Everything changes, including us. One year we’re one thing, next year or ten years later we’re something quite different. Once I was a wild child, next I was a struggling single parent totally unhappy with where I was both geographically and socially, next I was a wild spirit, unfettered, a sponge soaking up nature and formal education, strong, creative, full of joy over simple things like watching a friend’s deft, graceful hands as she mixed and kneaded frybread dough.
Then I fell in love and moved to Arizona. Still strong, over-flowing with love for my husband and utterly joyful at simple things like making sure he had a good dinner in the evenings, treating him to breakfast and coffee in bed every day to make it easier for him to get up for work, a kiss and a wave goodbye every weekday morning to let him know how much I loved him. I was, at first, convinced I could still be the self sufficient, strong, nature worshipping woman I’d been when we fell in love. This city couldn’t beat me down I thought, and I tried, over and over again, to find some part of this new place where I could just be me.
I would haul the boys out into the desert to see cactus, rocks, or pick prickly pear fruit for jelly. These jaunts became amusing memories but they weren’t terribly amusing until the broken foot healed and all the prickly pear thorns worked their way out of my skin. I tried to find poetry in the desert that others told me about, it’s austere beauty, but all I have ever seen here reminded me of the desolation of Smaug (from the book, not the movie), “The land about them grew bleak and barren, though once, as Thorin told them, it had been green and fair. There was little grass, and before long neither bush nor tree, and only broken and blackened stumps to speak of ones long vanished. They were come to the Desolation of the Dragon, and they were come at the end of the year.” Tolkien, The Hobbit
The one place I could find my free spirit again was at a local lake. Every summer I would wade out into the lake where, buoyed by the water and smiled upon by an immense blue sky, I would fish at least once a week. Between finding a rattlesnake had curled up in the shade of my folding chair, while I was in it, and the time the boys came across one and decided to “play” with it while I was fishing, my days at the lake came to an end and I began staying home.
I planted things, watered things, redecorated the kitchen, tried a great many crafts, and continued to try and keep the home front a happy place for William at the end of his stressful workdays. We finally moved out of the city and built a home on a couple of acres. This meant a long commute, but he enjoyed having the time to adjust his mind between work and home and he absolutely loved the little farm. I enjoyed it because I had more space to breathe and recreate myself, turning toward that vital part of me that requires a large amount of sky, no traffic noise, and a pool where I could water the roots of my spirit. When a spirit is as drought stricken as mine was a swimming pool is quite a good enough substitute for a lake or stream.
I threw myself back into my lifelong love of horses and collected a barn filled with ponies of all colors. I enjoyed the colors of the desert sunsets, enjoyed the ponies and lived for the evenings and weekends when William came home and my love and joy with him would remind me why I was still here. But he’s gone, and after 18 years, I find it’s not so easy to reinvent myself, to find what I packed away upon moving here and to bring to life what the pointed, poisonous and desolate desert has dried up inside. This is the vital task that must take priority over all the problems I’ve been left with. Without finding my self, my strength, my spirit, my stubborn hard headed soul, and my joy in nature, the problems and the grief will never dissipate and will compound. William planted me here and did his level best to nurture me, I have to find a way to bloom.
In the words of Kurt Vonnegut “Who am I this time?”