Walking in a section of woods I haven’t visited for years, I felt as if I was seeing things I had never seen before. But I had seen them. I just forgot. I forgot that the woods were filled with hemlocks, one of my favorite, sometimes hard to find trees of southeastern New England. I had forgotten the incredibly hard, packed down path that runs along the cornfield at the beginning of the trail, and the interesting, bug conversations coming from the dark places among the stalks. I had forgotten that at the top of the granite outcropping in the middle of this sanctuary, dragonflies drift by as if they are flying above the highest mountain on earth. And tiny, fluffy seeds are carried effortlessly on paths in the sky where there are no paths.
On most woodland trails, a good deal of time is spent looking downward at your feet, dodging roots and rocks, and creatively jumping the occasional mud hazard. It was the same here. But looking up on one occasion, I caught a glance of an intriguing, almost hidden hill to my left. I have an eye for those kinds of spots, the places where a child would sneak off and claim it for their own, secret place. When I saw it, I unexpectedly opened my mouth and said out loud, “If I were me (short pause) and I am!” Just seven, unscripted words with a short, but awkward pause in the middle, and nature helped me see things from a whole, new perspective.
“If I were me…” When did I stop feeling like I was me? When did I stop feeling I was a free-spirited child, an adventurer, a person who makes her own paths without pausing from fear? I felt as though I had been walking down that beaten path by the cornfield with everyone else for a long, long time, so long that I forgot what the woods really looked like. I had forgotten the hemlocks, the dragonflies, the paths where there are no paths! Oh, how the cares of this hurried life steel our thoughts and settle into our hearts. Oh, how the materialistic agendas and cultural propaganda battles for our souls. Oh, how tragically we forget the true, beautiful, individual persons we are created to be!
(short pause) The short, awkward pause is the place where we get lost. It is the distracted life where we seem to live as someone else. Disconnected. We loose our voice. We forget. In that place, there is so much room for regret, sadness, anger, and despair. To crawl out of that place takes clarity, bravery, and strength. Each person has to find their own way out, but two thoughts have helped me come to terms with my time of pause. In situations where I had control, I did make what I thought were the best choices with the information I had at the time. And for the circumstances that were out of my control, I did the best I could. Okay. Short pause to mourn. Now let's be done with that! Let’s call that as a pause, get back to being ourselves!
“…and I am.” Three little, powerful words. A declaration that I am not lost. I am still here. I say them out lout and give myself permission to be who I was created to be. Permission to veer off the path, run up the hill, and find that place only I can see. Ticks (fear) be damned! I’m getting off the path!
No matter how much time you have lost in your pause, that time between when you were living true to yourself and this moment, one thing is certain. You may have lost some time, but you didn’t loose yourself! You are still here! And that little hill in the landscape, that special place known only to you? IT IS STILL THERE! Move out of the pause and go find it!
And if you are wondering if I climbed the hill? Of course I did. Huge, grey rocks nearly covered with brilliant, green moss. Hemlocks on the other side. Beech trees uncharacteristically bending and twisting about. A place to sit high enough to get a new vantage point of the path I was on, and a path on the other side I didn’t know existed. As other walkers approached, I held my breath, hoping they and their rambunctious dogs would not find me out. They did not. I stayed, brushing the moss with my hands, and playing with sticks, grass, acorns, and pine cones. And every now and then, I would turn a little and see the world from another perspective.
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