Thursday, November 25, 2004

Rustic thoughts

Poised on the edge between fear and peace, I am unable to decide which way to go. A sense of accomplishment makes things easier; especially when I conquer my body and the chains it has forged about me, making me afraid to trust what once was mine. My spirit is intact, although at times it hides from me, making me feel weak and unsure, unable to trust my body even though my mind tells me the strength and ability is there.

Thinking back on older times when chain saws and electricity and gasoline were not commonplace, to a time where the strength of the body and a determined spirit were all the tools one could count on, I am not surprised that something in me reaches for simple tools to complete my tasks. The sight of a rust spangled bow saw reminds me there are many ways to cut wood.

My first attempts worked on cut and pressure-treated bards but I found logs a bit daunting, the flexible blade sticking and catching in the wood. I experimented with angle and pressure and speed and found the easiest way to get the logs cut with a minimum of work was to take my time and emulate the tortoise--slow and steady. The saw still got stuck from time to time, but soon I had cut 2 slender trees into sections, enough for at least a day's fire to keep me warm.

By upending two half barrels I made a surface to hold the logs steady but I still need something to help stabilize the log when I'm sawing it. I have enough will to stick to the task, but I still don't trust my body. For too many years have muscles, reflexes, and balance atrophied and they are slow coming back--or so it feels to me. I don't trust them, especially here where an accident could mean my death. I dare not chance too much although something inside urges me forward, reminding me of what I once was and could be again. Even in the grips of that siren's song some small whisper of reason checks my steps, slows my rush and keeps me wary of trusting too far; and so I inch cautiously forward where once I raced boldly. Maybe that tiny whispering voice is age or wisdom or fear or maybe I have at last become cautious. And so I inch forward. Two logs cut into smaller pieces to feed the ravenous stove, twelve pieces of wood to stave off the cold and conserve the propane, ever the specter of want hovering just outside the golden glow to remind me that nothing comes without a price and my days of reckless spending are long ago at an end until I venture forth into the world and accept the yoke of schedule and office politics and demands again.

But I do not want to go back to that world. I want the freedom I have now, but with a more regular income. That's the real problem--money. I need money to keep living here and to keep living and I am stalled, unable (or unwilling) to bear even the light yoke of writing. All my days are filled with others' words and love and study until there is no desire for my own words. Body and mind and will in constant rebellion while I sink lower and lower into poverty. And yet I am not poor.

I have a roof and electricity, phone and computer access, but it is like the wood piled up outside; a visible sign of wealth without access to it. The saw gives me access, but I don't trust my body far enough to do more than nibble away at the logs, one or two at a time, just enough for heat for one day or possibly two. A little and then a little more, stretching farther and farther away from the chains of flesh that bound me and bind me still.

I do feel and see changes: clothes hanging looser, bones protruding from thinning layers of fat. My walk is stronger, more resolute, and I can feel the power and grace returning despite the momentary creaks, groans and twinges of old injuries and protesting joints and ligaments, and so I slow, but the power remains, a coiled spring of nearly infinite capacity waiting for the fear to subside so my rising confidence unleashes my will without reservation.

And it is fear which holds me back, tempers my excitement and joy at the return of what has been buried for so long, maintaining my balance on the edge.

Fear is necessary to keep me safe but fear is also an insidiously dangerous beast that sucks the marrow from bones and the strength from resolve. Unchecked, fear built a prison of flesh and cowed my naturally determined nature until its ghostly outline could only get me from bed to work and back again. From my prison I glimpsed and reached for happiness and freedom only to be shunned for my prison garments of safe and abhorrent flesh.

Part of me believes I am nearly free as my body responds to my tentative gains. Where once my body moved and worked without more thought than breathing or the beating of my heart, now I focus on the intricate relationship of bone, muscle, ligament, and movement, reveling in the feeling of each individual motion as if discovering the secret of life long hidden. Ripples and dimples appear in once smooth bulges and act like a half seen mirage of wonder that leads me through the gathering dark, and I follow.

There is little pain as I stumble forward, running and walking where the ground permits, always joyous and a little wary that all is but a dream, a fantasy born of desire. As the flesh is stripped away I recall more and more of balance and fluid motion without thought or care beyond the initial desire. I carefully venture forward, but each unchallenged and barely challenged foray breeds hope and desire for more.

I was told I would emerge from this cocoon of silence changed in mind and spirit, but also in body. Maybe this is the beginning of that change and soon I will emerge from my cocoon into the long ago promise that once gleamed and shone from the body I was taught to hate and despise.

I wonder if the caterpillar reviles its flaccid fat curls of insect flesh before it enters it self-made prison to emerge as a moth or butterfly, a winged shape of beauty and grace. Each step, each incarnation is as necessary as the next, for without the corpulent caterpillar gorging on leaves and honey and vegetation it would never be able to spin its prison or remain inside long enough to change.

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