I still feel the coil of your gray hair between my fingers. The oils grandmother used on our scalps drips down the part in your hair. I handle this earth with care for she is delicate. Oh how your brown skin hums melodies we cannot trace but remember; like the recipes we boil in pots.
My hands glide down silk arms light enough to wrap around my neck. Your strength transfers into a new vessel as I pick you up. You smile against my breast and we nest like two lovers reunited. I am familiar with this scene. You were me and we were meeting under the midwife’s reach.
I stare at my baby and pray I can give life to her. Take my life for her. But her might kept me here and her essence fills the morning air. I remember mother’s fingers in the coil of my hair, and I know who life has chosen.
“We stand upon the precipice of change. The world fears the inevitable plummet into the abyss. Watch for that moment…and when it comes, do not hesitate to leap. It is only when you fall that you learn whether you can fly.”
Dragon Age II. Flemeth. Electronic Arts, 2011
It sounds better than it feels. We are creatures of habit and security. I have met a few people that look at the unknown and feel comfortable, but most feel fear. We avoid disruption or chaos when we are happy with our lives. For example, we protect our homes, lock our doors, and install cameras to watch when we aren’t watching. We even protect our mental state with self-care days, PTO, and weekend excursions. The anomaly is the chance that we will one day be pushed outside of our safe place. Our comfort becomes unbearable to the point that the uncertain void offers release.
Dragon Age is a video game series created by David Gaider and Bioware. I have always enjoyed their storytelling and ability to make characters relatable. No, I am not a sword-wielding Grey Warden tasked with protecting the world from the Dark Spawn. However, I am a person that knows about duty and sacrifice. I am a person that understands that life is not always a pleasurable experience. And although we may continue on in a mirage of sustainability, there is the lingering thought of forcing change.
Flemeth’s speech resonated with me as she stood at the top of Sundermount prophesying Hawke’s role as the catalyst in a coming war. What I heard was the two sides of myself meeting each other on the battlefield again. The gnashing of my soul against duty and expectation was wearing a hole in my sanity. “It is only when you fall that you learn whether you can fly,” echoed in my head like a hymn. I wanted to change. I wanted the feeling of release, but I did not have the courage yet.
I knew that I was different at a young age. The way I thought, spoke, and felt was well advanced compared to my tiny body. Still, I assimilated and blended to the point that I was surviving. That survival laid to rest my true self: the unhinged, bold, and wild woman that was unmatched and misunderstood. When I closed her eyes, I mourned for twenty years until courage found me on a Wednesday during a staff meeting. Courage told me that I was at the precipice of an inevitable change. I had to jump. This space where I found comfort was no longer tolerable. Choosing not to jump would freeze me in a sorrowful and regretful stasis.
And so I leaped. Answers that I thought were true, were false; and things I feared, were warm and welcoming. The reality I was taught was a construct that kept my creativity and love caged.
The leap was amazing. The fall was terrifying. But yesterday, I felt a gust of wind float beneath my arms and hold me in place. My heart burst with an overwhelming feeling that warmed my chest and lifted my chin. I had fallen long enough. Now, it was time to fly.
We are hopeful. The evening we kissed gave breath to love. Our lungs were weak with wonder, and our limbs were like jelly. We run and play in the warmth of this new life. Innocence keeps our eyes locked and we cannot see the danger that watches us. Lurking eyes dance over youthful lovers. Arms, coated in candy, hide sharp tongues and piercing teeth. But your arms never leave me, and I know that we are children no more.
My love for sunflowers started when I was 8 years old. I saw one growing in the backyard. My mother said, “the seed must have followed the wind to our house.” I thought that was amazing; a sunflower seed flying in the wind and landing boldly in the center of our lawn. Throughout the summer, I saw its head raise to the sky and fall at night. I thought the sunflower was sad because the sun went away. This was hard for me to see: a bold, tall, and bright being with its head hung low.
The next week I sat at an art desk my mother bought me. I loved to draw and paint on the weekends when I wasn’t harassing my siblings. The sunflower with its head low was seared into my mind, into my heart. So I picked up my pencil and started sketching, and then I started painting. Mom walked past me after an hour and smiled.
“Why did you give the sunflower feet?” she asked. I picked up my paper with two sunflowers running toward the sun and walked to the window to look at the sunflower. Its head was high and its leaves dancing in the slight wind of the afternoon.
“This way it can chase the sun forever, mommy.” I laugh at this memory now. A child unknowingly drawing an image of herself.