I’m standing in a kind of spontaneous Tadasana, feet on the bare wood floors of this, our ninety-year-old house, arms at my sides, before I step outside.  These soft floors have held countless feet and now mine stand among them. My heels press down, making an even deeper footprint, my toes spread apart.  I take a full breath, inhale and lift my spine, each vertebrae, as I exhale away from my center and back in. The storm’s center is it’s softest point. That’s where I need to be.

We are just home from Hong Kong. My husband, Will, had a second interview for an International Sales Position that would have moved us there.

Last year, his executive job with a major toy company, gone in a day. Ownership changed, new owners cleaned house and Fed Ex knocks on the door, please sign for this, your final paycheck. So holy shit. New house, no job, economy crashing, hell breaking loose, culture of fear, etc…

***

Out past the porch, the Hastas are crowded around the Sugar Maple soaking up the shade, golden Lilies bloom in the rock beds and Hibiscus in hammered copper pots on either side of the steps squeeze red faces at one another over limey leaves of Creeping Jenny. I thought we might live here forever.  At least I wanted to try. Try growing some roots. Like an experiment. The Learning To Stay In One Place For More Than Two Years Experiment.

I have moved in a kind of non-stop way all my life and thought I should stay put for a while.

I had wanted to try out the idea that maybe there wasn’t any better place out there, no clean slates or whatever. That I don’t need external cultural influence to identify my internal – and other tirelessly erudite reasons to Be Here Now. I thought maybe that’s what ‘normal’ people do. You know, Them. I imagined a gene or experience I might be missing, some inequity or inability on my part. So when I got married and we bought this house, I made a compost heap behind the garage, planted stuff and learned to use an electric drill.

***

Not unlike my own son, I was an intense, dark haired child; my voice was loud but my skin, very thin. My inner world – crowded.  I love all things Life, but I’ve never found humanity a particularly comfortable race to inhabit. Other people seem to have a language, a formula I still can’t seem to master. I don’t know the rules of etiquette and inevitably fuck them up, which does not lead to quiet contentment or satiety. Rather, it leads to insatiability, hunger, a deep need to feel grounded.

I require a steady stream of inspiration, to be constantly moved, constantly reminded that I actually exist on this planet, am part of this race. It’s something I have to feel. I know it when my body clenches up with anguish, anticipation, when I see people crying on the street, or stumbling through an awkward moment, heartfelt thanks or unbridled rage. I feel it when I’m somewhere I’ve never been before.

But Being Still was the objective of my practice this time. And although it may not be readily apparent, I got what I asked for; only it came in unexpected packaging.

I am having to learn to stay grounded, stay still while in motion.

There’s this bird, in Alaska (where I lived from ages one to fourteen), the Sooty Shearwater, that flies over forty thousand miles a year.  Forty thousand miles in a figure eight between New Zealand, California, Alaska and Japan. That’s the kind of endurance I’m talking about here. Just the ability to stay in flight must take terrific calm, an inherent faith that the ground still exists somewhere-down-there during a time period I can only sight from these last two trips to Hong Kong. The twelve-hour plane rides to that incredible, faded city of lights. A city of density, vitality and olfactory. Geographically, it’s the polar opposite of here. It’s on the other side. These trips were amazing for so many different reasons. Life altering trips.

Lot’s of unexpected packaging.

The outcome even more so.

While I’m pretty flexible for a human, I am not a bird.

***

The hibiscus continues imploring one another, sticking out their yellow tongues. I take in the yard with its ‘For Sale’ sign pushing out of the grass. The variegated greens are lush and wet, the holly trees erect. Will stands holding the hose, his shoulders rounded, legs planted apart, hair silver and glistening. Our neighborhood is all historic houses, artists and professors. It’s inspiring in many ways, too insular in others.

We owned this bungalow with the wide front porch for only three months when Will lost his job. Despite believing that we would return from Hong Kong with a plan, we did not.

So we will start over.

Try something else.

Look further, think wider.  Or, in this case, look closer, think more streamlined.

I can’t say we aren’t deeply disappointed. We gave it effort and attention, enthusiasm and a lot of energy. Going Global was a seductive prospect indeed and I could have slipped into “Expat” like a Shanghai Tang cheongsam, but there is relief, in a way, as well.

This turn of events, this big adventure narrowed things down. This is one really huge thing that we know will not happen out of the myriad things that could. It’s valuable information we didn’t have before.

I feel my feet on the porch and look out at the plants, with their roots burrowing down, their stems raised up and swaying with the shifting wind. They’re a living metaphor.

***

So we wait and we listen for the next thing to present itself, amidst all the untamed and untethered possibilities; a future so broad and so blank it’s like hanging over a deep crevasse by spider silk. We have moments where we don’t know anything and we feel tissue-thin-transparent, we wipe the desperation off our faces with cold towels and triple our shots of espresso just so we can take as much action as we can muster. Other days we surge with energy, kick our legs and break for air with a kind of tenacity we didn’t know we possessed.

And we breathe.

We take giant gulps of air at the surface because we do exist on this planet. On this great world that spins, sometimes with such speed, such precision that you can be turned completely inside out by the next exhale.

***

I feel my feet on the porch and think about The Roots Experiment. How I wanted to grow them so badly and thought that it would mean physically staying in one place, homeownership, lawnmowerownership, surety. But perhaps it’s more than that. Perhaps it’s the ability to press down my heels wherever they stand. Perhaps it’s being able to lift them up when I need to.

