THE RETURN

©Kathy Klein 2013

 I carefully unwound the layers of bubble wrap cushioning you, as I pulled the ceramic pottery out from the backseat of my car.  I heard the dry leaves crackle, then crumble, underneath the crush of my bare, thin skinned feet.  The skin was so thin that you could easily see the bluish veins running their intricate web of life, like roots of a delicate tree in the cold of winter.  I tried to concentrate on my steps, willing one foot to follow another, to keep walking forward, although I did not know where I was walking to.

I liked my feet “skin to earth”; to feel what was underneath them. That connection made it possible for me to stay present, to be the inhabitant of my body.    I often times felt like an alien in its shell, calling it “the body” instead of “my” as if it was separate from me. Truth is, it was, a good deal of the time. I could not rationalize the facts away today.  When the body dies, so do you. Your soul may go to the highest celestial place, with rainbows, angels, and lost loved ones greeting you while living in eternity. But what about that big black hole of darkness?  The garbage disposal of the ugly side of humanity, evil and hateful acts being churned into waste matter, to be spitted out and swallowed by the stars for some kind of redemption?

What if all there really was were my bare feet, with the dirt squishing up between my toes? The soul’s heart light extinguished, and the mother body of earth dragging away the remains, returning for as long as it takes to eat every last bite, her appetite not satisfied until only the calcified white bones are left from the feast.

I was angry-no, I needed a stronger word- enraged, as the color red flashed before my eyes at  any of the choices.  I held you closely, and cradled you softly as I walked, in the crook of my bent elbow and up against my breast for cushioning. Iridescent turquoise and purple highlights shimmered from the Raku vessel when the early afternoon light touched upon it just so.  I held on to your container like I held on to my emotions, as if marked “Fragile -handle with care”. My biggest fear is that I would drop you; that you would shatter into a million pieces, and so would I.

The sky had changed like my mood. The available sun that had warmed my skin faded, replaced by clouds painted with a watercolor brush dipped in Payne’s grey, streaking the sky. The night would fall from the day soon, and I wondered, “Would I fall with it?”  I didn't have a specific destination, just the highway of the trail in front of me. I was seeking a place to return you, and with every ounce of me still aching inside, I didn’t want to. Like discovering a great book found in the library, I had taken you in, gotten lost in the middle. Then incredulously, I somehow found myself in and through you.   I never wanted the story to end, but it had. The book would be long overdue for return, but I would hang onto it, like I hung on to you, hoping no one would notice.  Every day, the words I had read that had once touched me so deeply, would fade a little further from my memory, as did the presence of you.  I would read the pages again trying to experience it the second time like the first.  It was never the same. Every day I desperately wanted to feel you here, really here, with me again.  The moment was fleeting at best. Sometimes I would turn and swear I saw you standing there, but that flash of time with me seemed to evaporate into the ether quicker with each passing day. I had to return you from where you came, and I realized you, and everyone alive here really, are just on temporary loan.  I sometimes felt I needed to be returned along with you, stamped “past due”. 

 As I peeked off of the rugged cliffs edge into the cavernous abyss below, my toes slid across a slippery rock, and I caught myself.  “Go ahead,” the irritated voice inside hissed at me “just jump, for God’s sake, just JUMP”!  The physical pain would only be momentary, as I reasoned with myself, but the emotional pain was overwhelming me. The edges of my heart felt jagged and rough, and if I took that leap, could I feel whole again, with you?

 Something kept me here, and I am not sure what that something was. Maybe I lacked the courage to do it, to end all my anguish and suffering. Then I heard yet another voice from inside, this one compassionate and kind, saying gently “maybe you are being courageous NOT to do it.”  Sometime, in the last month since losing you, I felt so very lost, in what I call the land of the in-between.  I am Neither here..nor there..Just surviving, trudging through my day.  Exhausted by my emotions, which seemed to circle the drain most every day, at the end getting sucked down with a large “whoosh” sound.

 At a turn of the trail, I came across a cairn, that travelers before me had patiently stacked successfully into something that looked like it could topple over if youso much as blew hard on it. Balanced with precarious perfection, despite the irregularities of size and shape, it was a beautiful monument to the Earth element. The rough surfaced smaller stones held up the larger ones, offering quiet support.  I wondered who had created this little offering, out here in the middle of nowhere, and what it had meant to them. A marking for a turn, I thought, or perhaps, or a prayer to nature?  Or maybe, like me, they had something to return. Had they created this to honor someone they had loved and lost? I held you closer still, and tightened my grip on the earthenware vessel.

I found a small offshoot path, that was barely visible, likely used by deer, and changed my course to follow it .The wind was picking up, blowing a piece of mylong blonde hair into my mouth, which was so dry, when I pulled the hair out. it broke a strand off.  I seriously needed, but did not have with me, a drink of water. The slight whistle of the wind was joined with the sound of a pack of Coyotes, their sharp, frantic yipping mixed in with joyful howling. It was a good kill, you could tell by their celebrational cries. Nature could be so cruel, unrelenting, and seemingly with no justice.  You had been taken from me, and there was no explanation from the universe, and if one more person in my life talked of karma or God’s will, I was going to strangle them with my bare hands. 

My eyes closed for a second, as I tried to let go of my anger. My attention went back to holding you close, and I took a deep, long breath. I lifted my head slowly, and looked ahead to a beautiful sight. I saw the large stalk of a flowering Yucca, its blooming flower magnificent, white and pure. I remembered my friend Jenny, who studied horticulture, telling me about them once, all animated as she spoke. “They only bloom once a year, and require a special moth that that stuffs a little ball of pollen into the stigma of each flower.”  “The relationship”, she had explained to me, “is mutually beneficial to both partners, and is vital for the survival of both plant and the insect. They need each other... the Yucca would not flower without the pollination from the moth, and the moth would not survive without the Yucca. If the Yucca moths were absent, they could not produce seeds to flower unless they were hand pollinated by the human.” Jenny was full of wisdom about the plant kingdom, and for this reason I truly admired her.

I had needed you, and you had needed me. I had loved you with all my heart and you had reciprocated to a point I could not find a word in my arsenal of language that would encompass what that felt like to me. Underneath the watchful eye of the blooming Yucca, it was the perfect spot to rest.  I  ploppeddown, rather unceremoniously, tired from my hike, the drain of my anger, my unrelenting well of sadness, and my deep longing.  As I opened the lid of the jar, the tears streamed down my cheeks, and deep, mournful sounds came out of me. It started to rain, and the sky cried with me, the large raindrops melting into mine to form a river of tears. I spread your ashes upon the reddish brown dirt mixed with clay. I lay face down on top of what was left of you, weeping together, one last time. I wanted to touch you, feel you, to never let you go, and remember you forever. My heart broke open like the stormy sky, and in unison we poured forth in torrents until your ashes had dissolved into the ground below me, and there was nothing left. The cold, wet ground held me gently in her hands, the grace of a clearing sky, the crescent moon was rising and Venus, the evening star, shined brightly.  I sent my silent prayer out to anyone that would listen, that someday, you would return, to me.

 

RISE UP