Terrified of success and failure alike, paralyzed by my own steely will and decades of incessant effort (the bane of true being, I now must admit), I recently realized two new things.
One: I far too readily tread water on the ocean floor of my soul. And two (as if that first were not well and thoroughly enough!): having long ago parted up my self for an auction that never gaveled in, I too readily now consider myself already marooned.
And all this from one who’s had the astonishingly lucky grace to meet, to know, to benefit from walking alongside a literal slew of other beings, fellow animals like me, making our way from first breath to last. Human animals: dear, kindhearted friends, acquaintances, even strangers and passersby. At every juncture in my life—no matter how actually grim—there has been at least one person alongside who cared that I was still alive. Often there have been many. People from all walks of life: people like me and people so different that we might as well’ve been raised on different moons orbiting planets not on speaking (or even hailing) terms. It didn’t matter. We connected. They reached out or I did or both, or we happened to stumble into one another somehow, and the next breath was made more doable.
And there are the animal animals, too: again, most dear, every last one: dogs and
deer and raccoons and squirrels and
turkeys and ducks
and horses and mules and cows
and birds of every ilk and snakes (rattlers and rosy boas, red racers, moccasins)
and coyotes and desert tortoises and hedgehogs and ferrets and insects
(my treasured Monarchs and honeybees and the teensy ants I try so hard still not to step on and the yellow jackets that get me once every year or it’s not done yet): every last one a miracle too grand to imagine (even the geese who reliably hate me and try hard to prove it, a fact on which I count and to which I look forward most eagerly anymore). And that’s just here in the states.
In Africa, it was wild dogs and hyenas and lions and warthogs and
secretary birds and elephants and giraffes and nyalas and elands and
snakes that made our statesiders look like cuddly chaps (mambas and puff adders and cobras).
And what about in the archives?
The giant tortoises, the leaping sharks, the whales, the single tiny mullet that rounded the Horn in a flask of the River Delaware’s water in which it hatched, the monkeys that broke down the ship’s orders for a spell, the wild horses being shot for meat and sport and leaving a hard-bitten captain to grieve that?
And, then, too, what of all the beloved places and trees, the far lonely mountains and tiny village yard,
the lilacs and crabapples and dogwood and sweet gums and cacti, the turnips I hated but couldn’t outwit,
the violets and star flowers that patiently show up in my life every spring that rounds the bend?
What of the cacti, the rocks, the sand (every grain)?
Oh, what a well-populated, well-companioned life I have led! So what if, some days, I’m slogging along on the ocean floor of it all? So what if, feeling marooned, I am? That, too, is living, is it not? And why deny the ocean floor? For this is where we all must one day, most surely, come to rest. Marooned at last for eternity and then some.
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