Alternately title: All hail broke loose
I recently embarked upon an epic journey from France to Arizona. I first flew from Paris to Seattle with a brief stop in Iceland to switch planes. I brought with me a big white husky, three cats, a baritone ukulele, and multiple suitcases filled with the things I find precious, including my jewelry, breakable mugs with animal motifs, and rocks wrapped in bubble wrap.
I spent a week in Seattle, recuperating from this first part of the journey. During this time, I visited with family and friends from the area. I even drove up to a spot alone the Canada-US border to visit with my sibling, who I hadn’t seen in over three years. For several, we sat in lawn chairs on different sides of the border. People drove by waving and smiling on the Canadian side. Motorcycles revved engines and Border Patrol drove by on the US side, reminding us to stay on our side and not pass anything across the border.
My back went out after the trip to the border, which seemed to be my body’s way of saying that I needed more time to recover before getting into a car and driving alone (the only human among the aforementioned four-legged beings) more than a thousand miles through Washington, Idaho, and Nevada to ultimately wind up at my “final” destination (for now) in Prescott, Arizona in a place called “The Dells.”
There is a lot to unpack (no pun intended as I return to Arizona to literally unpack the belongings we stuffed into our garage before leaving for Europe for what started as four and turned into five [thank you, pandemic] years) in the specific events from the journey, but I am not quite ready to relive it all in order to write about it. Suffice it to say that it was incredibly challenging and forced me to dip deep into my inner well of capacity, the one my EMDR therapist in France assured me I possessed. She was right, but it took a toll. I have been living in a kind of surreal and not particularly serene alternate reality ever since setting foot in the United States. Arriving at our home in Arizona has been no exception and has certainly offered no respite from the feeling of being completely lost in the world. Without roots to tether or ground me, I feel adrift and out of place.
Spending time in a place that is familiar and foreign at the same time feels like stepping into the life of someone who is no longer physically present on this plane but has left an echo of their energy. It seems to be a strong echo with reminders of that person all around. I have rediscovered collections of objects from my life, some familiar and others perplexing in their unfamiliarity.
I am stepping into the life of someone I once knew who both exists and doesn’t exist. I am finding things from my four decades on this earth that show me how little I have changed. Collections of rocks, feathers, bones, marbles, shells, even teeth, as well as found objects that would be considered trash bound for the landfill to most people but that I placed lovingly in jars and/or plastic bags with labels in order to remember which were meant to stay together and where I had placed them around the house.
The teenage version of my self was drawn to the same objects as the 40 year old version. And both have incredible difficulty letting go of said objects. Even though I lived without any of these belongings for five years, I feel the pull return as soon as I unwrap yet another large rock from its bubble wrap.
You realize rocks are unbreakable, my husband teases when I tell him that I have discovered boxes upon boxes of this collection.
Under the right amount of heat and pressure, even rocks can break. If I am a rock in human form, I have felt this heat and pressure myself.
My husband laughs, yet I feel a mix of strong emotions: sadness, heaviness, wonder, concern. The collection borders on psychological disorder. OC with the D. I have grown alarmed with each discovery. It seems that every time I unearth a jewelry box, a Tupperware, a tiny tin, I find yet another of these collections. In one small wooden box from my time in Russia, I found a green marble, a feather, and a button with the words “let go” written on it in small cursive lettering.
I have placed the button on the kitchen counter to remind me. And each time I wonder about whether or not I can part with a belonging, I think of the button.
I am trying to Marie Kondo my way through the life of this former version of me. I ask questions of myself and of my possessions. Do you spark joy for me? Do you want to stay or do you want to go?
At one point, I emptied each jar of its contents, placing them into separate piles. I had already photographed each jar and the contents therein. I then photographed each pile and picked up each rock, feather, branch, shell, bone, and plastic or metal object in the mix. I tried to determine if any wanted to stay. I decided that I would set free any object that was more immediately fleeting. Acorns, tiny branches, feathers. I set them aside, some of them out on our back porch. Stones that wanted to continue on their journey I put into the pockets of a black canvas sack intended to transport bottles of wine from the grocery store to home.
