Gran's Apple Butter Blog

October 4, 2011

Going Home, Excerpt: Fog Banks (7/III)

Chapter 7 – Fog Banks

It’s a good thing our hearts have such clear vision, ‘cause sometimes it can be hard for our eyes to see, particularly when the weather turns while we’re out and about. It does that, you know: Weather happens. Like fog. Fog settles on mountains highs and valleys low, and Gran said every road crosses a few of those.

Fog rolls in other places too, usually where the tide and our emotions are running high. In those moments we may feel like we’re lost in that grayness. Sometimes we’re standing way out on a pier, sometimes we’re sitting in a boat, and sometimes that boat has sunk beneath us and we’re floundering in the waves, treading water in soup so thick we can’t tell up from down.

I learned what this felt like, as Gran knew I would. I found myself in those waves not just once or twice, and I didn’t know how to save myself. Not until I ran into someone else who was also lost in that fog. From my vantage point, I could see that all my new friend needed to do was to stop fighting, to simply stand up and step out of the waves, like turning on a light in a dark room.

What my friend couldn’t see was that the water was only waist deep and the clouds were just a paper-thin veil in front of her eyes. She was already on the beach, she could feel the sand if she’d only put her feet down and stand up. Just one step forward would take her through that haze.

But until she could let go of the fear that kept her treading water, terrified that the next wave would be her last, until she could find the trust to put her feet down and know she would be taken care of, like Gran’s sparrows, well, all I could do was watch. All she had to do was straighten her legs and shift her weight to her own two feet. That’s all.

She even had helpers, although she couldn’t see them. Remember the ones who stayed on the other side? I could hear them calling from where they stood in the sunshine – “You’re here, you’re safe. Stand up!” But in her wild thrashing, she couldn’t hear them. They held out branches and threw ropes, but with her eyes closed she didn’t see those lifelines. She almost seemed determined not to see them. And that was all her helpers could do, because they knew these were her waters to conquer.

She had a choice. She could stand up by letting go, which would probably be the hardest, bravest thing she ever did in her life. Or she could stay at the edge of the waves, struggling until she was too exhausted to fight anymore, until the waves of her own emotions would take her under one last time. Even then she had a choice – to relax and float calmly to the surface, or to keep thrashing about until her lungs filled with water. She had a choice.

We always have this choice, Gran would remind me. But it’s up to us to make it. No one else can do this for us. It’s ironic how true that is. Even having seen the other side of my friend’s predicament, in my own fog banks I’d fight to the finish, choking down water and spitting out seaweed. Yet somehow, in the end, I always made it through. Just in time I’d catch hold of a branch or a rock and pull myself to safety, almost in spite of myself. Almost like I had my own helpers.

It’s like driving on a foggy night when your defroster isn’t working. You know what Gran did when that happened? She’d roll down her window, stick out her head and keep going, slowly creeping along. As long as she didn’t drive too fast, she could see each little yellow stripe at the end of her headlights. One stripe at a time, she always got home through the darkness, and bed never felt so good.

© Mary Batson, Going Home, Front Porch Rambles, and Gran’s Apple Butter Blog, 2010-2011. All rights reserved.
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March 22, 2011

Going Home, Excerpt: Drowning (5/III)

Filed under: Books,Dam,Emotions,Front Porch Rambles,Going Home,Gran,Packing,Planning,Preparing,Self Development,Walls,Water — Mary Batson - FrontPorchRambles @ 12:48 pm

Chapter 5 – Drowning
from Going Home, by Mary Batson

There are many reasons we’re afraid to open even a crack in our walls, Gran said. Like drowning. You see, emotions are like water. You can let them flow or you can dam ‘em up. When she was younger Gran had done the latter for so long she began to think she didn’t feel emotions. But this was just an illusion she’d concocted to protect herself, hiding inside a wall of numbness. Gran was thankful for the shelter this had provided, but eventually she felt ready to move on. That took some doing, though – it didn’t just happen.

