pride or love? What can I give the earth when I have nothing?
How selfish I feel to even step foot in a park or look at a tree whose roots reach all others, the roots that have seen my footsteps, heard my laughter, felt my presence, felt me leave. Could those roots still wrap around my heart and feel the ache I’ve felt in my little box above the streets? I breathe air, wanting to feel the earth and put a hand to its heart. I do, briefly, palm open, fingers spread, tethering myself to the core of the earth. I feel the rough bark, pushing myself past touch, past all senses but faith, and feel love pour so generously into my heart that I sigh deeply and feel the knot inside me unravel.
But someone jogs past me on the trail, so I break the moment to pieces in embarrassment. Why do we feel the need to hide in shame from that which makes us whole? Until something teaches us to follow our heart? There’s no rulebook on how to make amends with nature without being labeled, judged for love while dying in shame at the thought of hiding it any longer. I just want permission, and since no one can give it, I invent a voice from my concrete box, my insane asylum where so many women had nametags and files with their emotions spelled out in diseases that set men’s minds at ease – a logical reason assigned to that which they don’t understand. How it must have felt for women to finally live, feelings giving voice to how alive they really were. But then, of course, feelings were still weaponized, degrading into a dehumanizing toxin better left untouched. And we turned yellow at the edges like death because of it. Did you know that’s why Buddhist monks wear the color yellow? To signify how close death is to us all? Shame is such a silly vial of magic whose ideas we use to disenchant ourselves from the earth.
We ignore nature because it has become normal to trivialize its importance, its existence now unrelatable and moot, not discussed and therefore swept under the rug. But how could I evade my roots, thinking if I bought evergreen plastic it would erase the betrayal I toy with surrounded by my four cushy walls?
Yet, it calls me. Every day and every night, a whisper, a nudge, to go visit the past, to make it my present.
We sit in our concrete box and tell ourselves it’s too late to climb out. It’s too late to be okay. It’s too late to forgive because we’re already so far gone. It’s not that the earth won’t forgive us; it is so willing, so good, so pure, that you keep regretting just how suddenly you cast it off for bigger and better things, for a move to a place where grass is flown in or bred in captivity, but not appreciated as our fellow bored, sad animals – because that would be strange. It would fall under the context of never occurred to me, which would be labeled weird, then crazy, then frowned upon and thrown into the loony bin that is someone’s approval, a rejection from those you want to express it all to.
They may not send women to asylums anymore. They’ve evolved enough now to attach the asylum to us, so we can move about freely to look like another functioning member of society. But we still feel the chains weigh heavy on our thoughts, diminishing the value of our everyday joys.
If I dropped the chains I’ve been given, could I choose my weight? They fall like the city from my shoulders, a pile of ancient ruins at my feet to commemorate my fall from small talk and things I make myself sick thinking about. I fly beneath the earth, tugging at roots like an overboard victim drowning in the sea, begging and pleading to save my life.
Silence greets me.
I sit, wrapping roots in strangled apologies around my neck and wrists, spelling out my sins with none to take its place, a confession box with no priest. No rules either. There are no constraints, I realize, looking down at the noose and handcuffs I’ve fashioned for myself – only the ones I create. They fall from my body and turn to light. I’m left without ties to rebuild society from the start. We all start out with good intentions, and even though they may turn into twisted roots we bury in concrete, there is honor in now. I fall to my knees with the earth listening – as it always has – and I start to pray, honoring the earth for right now, for cleaning me up, for never interfering, for always loving me. There is so much love to give to the place that always rests beneath your feet.
Photo: Ryan Rutkoskie