Monday, August 1

a survivor of childhood

I have a thing for queen anne's lace.

berkshires, at kripalu


I have a thing for queen anne's lace.


And, I think I should warn you, this post was going to be a nice post about queen anne's lace bobbing and brightening up the backgrounds of my childhood vacations by canadian lakes, and instead, a whole 'nother story poured out.


It's the flip side of the same coin, and it began when I wrote these words:


Queen anne's lace is a pure and dainty plant, with a strong scent, and it grows where the ground has been disturbed, along roadsides and in fields. It is very hard to transplant, for the taproot will snap. It must be started from seed.


Then I found, 'A teaspoon full of crushed seeds has long been used as a form of birth control, its use for this purpose was first described by Hippocrates over 2,000 years ago.'


And I just thought to myself, wow.


How everything that goes around, comes around, in life.



when I was 17

*
me, around 17, in a field of queen anne's lace



Each summer my family would drive from our home in florida and, later, pennsylvania to a rented cabin on a lake in ontario. I knew I was near when I would begin to see the red-winged blackbirds, the purple loosestrife and lacy bobbing doilies of the queen anne's lace. It meant bare feet on scratchy grass, seaweed and frogs, lapping water, the herons, painted turtles and snakes, lake swimming and huge appetites. It meant private discoveries, water and wet and sun and skin and breath and my own thoughts and huge huge nature loves and wishes and possibility. It was always devastating when my father would decide to bring us home one day early, so he could recoup before getting back to the office.


It is a plant that grows on disturbed soil.


It is really tough being young. It was for me. I had to make a lot of other people happy. I didn't understand, nor did anyone around me, that I was highly sensitive. If I stayed in my room too much, I was anti-social. If I asked why too much, I was too intense. Questions outside the box of the belief system I was raised in were viewed warily. To survive, I held myself together, detached, tried to keep my head down, not cause ripples, and dreamed one day of escape. How, I did not know. I became severely depressed, and for many years wished I could disappear.


Me, disappear.


How did I cope? I don't think I did. I wrote a lot of poems in my journal, took pills from 7-11 to pep me up and to put me to sleep, ran in the neighboorhood at night towards the stars when I just had to do something, escaped by long road trips to niagara falls or cleveland, but mostly I turned it all inside. I doubled up on myself, and tucked all my nasty feelings in, and pretended, and I'm still feeling the repercussions of that today. It's hard for me to be my real, authentic self because it grew in kind of like a chinese woman's bound foot.




austria, aged 21


What changed for me to bring me to where I am now? For one thing, I began to make art. It came out of me and freed a passage through the darkness of my mind. It drained poisons. It was something I knew I was good at. I knew. Also, I left the country at age 21. I went to Italy with a backpack and a friend for 3 months. It was the first time I had ever been able to go a whole day, a whole week, a whole month, just trusting my intuition, my interests and my own inner guiding. I moved there the next year for two semesters of college.


I was stronger than I knew.


In Europe, the little package of my mind began to breathe, began to send out small roots gulping. It took the Atlantic to break the taproot. And I was left with little seeds of my own. Seeds that I contained, secured safe, fiercely defended.




*



Last fall I came across the question, 'what would you do if you knew you could not fail?'


And in amongst the 'learn french,' 'keep bees,' 'write a book,' 'learn to knit,' 'get a horse,' was 'have children.'


I didn't really notice it until I hit the end of the page. 


For years I decided I would never have children. I feared that when I became a mother, I would somehow default to my upbringing, as if all the intervening years had not occured. As if I had no choice. As if I would surely fail. I would make my children safe by not having them. It was enough that I was free, making my way, and fighting. Finding out who I was and starting myself on the path to meet myself where I am now.


It feels scary to even write this, like I'm going to jinx things. It feels scary also to let go, to allow to happen, what might happen, if...


It's another unpackaging of my mind to the air to breathe and gulp.





**






Queen anne's lace, the plant of my childhood. It grows on disturbed soil, and it must be started from seed.










*photos by my mom
**photo by tim