Gran said the walls we build around ourselves can be like the Hoover Dam. Except instead of standing on top and admiring the view, we find ourselves standing at the bottom on the dry side, looking up at a vast expanse of concrete holding back a sea of unexpressed emotion. In blocking the water out, we’ve blocked ourselves in, and there doesn’t seem to be an emergency exit.

We stand there frozen, brave on the outside, terrified within. That’s a whole lot of water in there, and we know how powerful water can be. Shutting our eyes, we strain to hear any noises that might mean fingernail cracks and shoo away the carrier pigeons that circle above. Even if they had a message for us, we’re too afraid to let ‘em get close enough to deliver it. We’ll protect that dam with our lives, ’cause we’re pretty sure that’s what depends on it.

If we’ll let go of this fear long enough to open our eyes, Gran said, we’ll see several ways to improve the situation. There’s an exit sign just over there, and a ladder along the side, if we want to climb out. If that’s too strenuous, way over in the corner is a little water faucet. Don’t worry, it’s adjustable.

If we turn it on just a hair, the drops of water can be absorbed into the ground. Or if we’re feeling brave, there’s a big hose hanging nearby. We can ask the fire department to help us hook it up, to direct a jet stream far down into the valley. Or we can set up a sprinkler and let it gently feed the land, watching the little flowers that pop up to tell us the long, cold winter is over.

Of course, all these options require us to do something, Gran said. We can also walk away and go down to live in the valley, convincing ourselves there is no dam. Sure, it’s dry and dusty, hard for anything to grow in that desert, since the stream that fed the valley got dammed up along with all the rest of that water. But it feels safe.

We convince ourselves we’re safe, forgetting all we know about water buildup and preventative maintenance. If we sometimes remember that wall with a smidgen of concern, we sooth ourselves with the idea that if a leak springs all we have to do is plug it with our finger and all will be well. This might have worked for Hans, Gran said, but she wouldn’t recommend anyone try this at home.

We can go on like this for years, dancing in the valley with unseeing eyes, unaware of everything we’ve shut out. Unaware, that is, ‘til we begin to hear ominous creaks and groans in the night. We try to shut them out, too, pulling a pillow over our ears. If we do that long enough, Gran said, this problem will take care of itself, and us along with it. Or, if we choose to wake up, to remember the dam and all those tools lying next to it, we can hike back to the head of that valley and start the work we weren’t ready for the first time.

This task can seem so daunting we may try to convince ourselves we don’t really care what happens anyway. This is always an option. But there’s a neat trick to this, Gran said. We have help, although we may not realize it. Like the shoemaker’s elves – the ones who did his work when he got too sick for it. But first he had to ask, Gran reminded me, and that’s a lesson in itself.

Being a fan of both gardening and the slow-but-sure method, Gran’s favorite approach involved that sprinkler. She was a bit of a country girl, you know, and she knew a thing or two about the power of water, especially in its flood stages along Deer Creek. Gran ran that sprinkler for a long time, gardening away, growing flowers and vegetables and all kinds of good stuff.

One evening she noticed water pooling in a corner of the slope, the ground sinking a bit. The next morning when she returned, she found a great big hole where that depression had been, with a spring at the bottom where the valley stream had originally burst through from higher up the mountain. There it was again, bubbling merrily along.

As the water level lowered, Gran dismantled her dam, one layer of concrete blocks at a time. Finally the way stood free, wind blowing gently past, sun falling on sparkling waters, all back to center, and this time it held.

That, Gran said, was a beautiful day, and some excellent motivation for planning her next trip.

© Mary Batson, Going Home, Front Porch Rambles, and Gran’s Apple Butter Blog, 2010. All rights reserved.
NOW AVAILABLE: Going Home, The E-Book & Going Home: The Tour LIVE – 2 CD set – Mikey and Gran’s story put to music!

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