Today, I finished a beautifully crafted and poignant memoir titled, Refuge by Terry Tempest Williams. It is a book of triumph and tragedy. Of fact and faith. Heart and mind. The story is of a bird refuge in Salt Lake City, Utah and how with the changing of the lake and environment over the years, there was a changing of the patterns and cycles of the birds. She carefully wove that story with the changing patterns of her own family with her mom’s encounter and eventual death with cancer. What I truly admire most about this book, is not only Williams’ strength through hard times, but her true, dedication and connection to nature.
As a child, I always wanted to play outside. Riding my bike, running around, in the dirt, being a boy and skateboarding and playing basketball and football, in winter sledding and snowboarding, even eating snow…all kinds of fun stuff. Looking closer, I enjoyed collecting different types of leaves and rocks and sticks. I kept them in the seat of my little plastic trike that opened up. Once I even had a bug collection. Nighttime was my favorite (still is) time of the day. I loved the dark, and felt nocturnal always wanting to be beneath the stars with wet dew on my feet. Around the time I was a teen, I began just sitting and reading and writing outside. At night, of course, I’d still be reading, and would do it in style by candlelight. Going back to being younger, my grandma would always come over on Saturdays to watch me while my parents went out. My favorite thing to do with her was to go for walks up the street and down one of the nearby side streets that loops around. I’d constantly be looking for things to collect, and loved to see the trees and comment on their leaves and incredible size. (I’ll also never forget the the couple trees that harbored all the caterpillars and how they carpeted the road and blanketed the leaves). And in winter, I loved playing for hours in the snow. As I got older, I began enjoying photography of the white stuff. And in spring and summer, the green stuff, especially the abundance of plants in our back yard.
All of these are some of my fondest memories. Now, since grown up, I feel a different sense of connection to nature. It’s not only the fascination and fun of diversity only pleasing to the senses, but a deeper awareness of life. I can appreciate all that’s going on. If you think about it enough, your brain will ache trying to picture all that’s happening in a single moment in nature. Kind of like all that’s happening in your body. Impossible. Yet amazing. Not many can truly appreciate the cycle of nature, the cycle that keeps us alive as well. Personally, I feel a connection to water. I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve lived at a lake my entire life, but I just feel a bond with it. It’s brave and timid, gorgeous and destructive. A murderer and a life source. Such a yin and yang water is as it’s part of its own unique cycle.
As a woman, I have my own cycles that coincide with nature. Every month I shed my blood; life; a child that could have been. Every year, trees shed the leaves that gave us and other creatures life, only to be regrown to carry on the cycle. Nature is in a constant state of reproduction, therefore it’s not a virgin. Every creature and plant in nature possesses a freedom to intercourse. I have chosen that same freedom. I am not a virgin. I have become part of a divinity existing between Mother Earth and Heaven.
Nature is a feminist. A Mother who watches, protects and punishes. Giving sympathy to women who do the same yet don’t get treated as deserved. She weeps for the entire world. Sensitive yet resilient; not held back by anyone. Again, free. I long for a freedom such as that. I strive for it and somehow know it’s within reach. In the cycle.