dog in woods

“Feel lucky for what you have when you have it. Isn’t that the point? Happily ever after doesn’t mean happy forever. The ever after, what precisely was that? Your dreams, your life, your death, your everything. Was it the blank space that went on without us? The forever after we were gone?” ~ The Ice Queen by Alice Hoffman

One person can stand in the middle of a forest feeling panicked and confused. “Where am I?” she says.

Desperately looking from side to side, turning in circles, then looking to the sky for the sun to tell her which way is east or west — whatever difference that makes since she doesn’t know which direction she’s been traveling.

Follow a stream or river, the old wisdom goes. Or Google maps, if you can still get a signal.

She feels alone. Lost. Frightened. Why did she ever come here? And how will she get out?

dog in woods

Another person stands in the middle of the same forest, lifted up by the high pitched trill of a wood thrush, the jungle sound of a pileated woodpecker. Leaves and twigs crunch under her feet as the ground sends up its rich, deep smell, reminding her of what she came from. What she came for. She breathes in a deep connection that can only be found in such places.

Just as beautiful to her as the sound of birds is the lack of human sound — traffic, people saying “How are you” and not waiting for an answer, empty sound bites meant to stir emotions and nothing else…

When it’s time to leave, she looks around, sees a path and continues on her way. She moves toward something she wants or something she’s curious about. There’s no hurry. Even if the peace she felt was momentary and so rare it brings tears to her eyes, she knows she will find it again.

dog by river

I’ve been reading a book by Alice Hoffman called “The Ice Queen,” How could I pass by a book with the title of one of my favorite fairy tales, written by one of my favorite authors? But the story wasn’t what I expected or wanted. It was about people who had been struck by lightening, specifically, one woman, who wished for it, who believed her wishes held power and one particular awful wish had caused her mother’s death.

She keeps people at a distance, perhaps for fear of hurting someone else, perhaps out of fear of hurting herself — probably both. It’s a complicated story. It was darker than I had hoped for. I wanted quick redemption. I wanted her to rapidly learn from her mistakes. I was looking for hope, for answers that weren’t so hard won and didn’t involve even more loss and pain.

river ice

I wanted the story to console me without any work on my part. And that must be why, when I glanced back through pages that I’d already read, I saw things I hadn’t noticed the first time, like:

“People hide their truest natures. I understood that; I even applauded it. What sort of world would it be if people bled all over the sidewalks, if they wept under trees, smacked whomever they despised, kissed strangers, revealed themselves? Keep a cloak, that was fine, the thing to do; present a disguise, the outside you, the one you want people to believe.” ~ The Ice Queen by Alice Hoffman

How could that paragraph not have knocked me onto my ass the first time I read it? Why did it take a second reading to feel the words?

Maybe because I’ve been slogging through mud, the kind that sucks your boots off and trips you forward onto your hands and knees.

I keep looking for a way back. But back to what? Health? Energy? Senses? Feelings? Did I have those things before?

Yes, for moments, precious moments.

dog by river

So here I am. Doing things that remind me, that take me back to my best times. I write, because I lose myself and the world around me when I don’t. And when I’m done, it feels like creation. Like evidence that I’m still here and there is time.

Which is good, because it’s going to take time to heal what’s been undone by human action and what’s being further undone by greed and the unwillingness to see what’s really happening.

“A tree that had been hit [by lightening] would stand for months and no one would guess it was dying at its center until it fell to the ground. Effects took time; you looked away, you thought you were safe, then they happened… The story is always about searching for the truth, no matter what it might bring. Even when nothing was what it appeared to be, when everything was hidden, there was a center not even I could run from: who I truly was, what I felt, what I was deep inside.” ~ The Ice Queen by Alice Hoffman

Mississippi River

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  1. I’ve just started reading A field guide to getting lost by Rebecca Solnit…….you’ve probably read it…….but wow are you both on the same page!

    1. No, I haven’t read it but browsed a few pages online and added it to my “want to read” list. Her other book, “Men Explain Things To Me” sounds good too. Thanks so much for the tip. I’m always on the hunt for thought provoking books.

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