Sometimes, I see a photo of me in my late teens, early twenties, and I see a person not there. I see my body as it was, I see a smile, but I remember my thoughts in that moment, and the spiraling away not only from my body, but from all those around her. Because yes I could make my body do things, take it places and make certain movements that people freely interpret as normal, so that just in this time in my life when I was beginning to feel this enormous pressure to lose my virginity, to have boyfriends, so that I can join the game of young girls becoming women at a time when actually we’re still learning where we begin and where we end, and that most probably we have no idea that we will never figure out the answer to either of those quests by saying yes, when we really want to say no.
And I have this wish, for this one period in my life, where I’m not even certain that I have the utter right to protect the territory that has always been and continues to be, my body, because it’s here where I wish I could slip through the ethers and say to the young woman I was, come with me…
Then in as wild a part of the forest as I could find is where I would first take her. A place where we’d sit, amongst russet coloured leaves shimmering in the breeze, through which amber light comes to rest our bent knees, and a purple butterfly flutters by the foxgloves.
And I’d ask her: how do you feel here? I have this sense what she really wanted to do was howl, so loudly and powerfully that eveeyr doubt she had about herself dissolved into the earth. And so we’d howl together, straight away, as one does when there is a sense of urgency: to the moon if it was there, or the sky, that although we couldn’t see past the thick dense stretch of branches above us, we could feel.
Afterwards, we’d sit, enjoying whatever murmur of peace or stillness was there, as tends to exist to be after a good howling session. I’d then take her palm and press it to her heart, and say this peace, this peace is within you. So that perhaps instead of seeking it from another, she would start her walk towards womanhood, knowing it as the beat of her own heart.
And then I’d take her to the sea, somewhere safe and secluded and warm and we’d swim - if she wanted to - or simply sit by the shore, and I’d ask: and what do you feel here?
If she said sadness and emotions stirring, but vision expanding as my feet tred on the sand and a sense of profound tenderness blooming in her heart, as if the very steps were taking her closer to her own feminity: in all its strength and resilience and I’d look at her and say these are you are too. And anything else that’s drifting into your awareness, whether a sense of a greater whole, or a tiny part, and if she really did feel okay, we’d swim in the ocean so that she might feel her playfulness, her innocence and the sheer joy of being alive.
I’d want to take her to the horses, and say hang out with them, nostril to nostril, breath to breath, because that wildness, is in you, it is you, no need for a fence to keep you safe, and maybe she’d begin to trust this, and to acknowledge this need to roam, as a pure expression of her own essential nature, and then we’d go to the hills, on horseback of course, and watch the buzzards, the kestrels, kites and osprey, swoop and fly, not so much anooyed by the crows that attempted to distract them, but so assured of who they were, that the crows eventually fell away, their cackles replaced by the soulful call of the buzzard, and the grace of a kite as she circles and swoops… that eternal nature, effortlessly moving on the breeze, that’s in you already I’d say to her, as we watched and then watched some more.
And then I’d show her how to lean against trees, or even just to wrap her arms around them to hug them like dear friends returned from a trip away, so that she became skilled in restoring herself to herself by a deeper relationship with something larger then herself, so that perhaps instead of seeking it from another, she would know: this is my wisdom, this is my strength, and this is how I breathe: with roots.
I’d show her a pool of water and say look in there and there she’d see a companion coming to her soon. He wouldn’t be a human, he’d be a canine. A mongrel too. A reflection of what lies within.
And then I’d tell her about boundaries and how they’re simply learning about what’s okay for you and what isn’t, and then sharing that with others in your life. I’d say you know that you have a total right, at any time, to let another know what’s not okay for you? This would be written on the earth, a circle of twigs and stones and flowers around it, enshrining it into her heart, and then I picked it up and drop it in an envelope, and say keep this close, should you ever forget. So that should she ever meet someone for whon everything exciting was stirred, but yet no knowing was yet felt, she would know to say: “I’m not ready for this quite yet, but maybe we can stay in touch and see what happens?”
And then I’d be gone, because the rest is left to space and hope and chance.
And maybe, a little bit of destiny.