I spent the weekend raging. Beginning on Friday night, glued to the links I’d followed from Facebook about the Charlie Hebdo murders, I raged against the simplicity of media analysis, raged against hatred, and then, at midnight, sitting up in bed, I raged against my husband for not “getting” politics and race in precisely the same way I do.
He slept in another room.
So, on Saturday, I raged against myself. For being so full of rage, of course. And for not doing my community workday job quite right, for stumbling through communication with both friends or family, for not being as calm, as full of a sense of bright promise, as I had been earlier in the week. I raged at the futile inconstancy of things. And then on Sunday, I raged against my four-year-old son, who was yelling at me about everything from Legos to frozen waffles to pants that had no zipper pockets, and who bit me at bath time at the end of the day.
And then this morning, I went for a walk.
It has been a long time since I’ve walked alone on our community land. I forged quickly up the hill, my thoughts churning, but determined that this walk would empty me of rage. I’m not paying attention, I kept telling myself, forcing myself to slow down, look around. If only I pay attention, I’ll feel better. I’m not lingering in the places that I love. If only I spend time in beauty, I’ll feel better. But my rushed body passed quickly over my favorite sunny stretch of vivid green road cut through madrone forest at the back of our property. Just as the green was fading into scrabbled rock and shade, I turned back to look. I almost returned. I wanted to sink into the ground, smell the muck underneath the wet emerald softness. But even as I stopped and turned into it I knew it would be impossible to catch. I had already crossed over. I was on my way.
And then there was the dreaded steep and rocky hill. When my husband and I walk this stretch, we usually end up planning ways to circumvent its necessity by plotting a new trail through the forest. But halfway up, today, I was there, nowhere else. Not wanting to turn back, not wanting to circumvent, not wanting to hurry forward. There was a worn white oak branch at the side of the road, forked like the bleached white antler that I have at home. There were the melting shades of red and orange earth. There was a red rock striated with lines of feathery quartz, strewn in the midst of drying feathery grass. The rock was like a creature who wanted camouflage. It made me wonder. Right there, and nowhere else.
And then, of course, there was no precise line when the arid tumbly rock ended and the mossy emerald growth began again. I noticed that. That lack of precision in the crossing back over into what is conventionally called pleasure.
And then I sat to write, and noticed more things. I noticed how I always want my back against something. Even the massed thicket of coyote brush, with small birds rustling, feels better than the openness between medium oaks and weeping madrones. And then I ate a snack, and saw my regret at eating peanut butter and chocolate in a foil wrapper that glared against the earthen colors around me. I want everything to be soft and edgeless, everything to be “natural.” But I’m stuck with the world as it is. I’m stuck with me.
Quite often, I am stuck in self-judgment. Sometimes, I am stuck in rage, glaring like foil against the apparent, earthy ease of my life. But both the self-judgment and the rage are me taking shape in this world. I just try to be as honest about it as I can. And there is, of course, no precise line when the fury ends and the mossy emerald contentment of living begins again. Even if I want to hold on to the fury, to some nugget of self I am convinced is buried like treasure inside it, it fades. “It is tiresome / how the grass / re-ripens,” writes Kay Ryan in her poem “Waste.” And
Not even waste
The day misspent,
the love misplaced,
has inside it
the seed of redemption.
My husband is no longer sleeping in the other room, and once again we have walked through anger, in love. Yesterday, when I cried in front of my son, defeated by his loud and voluble longing, he wrapped his little arms around me and kissed me. “I love you,” he whispered. And then we both put our pajamas back on, and agreed to restart the day. He still bit me, and I still don’t know what to do with his intense relationship with Legos, but we crossed over together, into today. Is today what is conventionally called pleasure? I’m not sure, but I know I’m on my way.