It’s been a while since I last wrote, and in that time life decided to scramble my carefully arranged plans. Rather than finishing my fourth season with Naturalists at Large, I instead was evacuated from Catalina to deal with a severe kidney infection caused by two large stones. The infection and subsequent surgeries rendered me more or less immobile for six weeks, and honestly, the whole experience really shook me to my core.
A lot of sleepless nights were spent perseverating about whether or not I’d be able to continue in an industry where I’m forced to rely on my body, or focused on how I was 31 and still relying on my parents. Another fun way I’d spend my time was mentally castigating myself for not eating healthy or drinking enough water like a normal functional adult, or feeling guilty for not using my time recuperating in a more productive manner. Without physical activity to keep my thoughts at bay the crazy stacked up quickly, and left to my own devices I really managed to work myself deep into a sadness pit. So, once I was successfully able to laugh without being in pain, I figured my body had healed enough and it was time to go about the business of patching up my soul. Gary and I set off for a pre-Christmas whirlwind trip around Nevada, southern Utah and Arizona, in the hopes that nature would heal what the doctors could not.
Anyone who has spent time in the desert knows that the landscape does not reveal itself all at once, and with time I’ve come to fervently love their special kind of stillness, and the clarity I find there. Hippies say that Sedona in particular is a healing vortex, and while I don’t know about all that, there was one moment in northern Arizona towards the end of the trip where I felt the most okay I’ve felt in a long while. Suspended somewhere between leaving and arriving, we drove beneath a bottomless blue sky on a dark two lane highway extending perpendicular to the horizon. As ‘Blackbird’ played softly through crackly old speakers, the sun, sitting low in the sky, transformed the vast brown scrublands into a sea of glowing gold. In that fleeting moment, I felt myself welling up with a kind of joy and gratitude so complete it didn’t seem possible to contain all of it in my little body. It was the kind of drive I wished would never end.
While I would have loved to remain in that unexpected state of bliss forever, day to day I continue to feel a bit adrift, a bit uncertain. I’m two months out from surgery, and despite having pushed myself through three weeks of camping and playing outside, I can still feel my body working to bounce back, which makes this new transition confusing. Tomorrow Gary and I travel 23 hours to get to New Zealand, in order to take advantage of their Working Holiday Visa scheme.
Reflecting on the past three months, the only conclusion I’ve arrived at so far is that there’s a lot of value in being patient with yourself, and in giving yourself as much time as you need. I’m always one to want to problem solve, eager to make a list and work to make things better rather than sit idle. When times have been tough, I’ve always sought out some sort of life lesson, or worked hard to find the positive. But in this case, instead of searching for a solution or a silver lining, I had to simply be gentle with myself, and kind. And who knows? Maybe this dark season hibernating was actually a time of dormant transmutation that I’ll see the results of in the new year. And if that’s all a bunch of new age nonsense, then I at least hope this year can be a little easier than the last.