My stuff was piled in the middle of my bedroom floor. I brought a duffle bag of clean clothes, a hamper full of dirty clothes (like all good college-aged people do on the way to mom), a bag full of books and pens, and a cucumber. The rest of my room appeared slightly untidy, but not yet unruly and the time was nearing one o’clock. I must fight the urge to clean it all and make a minute by minute schedule of something. I exhale, grab my keys, my list labeled “goals for home,” and all the rest, and walk out of the door.
I sing the entire way down scenic Route 2, with my music playing on shuffle from a device with no option to skip songs. I didn’t plan to make a trip until the moment I was packing and the decision was made so, of course, there was no time to go to the library for an audiobook. Between songs, I intentionally took deep, slow breaths to remind myself, I am living. I’ve decided it is funny to compare the number of times we think of being alive and the number of breaths we take to stay that way.
My car mounted a hill and I was met with a breathtaking view of layered, green mountains. I dipped down into the basin of hills and as the grandeur of the scene became just tree lined roads again, I thought of how life exists in the space of a single breath. Plans are always hypothetical. And then I was home in Maine, entirely by accident.
I am submerged in cool lake water that feels like silk skidding over sundried skin. My body is taken on a blind exploration through the dark water. Plunged into this new density, I am forced to move slower, to relax my body, and simply go deeper. I crack the glass-like water and re-enter the warmth of summer air. All of my senses are re-employed. There is the whirring engine of a motor boat pulling rowdy water skiers through the water and cars speeding around curvy Route 52. I see green trees with fluttering leaves, and grey pavement crumbling into a rocky bank, that tumbles into reflective water. From a bird’s eye view I know I appear to be treading water in a cloud.
I should be so many places, I think. I should be in town meeting with friends and customers of Zoot. I should have waited in Belfast for a party with family, or for a few friends to return. I should have invited friends to meet me here in the water. I should be apologizing for not putting more effort into making space for other people on this trip. I should be at a wedding. I should be doing my breakfast dishes. I should be looking for more jobs. I should be back in Vermont, trying to make things feel more like home. I should be writing. I should be thinking about all the things there are to figure out. No.
I should just be here, holding myself above water.
It’s simple. Breathe in, submerge. Breathe out, emerge.
This empty journal before me looks more like an impulsively purchased book of pre-soiled pages and less like an opportunity to try something new and artsy. Typically, I go for a black moleskin journal, 4 ½ by 9, with no lines, dots or markings on the pages. I don’t like being told what to do by my journals and there are no rules about a blank piece of paper.
This journal however, is a risk. It has lines and graph paper and some pages with astronomy charts. It is, in fact, an astronomy observer’s notebook, that I was convinced to buy by friends and the prospect of looking like I am both a scientific and creative genius to the general public. Unfortunately, I am immediately inclined to remain within each line. I roll my eyes in frustration, at my stupidity. What possessed me to leave behind something I know so wholeheartedly about myself?
I am sighing, feeling limited until I tilt the journal sideways so its blue lines become vertical. I breath a little less exasperated this time. Exhaling, I smile, and begin writing on a diagonal slant down the page. I scold myself. That wasn’t so bad, you control freak.
The final dance of the first half has ended. Structured contra sets are melting into final dips and hugs. The hall becomes a jumble where clusters gather with water bottles and a social buzz. The break. I stand, breath held, turning slowly to look for a comfortable place to be. So many seemingly open and friendly people surround me, and yet I feel my shell become thicker, and my social vocabulary shrinking. In my head, I am frantically saying, “No thank you!” to this next twenty minutes of mingling. I exit the hall to greet the stars and more lounging, sweaty dancers.
Moments later, I have climbed into the back seat of my car. Lying on my back with a hand to my rising and falling chest, I open my eyes to reveal more darkness. I feel loneliness propel my heart beat faster. All rational thought is drowned in a sense of obligation to the dancers inside. Feeling increasingly annoyed with my lame, antisocial self, I open my phone and scroll through the names, searching for a person to call who might answer and understand. How can I have hundreds of names glowing on this screen and faith in close to none of them saying the right thing? I call mom, and she says all of the things good Moms should say to panicky daughters.
I hear the music begin to start up again and just breathe, deciding to allow myself to be exactly how I need to. I wrap my arms around myself, and cry shuddering, quiet, tears. Eventually, I sat up, wiped my face on my dress and readdressed the stars without the bustle of people outside. A shooting star dashed across the sky which left itself imprinted on my face as a smile. This is exactly where I am supposed to be. I could hear the whooping and cheering of the dancers in the hall. I leave the cool, dark, outside and enter the warm and twirling hall completely by choice.
The music is building and people, myself included, can’t help but dance more vigorously. This hall is filled from the blonde, wood floors, to the colorful dancers, from the elevated stage where Great Bear plays, to the high ceilings with joy that seeps out of every open window and door. The incredibly large crowd, who have been bumping into one another all night, are now flowing around one another smoothly. My hair is wildly whipping my face and splaying out in all directions. There is tension from my partner’s hand in my own that ebbs and flows, pulling me from one motion to the next. My ribcage is sweaty where hands have met it in a swing. My knees are teetering on the edge of weakness. I feel the bones of my feet pressing the soles of my shoes through my skin.
The dancers begin singing along with the over arching tune of the fiddle. The entire room is smiling and I can’t help but laugh at how good life feels in that moment. I sing along. I breath and I spin, forgetting all the rest.
Driving on I-89 for 77 miles back to Burlington, I replay each event of the past weeks and search for a thread or a highlight. I know I have a blog post to write when I get home. I come to terms with the overwhelming fullness of the past few weeks and revert to breathing again because it is what I can do.
Back in my bedroom, with the packed bags lying once again in the middle of the floor, I visit my small jam jar filled with Angel Cards. In my parent’s home there has always been angel cards in a blue shot glass, on the windowsill above the kitchen sink. Each card has a drawing of an angel and a word. They work similar to tarot cards in that you pull one and then perhaps reflect on how that particular word may apply to your life. I grew up picking three per day in the hopes that these little angels may guide me towards clarity.
I breathe in the home air, I shuffle and pick a single card from the deck. Breathing out, I laugh a little as I read.