I even discovered a literal time capsule, a tin that once held powdered hot chocolate that I filled with keepsakes on a trip to Africa with my family in 2001 and hadn’t opened since. There is something auspicious about opening it in the year 2021.
It’s art now, I texted my husband with images I had captured of items from my past.
My husband suggested that I could create a rock garden and place each collection along the path. My instant response (in my mind, at least) was to worry about leaving them all behind should we leave this home. Knowing my nomadic tendencies, it would only be a matter of time before I would be pulling up my roots once more and heading to the next stop on my life journey.
I know. It’s ok.
I love you.
I love you, too.
Since arriving in Arizona, I have also turned 40 and experienced some very strong energy in the atmosphere. Two days after this auspicious watershed, the heavens literally opened and hail larger than golf balls rained down, breaking eight windows and even more screens and hammering the body of the used car I only just purchased up in Seattle.
A week later, and the heavens dropped hail and rain again. The second time the road and the creek that runs parallel shifted into a raging river of murky, brown water. Trees, stumps, and debris swept through as the water levels rose. At one point, a plastic boat floated by.
After the first storm, I posted a note on social media that read, “I turned 40, and all hell broke loose.” After the second storm, my husband revised the phrase to read, “all hail broke loose.”
My husband has a theory that I caused a major disturbance in the universe when I left France and moved to the United States. Leaving Europe, I left a void the universe was trying to fill. Entering the US, I created a strong disturbance, and the universe has been attempting to find equilibrium ever since.
I feel the energy swirling in the ethos around me, as well as inside. My body is physically exhausted. I am quick to tire after any kind of activity, great or small. A cup of coffee with a friend. A short walk around the neighborhood.
I fall asleep while meditating in the evening and awake unsure of where I am in the middle of the night. I worry about mortality and what I am doing with my life. I am 40, and there are so many books I have yet to read but I cannot concentrate or sit still long enough to get through more than a few sentences in any one book. I read two short stories in a red hardcover collection of Kafka that my dad left for me after his recent visit, but they each awoke such a deep melancholy and profound sadness that I tucked the book out of sight and turned to a book by Sally Kempton about shakti and the goddess.
I have had to come to terms all over again with the loss of a trunk that contained all of the photos I had collected from my life, from childhood up until we left for Belgium five years ago. I had left the trunk along with several area rugs rolled up in the loft in our house, thinking they would be more protected from extreme temperature changes while we were away. Our tenants signed a lease agreeing not to go into the loft, but our first tenant we evicted later broke into the house and stole both the trunk and all of the rugs. It was an act of pure malice. I can only explain it by imagining the person felt a need for vengeance and to cause pain because the photos would have value for no one other than me.
Since I don’t have children, I don’t have to worry about not being able to pass these photos on to anyone. However, I feel the loss acutely like grief from a loved one who has passed away. I know they are gone, but I irrationally feel like they will return to me. They’ll say, I’m back. Wasn’t it strange to be apart? Doesn’t it feel so much better to be together again.
You have to.
I don’t want to.
Why do I have to?
So you can live and be whole.
I don’t feel whole. I feel broken and sad.
That is life.
Then I don’t like life.
You are not in control. The sooner you accept this, the sooner you can be whole.
Are you my inner voice or my husband chiming in?
Does it matter?
I suppose not.
Upon rediscovering a jar full of marbles I think belonged to my dad when he was a child, I texted my husband, I found my marbles! I must not be insane after all.
I am not sure either of us was particularly convinced.
You are something else, my husband often tells me.
I am still wondering what that “else” is. In the meantime, I have many pieces of my past that, when woven together, tell an intricate story of me.
Just as I finished writing this piece, my husband sent me a text that read, “A book for you” with an apt, accompanying image.