I’m not going to tell you what happened.
Not about the woman I met, nor the shades of green on the hillsides against the coal black sand dunes. That’s not what you want to read about. I know this–I think I know this–because that’s not what I want to write about, either.
“No man really knows about other human beings. The best he can do is suppose they are like himself.”
I write these words on a half-broken park bench in hip Ponsonby district in Auckland. It was the only one in the sun–the park bench, not the district–and the reckless three-quarters of me wants the half-broken bench to break completely. For the sake of closure. The other quarter of me wants a warm glass of milk and a different bedtime story than last night’s. (Reckless me wants to spike the milk with vodka and read anything by Nicholas Sparks to get the one-quarter dizzy and no longer interested in bedtime stories at all.)
But; to the point.
There are some moments in our brief invasions on the timeline of Earth when we find ourselves geographically rambling in areas of typical solitude. You are mumbling through thoughts, fully prepared to carry on the soliloquy until the sheep evolve into the next dominate species. You are mumbling along in your geographical ramblings when suddenly, you break eye-contact with your shoelaces for just a brief second and come face-to-face with a person.
A person? But, here?
A person who, upon further inspection, seems to be carrying various flavors of answers in her pockets (a flavor you crave in this particular moment, perhaps?).
A person perhaps with red frizzy dreadlocks and a corduroy suit jacket emblazoned with Pink Floyd patches. You think: what are you doing out here in the middle of the bush on a rainy Wednesday mid-morning?
But you don’t ask because to do so would require taking a breath and if you do that she’ll blow away. You’ve got to remain absolutely still. It’s imperative.
If you approach cautiously, ah, mate, it’s game over. If you mutter or stumble, you’ll be lost to your mind games again. In these moments you’ve got to apply some metaphorical lipstick (mine also doubles as chapstick and occasionally fire starter) and you’ve got to forget to be scared. Forget to speak softly, forget to act surprised.
You know you aren’t really–surprised, that is.
Who do you think you were mumbling to, back there in that iron monologue of yours? No. You aren’t surprised. It’s a pointless reaction to these sorts of occurrences, anyways. You aren’t surprised and you aren’t scared.
She smiles at you, the kind of smile only the the ocean waves seem to give these days, and when she asks where you’re going you say the only thing you can say in these sorts of occurrences. You tell her smile exactly where you are headed and when she asks if you want company you nod. Together you head off to nowhere, to wherever my feet are taking me.
She talks to you about midwifery and about coping with the separation of a partnership that had lasted a quarter of a century. You’re not just ooh-ing and ahh-ing like a plastic jug of milk; the Universe, God, Love (whoever) set up this chance encounter and don’t you dare pretend you’ve got anything better to do.
You listen to her as she tells you about wanting to be free on her own terms; you pour milk and honey into her frizzy dreadlocks and you hand her your ears on a porcelain platter. The sort of platter you can’t microwave.
You do your best to make eye contact while not slipping in the filmy mud on this trail that circumnavigates the lake made of fish dreams and locomotion. You do slip, however, despite your best efforts, not once but three times. Two of which are harmless attempts by the Universe to intimately acquaint you with the local New Zealand tree branches (a sort of all-natural trust fall) and the remaining slip to makes you friendly with the mud and the extended hand of the ocean woman.
She asks you: art? and you realize you’ve never wanted to answer any question so badly as this one. She gives you back the non-microwavable platter, this time laden with her own set of ears, and you talk your monologue to those ears.
She asks you how’s it going and you hear, at that special cave level, that she’s not asking about traveling, writing, trying to breath normally; she’s asking about your soul. What happens for you when you lay your head down on the pillow at night and you’ve got eight minutes to dream anything you want before you slip into unconsciousness? What are the sorts of sounds that make you breathe deeper?
You tell her. You explain everything. You are a book with the spine unglued, you are the biggest tree in the backyard in the middle of autumn, you are the bird with the least amount of feathers and the greatest soaring height.
She listens and then she stops.
Her stillness demands imitation.
She tells you, with the seriousness of a panting mustang, with all the calmness of a forest fire, she tells you: don’t you dare feel guilty. You have no right to feel guilt. If you do not carve your own path through this world of ours, you will be swallowed by those who are begging to carve the path for you. Those who want so desperately to lay hold of the strings attached to your marionette (for we are all puppets on strings, all of us).
Your wildness, your unrelenting independence, is harming no one. They harm themselves and swear it’s your fault.
Be unapologetically wild.
For the sake of the entire world, be as restlessly wild as possible. Let’s be insomnia in this culture of tranquilizers. Let’s be unbound in this feast of arbitrariness. Let’s dance constantly, one eye closed and one hand raised, let’s recycle our own humanity and reap a harvest of empathy.
You close your eyes and nod, feeling hmms tickle the roof of your mouth. It was just as you suspected. Perhaps she’s an apparition. It doesn’t really matter. This encounter was ordained, as most encounters such as these are.
You hear what she speaks, what she tells to your soul. You hear and you remember:
Kansas is not my home. New Zealand is not my home.
“Where paths of affinity cross, there the whole world looks like home.”
It doesn’t matter that we walked together around the glistening butterfly lake for two and a half hours. It doesn’t matter that we scooped our hands in waterfalls and crossed wooden mossy bridges and disrupted territorial duck mothers. That’s not what you want to read about; you who are future me.
I write this from the park bench in Ponsonby district and the sun is slipping and my toes are chilled and the only things that matter about the events of yesterday are the reminders that, first, the only thing I control is my own marionette string (that is for no one but me), and second, this life we live is really big. Bigger (by far) than we imagine.
I am not on a carefully regulated treadmill. I am running down an unfamiliar mountain. I am wild. Unrelenting. Unapologetic.
Peace and Blessings,