The smell of grass and mud and promise fill my nose as my sternum slides up toward the canopy of Maple leaves. I press my heart toward the future and imagine that, lodged behind my shoulder-blades, two giant wings unfurl outward with a hefty snap, a whoosh, before they spread wide and catch the air.

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Meg Worden is a mother, master of complications and manifestor of abundance. She has been a columnist for the Lovely County Citizen in Eureka Springs AR and placed first for Ascent Magazine’s text writing contest in 2008. Meg believes a sense of humor is far more important than a sense of direction and knows for a fact she can laugh wildly amidst severest woe. Currently Meg is living in Portland, OR where she stays up late at night working on her memoir project about the two years she spent in Federal Prison. Find her at megworden.com

20 responses to “Roots and Wings”

  1. Zoe Zolbrod says:

    I love the contrast of the old home, the description of which made me expect ruminations of a different kind of stability, and the new attempts at putting down roots. I love the last paragraph, especially. I could tell a yoga teacher wrote this before I read your bio. Happy flying.

  2. Joe Daly says:

    Welcome aboard, Meg!

    So relate to the impulse to let the roots dig into the ground. I spent many years on the road before finally finding a career that let me settle in one place for a bit. Even after that, I moved two more times. Now I’ve been in SoCal for 5 years and absent radical change, I’ll be here for quite a bit. It feels nice.

    If that’s what you want, then I hope you get it. If not, please keep writing- this is an enjoyable read.

  3. Meg Worden says:

    Thanks Zoe, Thanks Joe…I’m happy to be here.

  4. Excellent post! I love how you describe your innerworld: crowded. Wow. I feel like that sometimes.

  5. Kelly Olsen says:

    Wow, Meg, I am blown away. There was so much “me” in some of your description of “you.” I think you’ve either aptly conveyed some weird psychological quirks we Only Child adult women tend to experience, or you’ve given voice to some of the universal discomforts integral to Being In This World with intelligence, awareness and compassion. I suspect the latter. Keep writing, because you have something to say that raises awareness of the truth in others while telling your own story. All great creative writers connect with the reader and then bring them to experiences they’d not have gotten on their own; you clearly possess that talent.

  6. Love this. I lived in Alaska for three years (Juneau) and can sense something of that state in this piece– indomitable, observant, beautiful…

  7. Nice. A good friend of mine ran the Marx Brothers Cafe in Anchorage for a while…

    • Meg Worden says:

      Hmmm, can’t say I remember it…I was an obstinate, self-absorbed 14 when I left AK, but it sounds vaguely familiar. I see we also have Key West in common. Weird but probably not so weird. I was there somewhere between 96-98 for a period of time. The KW years are a jumble of vivid, ephemeral memory and rum induced blackouts. Food was a huge part…Antonia’s carta da musica, cassoulet at Banana Cafe…ahhh.

  8. Oh, sweet Banana Cafe… Had many a L’Americain crepe there for breakfast to dull the hangovers. So much of those years is lost for me too… I waited tables at Alice’s (near Banana), worked in Blue Heaven’s kitchen, and met my wife in Virgilio’s (that Latin jazz bar adjacent to La Trattoria on Duval). I hear they turned the old Strand into a Walgreen’s…

    • Meg Worden says:

      Yep. It’s a Walgreens alright, but Blue Heaven was still thriving, Santeria destined Chickens and all. Viva la Conch Republic.

  9. dwoz says:

    This is a difficult read.

    Not a smooth sequence of easily digestible, pre-masticated events, but rather a concatenation of variable-focus images…

    …and yet aren’t you supposed to make the ride as easy as possible for your reader, like gently starting them down a wide, slippery water slide, with no unexpected outcome, just a pleasant tumble-and-splash in the shallow end?

    I often get in trouble with readers, because there are sharp pebbles and cracks that they must step over, there are assumptions and uncomfortable anticipations and sidebars that they must endure. It slows them down and that bothers them. But I don’t feel guilty for it, in fact I am defiant in my insistence that they suffer that insufferable indignity of being subjected to MY pace instead of the other way around.

    Not that making your reader suffer is a generally good strategy, but hey, it’s up to them to bring SOME investment to the table.

    And so, that’s why I really like this one.

    • Meg Worden says:

      Glad you like, Dwoz. I agree with being true to your own rhythm. I love being challenged when I’m reading and will take a good visceral rollercoaster over a slip n slide anyday. Cheers.

  10. Cathy Jackson says:

    Meg I absolutely love this…I can get lost in this almost like I am reliving my own twisted past!! Ha Ha! Most of it you know! Take care and keep up the good work! Love you Babe!

  11. Solar says:

    There’s no place like om, right?

    When it comes to trying to relate to the human race . . . stop. *Our* species isn’t racing. So while your road may be more twisted, there is much more fertile earth for roots to take hold. And lots of built-in hidden ramps which will help you take flight. I promise.

    Thanks for letting us walk around in your skull. It’s a pretty interesting place, to say the least.
    The TNB is lucky to have you. Welcome.

  12. Meg Worden says:

    Mmmmm thanks for that, Solar. Don’t know what I appreciate more…the “*our* species isn’t racing” or the permission to stop trying to relate. Both will stay with me, as well as the rest. Love.

  13. Brandon says:

    “There is no normal life, just life” Doc Holiday “Lifes roads are not straight, if they were life would be boring. Take the curves and smile” Brandon

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