photo by Sheri Dixon

Friday, April 23, 2010

"Fish Out Of Water Desires Rental Lungs and Feet"

I'm a Leo.

The feline fire sign.

But I'm not an inside cat by any stretch of the imagination. I prefer outside to indoors unless it's below about 50 degrees- then you'll find me curled up by the fireplace. I'm a fire sign- I crave warmth.

Even wildly mis-planted in Wisconsin for my first 35 years, my preference was always to be outside as long as the above temperature requirement was met, and even then, during the long winters (which last from October 1st thru May up yonder) I'd make a break for the outdoor world frantically every month or so when a flash of Nature would lure me out into it where I'd breathe deeply- the icy air filling my dusty lungs- I can't take a full breath inside.

There are 8 hours or so every fall that hold the perfect autumn hues in a grasp of perfection- not the sunny blue-skied days of magazine layouts, but one day with heavy charcoal clouds pressing down on the woods and the lowering sun infusing and drenching each leaf with glowing vibrancy- denying the reality of the next days' withering, browning, brittle descent into quietly composting anonymity.

The aftermath of a midnight snow storm- the full moon seemingly within reach and so brilliant the stars fall out of the sky and lie twinkling at your feet- each snowflake reflecting a faraway sun in the deep of an earthly night.

Early spring, when the rain falls before the air is warm, encasing everything in a transparent glistening frozen cocoon- tree, twig, budding leaf and flower- all surprised and often broken by the very substance they need to live finally come after a long winter, but just that much too soon. Timing is everything.

So even in Wisconsin (Native American for "Land of the Three Day Summer") my natural environment was Outside.

I preferred camping to shopping, hiking to TV watching, a day at the out-of-the-way nature preserve to the stuffifying interior of the school building.

Even as a grown-up, gainful employment to me needed, if not actual exposure to Outside, at the very least I required to be where I could see it- to know if it were morning or evening by the sky instead of the timeclock, if it were sunny or raining by sight and not the weather channel.

Working for a flower shop as an all-around gal, I was out delivering arrangements one day and one bright bouquet went to a medical transcription office (in the days before home computers, that's what they did). I walked into the windowless, music-free office filled wall to wall with women wearing headsets and concentrating on their work- the only sound was the ticking of keys. I felt panicked, strangled, it was suddenly very difficult to breathe as I realized that this was their life- 8 hours a day, 5 days a week and I thought horrifyingly

"This is hell".

Finally not being able to ignore that little voice screaming "MIGRATE SOUTH" any longer, I found what I was looking for- East Texas, filled with forests, water, hills, and the lazy luxury of tremendously long wildflower-filled springs and crazy quilt colored autumns with just a smidgen of "wow- hot" or "kinda chilly" dividing them.

Now my Outside Spirit is in its element- even when inside, our windows are generally wide open- our house merely a roof and a few walls giving the illusion of shelter, and even when too cold, it's not deadly frostbite cold, just mildly annoying for a few days.


This last few years have seen many times that I've been forced Inside- more than just inside an office building or behind a desk, I've been bent, folded, spindled and crammed into the very un-natural element of a very large city.

Now, I honestly can't say I've hated every minute of it.

I've hated the REASON we're here- just one of a huge herd of Cancer Families making weary frightened pilgrimages to lay our loved ones on the altar of medicine- leaving sacrificial parts and pieces behind.

But as granola munchin' tree huggin' nature lovin' as I am, I've always appreciated the things only large urban areas can offer- museums, theater, music, culture both high falutin' and local, and have always thoroughly enjoyed my excursions into large metropolitan areas from Chicago to Miami, from Los Angeles to Washington DC.

My terms, my choice, my call as to when to escape back to the quiet and peace of the forest- cherishing and grateful for what I've been able to experience in the urban jungle, and so thankful I don't have to live there.

We're currently on our 18th day of a 6 day trip to Houston.

My husband lies in ICU- the very epitome of "ravaged and wasted" after a string of events only the devil himself could put so cleverly together. He's fighting for life, for his wife, for his son- and in tiny steps is climbing out inch by torturous inch back to his family.

And while I feel enormous guilt at every moment not spent at his side, I also know that I need to be 'out here' for his son, that both our son and I need something other than the suffocating surroundings of the hospital, that even while our hearts break at the knowledge that Ward's trapped there, in that bed, inside his faltering body, we know that when he wakes fully up he'll not be angry about the hours we spent away from his bedside, but all those we did.

So we go. And do. And see. And every experience we try to engrave on our memories to share with him- make plans to do again- with him.

Being an Outside animal trapped in an Inside world, I can only tolerate the hospital for a few hours at a time- then I must flee literally if only for 10 minutes, and I stop at the cafe for something to drink or a snack and maneuver through the interior maze, out the door, between cars and buses and taxicabs and ambulances to the tiny garden planted artfully and hopefully betwixt the hospital and the busy street and I sit face lifted towards the sun- shoes kicked off, eyes closed, breathing slowly if not deeply for the smog and the exhaust fumes. Before heading back inside I bury my nose for one deep breath stolen from the heart of a rose- not my favorite flower, but as close to heaven as I can get right here, right now.

My family has been forced to adapt to this environment- and while gleaning and benefiting from the many offerings afforded by it we are not thriving.

We all three of us look to the day we can turn in our rented lungs and feet, and dive joyfully (if exhausted) back into our beloved Pineywoods, leaving only a slight and quickly fading ripple on the surface of Houston- to a time when we will again only emerge by choice, and not be forced out by circumstance.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful. Gorgeous words. And that's coming from a serious lover of words. Gorgeous. Oh yeah, and you're pretty gorgeous yourself!