Crawling back in, scrambling up again

Did you do it too? Do you remember?

I have a very distinct memory of working very, very hard to crawl and scramble up onto things. And I was tall! It was a rare thing that required such a scramble. But some things did. Tree branches ... or rocks at the beach ... or hillsides with a good viewpoint at the top and bushes and trees on the way up for grabbing and pulling.

Or down! I've scrambled down to good vantage points or water's edges too.

This is a picture of the Lower Falls at Lewis River. I love this place. (This picture is from Picasa Web. The person who took it was standing at a very good viewpoint. I love standing there - in any season of the year.)

There is a path that leads down to the edge of the river, over to the left of the falls. From there, the power and force of the flowing, falling water pounds and sprays and makes the railing damp - in all seasons of the year. When I stand there, when I feel it - breathe it in - watching what I cannot see - feeling the life-giving water wear away the impervious rock - when I am there, then there is a tightness inside of me which can let go. I can know myself to be part of the whole of the wide and beautiful world, and not at all in control of it. After the slightly slippery scramble down that path, I can stand and breathe ... and know.

In the summer, when the water temperature becomes something slightly above freezing, groups of immortal young people jump off the corner of the falls and into that pool below. I flinch every time I see this display of crazy optimism. I flinch and then I feel again the upsurge of Life's own energy when the diver breaks through the water and back into the sunlight. From where I watch, the pure joy of boundless youth bounces off the trees and rocks, and hits me in the chest.

Today I have scrambled down the path, and I am starting to catch my breath again, and I can feel it at last. At last! I seem to have re-entered my own self once again. Thoughts, and hunger, and sensations like heat and cold and itching ... creative ideas ... impatience at the dust buildup on my furniture ... planning for the upcoming school year. Everything is returning to its accustomed place again. Today is the first day I have been sure of it in a way that doesn't feel brittle.

It's been awhile since I felt so alien in my own body or so completely evicted from my own life.

I do remember it from before, though. This is the feeling that enveloped me from about six weeks before childbirth until about six months after it. That is when the brain can (just barely) take in the information that yes, I am here, in my life, and these people are all around me. But the mind will not accept this absurdity as reality.

The mind says no, dreamer, you are merely an observer. Those people think you are here with them, but you know otherwise. Yes, that is your voice. But you are not really speaking. In that time, for me, there was only one reality, and it was there - with that moment - with the tiny person in my arms and my husband's arms around the two of us. That was all there was. For me, the "baby-moon" was as engulfing and wonderful as the honeymoon had been.

And then, gradually, each time, the mist cleared and the mind cleared, and the mind once more made contact with the brain, and out into the sunshine I emerged, full of the boundless optimism of Life's eternal youth once more. The water ran from my face and hair and eyes, into the pool all around me, and I found that I was breathing air just like everybody else. And someone beside me was crawling out of the pool, and someone above me was getting ready to jump. Oh, it so good to be young and alive and bringing life into Life ... and to know it.

Now - today - I wonder something.

See, I had thought that this was an experience of youth. I knew - over and over - not just with the babies - I knew the scramble and the rocks slipping under the soles of my shoes and the fraction of a second where I am about to fall off the path and into the ravine - and then I don't ... I knew the awareness of a plunge into nothing and a burial in the deep, cold waters ... and I knew the burst of glory into the light and air ... I knew, when I was young (that is what it means to be young), the wonder of the sun on my face when I realized again that yes, I was breathing the same air as everyone else. When I was young, I knew how to die and rise again.

But I thought that I was done with that. I thought that since that is what it means to be young, I was done with that. I thought that was what it meant to grow up.

But today I wonder. Perhaps this is the fount of youth. Perhaps Life is made entirely of deaths and resurrections. Maybe I will be jumping off the rocks when I am very old.

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