Thanks to all of you who read my last post and have written or called to ask what I did on my day of "wild abandon." It means a lot to know that there are people out there who wonder about and care where I am and what I'm up to.
One promise I made to myself when I woke up yesterday morning and began to plan my day was that I wouldn't tell anyone all the details of what I did. I felt like I needed to maintain some privacy and secrecy on what I hoped would be a special day. So without going into many details, much of my day consisted of asking myself over and over again: "What do I really want to do right now?"
It's a simple question and a simple idea, but the answer to the question led to some unexpected and enjoyable ramifications at during the day. I found myself saying things like: "I don't feel like doing that right now. I know that I need to, but for today I'm not going to." "I won't allow this to be said to me or done to me today because today is my day to take good care of myself." "I won't give the expected/easy/simple answer today because I’m taking better care of myself today." "Normally I wouldn't have another one of those, but today I will." “On regular days, I wouldn’t put my desires above those of that person, but today is not a regular day.”
I also found myself thinking things like: "Most of these decisions aren't radical in and of themselves. I'm not stealing things from stores or lying about my age or background. I haven't planned a rendezvous with the cute guy from Terminix" - who, by the way, hasn't yet solved my ant problem. (Those persistent little pests are back with their aunts, uncles, and cousins in tow!!!!!) Nothing along those lines.
My decisions had to do with simple things. Small things. Personal things. Fun things. Decadent things. Sacred routines and symbols and thoughts that I hadn't thought of or handled in a while. Ways to treat myself better than I usually do. Ways to step out of the mold I have crammed myself into over the past few years.
One specific activity from yesterday that I am willing to share was my decision that Kristiana and I would take most of the day off from homeschooling. She had to get a vaccination at 9 am. After our brief sojourn at the doctor’s office, we went to a place here in Charlotte called Wing Haven
. I know I've written about it before, but I will describe it again briefly: Back in the early 1920's, a newlywed couple moved into a house in the center of Charlotte, a house surrounded by a parcel of land made up of red clay and one tree. Over the next several years, they purchased ten adjacent parcels of land and built a three-and-a-half garden that they called Wing Haven. It became a haven (hence the name) where more than 120 species of birds have been sighted, where more than 75 different herbs grow, and where squirrels, chipmunks, and other critters of all kinds have made their home.
We strolled through Charlotte's secret garden, laughing quietly at the antics of one squirrel that watched us more than we watched it, marveling at the dewy, intricate spider webs, listening to the bubbling fountains, taking photos of the sole inhabitant of the rabbit warren, and being amazed by the variety of trees, bushes, flowers - flora and fauna in abundance.
Unfortunately I was wearing the wrong shoes - open-toed flat slides. They are quite cute shoes and matched my outfit smartly. But in a maze where tree roots, slippery stones, and an incalculable variety of ants in all sizes and various colors are rampant, open-toed shoes are not an optimal footwear choice. I found myself not wanting to stand still to appreciate the flora for long because Kristiana and I were under constant attack by the fauna. We both emerged from the garden with welts and bumps of various sizes and shapes.
As we walked through that display of creation at its finest, I found myself reflecting on the feelings of worthlessness and worry I had experienced the day before. I reflected on the ways in which what I was seeing there at Wing Haven mirrored what I had been feeling. The undergrowth hid the tiny little critters, the creatures that bite and sting, leaving small marks, but remain invisible to everyone except the person under attack. I thought about how uncomfortable I felt with the prospect of sitting on one of the many benches to take in the sights and sounds. I was so nervous about being eaten alive that I couldn't fully enjoy what was around me. At one point, I looked down at my arm and discovered a mosquito in the act of withdrawing my blood into its tiny hypodermic stinger. Reflexively, I slapped it and killed it. Suddenly I thought, "Yikes! That's my own blood, shed that a mosquito might live." For a split second, I felt badly that I had killed it.
At the beginning of the garden path is a small cottage that shows an endless loop of video about the founding of Wing Haven. Toward the end of the film, the narrator speaks eloquently about the foundation that supports Wing Haven and the effect that such places has on the people who visit it. He said: "We need places like this. We must have them. We must protect them."
Indeed. I need places like this to force me to deal with some of my fears of the great outdoors. To allow me to deal with those fears in doable doses of the wild kingdom that this planet truly is.
But I also need days like yesterday, days where I can deal with some of my fears about my great indoors - my soul and its yearnings. I need days when I decide to go barefoot and wear a tank top as I forage into and through the wild kingdom of my own heart's desires. I need to deal with the real possibility that I will get bitten by vermin of every kind. I need to look down at the tiny things beneath my feet without cringing and look up at the huge limbs and nests high above me without looking for cover from falling bird droppings.
The truth is that Wing Haven wasn't very scary at all. And neither was my day. I survived them both; most of the bumps are gone, and none of the bites still itch.
Kristiana and I entered that cottage at the end of our walk through the garden. It provided a different perspective to hear the history of that beautiful place told by the couple that started it and maintained it and lived in it until they died at the end of the walk. On his deathbed, the first outside gardener the couple hired asked one of the owners what the property looked like when they moved there. She pulled out old photos which he looked at for a long time. Then he said, "That's the way you want your soul to grow. Get more beautiful every day."
Exactly. I want my soul to grow more beautiful every day. As the lovely Leonie wrote, I long to bloom and blossom like a wildflower every day. I need to set aside time when I put my own pruning shears down and allow God to clip off my dead leaves and shriveled branches.
Sometimes the best thing that can happen to me is a bad day. Sometimes it is an impeccably timed bad day that forces me to step back from the frenzy and fray of my life for a quiet time of rejuvenation and reconnection with myself and with God.
Sometimes it is a pervasive ant invasion that forces me to get down on my knees and look for cracks between the slats of the hardwood floor. Where else can they be coming from? Kinda like the way I have been crawling around on the floorboards of my thoughts, my faith, my marriage, and my motherhood of late. Where on earth are these fears getting in? When I find them, what am I willing to do to chase those frets and frights back down the holes through which they gained entry?
After we sat through the twelve-minute video loop twice, I asked Kristiana if she minded if we walked through the garden again. Backwards. I wanted the chance to do the impossible: to go through the same experience with hindsight as my guide. Having learned lessons from the ants and the spiders and the birds and the creeping vines, I was ready to retrace my steps.
We did. On the return trip, I saw more flowers, noticed large ripe pomegranates hanging low on the branches above the herb garden, and didn’t trip over nearly as many tree roots as I had earlier. I was gnawed on by more ants and mosquitoes, but I didn’t kill any of them. I ended up with newly flung spider silk on my sweaty forehead. And I smiled all the way.
Thank You, Lord, for the bad day on Tuesday.
Thank You, Lord, for the health of my daughter (and my son).
Thank You for medical insurance and a pediatrician that knows my children by name and cares deeply about their well-being.
Thank You for Wing Haven, the lush, green, living place in the middle of this busy, noisy, rushing city.
Thank You for the ants and the mosquitoes, the spiders and the goldfish in the fountains.
Thank You for all the lessons You teach me along life’s pathway.
And thank You, above all, for Your impeccable timing.
Addendum: Another impeccably timed internet discovery made soon after this post.
out. Read the entries for August 29th and 30th.