Acquainted with the Night
I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain – and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.
I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.
I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,
But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
One luminary clock against the sky
Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.
Rarely am I affected only slightly by something. I am a woman of extremes. If I’m happy I’m fucking fantastic. If I’m sad I’m cursing the world. If I’m mad I’m punching holes in walls. If I’m hurt I feel I’ll never recover. Gray is my favorite color, but only in terms of interior decor. Gray does not exist in my head. Or in my life at all. Black. White. Contrasts.
I’ve always been a literal minded person. Even as a kid my mom said that I would listen to every word thrown my way– and would pick each single syllable apart and analyze it in the most linear method possible. And perhaps it was endearing for a child to question how darkness could be heavy–but as an adult it’s far less adorable and far more uh shitty and annoying.
Since I’ve grown and matured I have become more developed in the category of literal versus figurative. If someone tells me it’s raining cats and dogs out there–I’m not going to go run to the window to confirm their statement as fact. I’m fairly advanced when it comes to metaphors and similes and the use of figurative language. I truly am.
But, that’s only in an English as an area of study kinda way.
In life I’m still as literal minded as ever. And it has become incredibly detrimental to my relationships: personal and professional. It’s literally the worst.
The only time I really feel as though I understand everything going on in the world is when I’m outside–when I’m out in nature. When I’m surrounded by nothing but that which is real, that which is only as it appears, that which is inherent, intrinsic and natural to this earth.
If there is ever a time where I’m feeling overwhelmed with life (ALL THE GODDAMNED TIME!), if I’m feeling stifled by societal conventions or rules and regiments, if I’m unsure as to how to handle a certain situation, if I feel that I’m losing control over certain areas of my existence–all I have to do is step outside. I breathe the air in. I close my ears to the external influences and plug in to the sounds of the earth. I close my eyes to shut out the disruption of faces and open them to the stars in the sky, the reflection in the river beside me. And then I relax.
At that moment in time–nothing else fucking matters. I completely lose sight of what was previously plaguing my every step, my every move, and suddenly feel nothing but peace. It is my heaven. It is my blissful state. It is my sole survival mechanism. It is my hand to hold to my chest when everyone else turns their back. It is my shoulder to lean on when I cannot bear the weight of the tears for one more second. It is the voice of reason when all logic defies me. When I cannot be held, I know that I can be cradled by the winds gentle breeze, by the soft murmur of forest life.
It’s hard to explain. Unless you’ve been there. Unless you have stared down the barrel of a gun. Unless you have felt death breathe warmly along the nape of your neck. Unless you have toed the fucking line of no return. If you have not been there, then you won’t understand. You can’t. When you get that desperate, that willing to throw everything away, reluctantly accepting your fate… and then somehow…somehow find yourself pulled back over the ledge by some semblance of hope–by some new found acceptance that life will.get.better. You don’t forget what instilled that unfamiliar outlook inside your soul. You will never forget it. Nor should you.
For many people it would be a single memory of happiness. It will be the smell of sugar cookies wafting through your grandma’s kitchen, the way your parents could not contain their ecstasy when you made the winning shot in your basketball game, the first time your girlfriend told you that she loved you… a single memory. A moment of remembrance that can go on to alter your perception of the present. If you can recall an episode where bliss was experienced–you can begin to swallow and digest the concept that it could easily happen again. And thus stimulate change in your life.
But, for me… For me it was a walk through the woods. It was a stroll through the forest that I had traversed through every single day of my youth. Its trails worn with wear had remained in tact miraculously over the years. I could navigate through the dense boscage with nothing but my memory to guide me. A floodgate of flashbacks and recollections opened up inside my brain–shocking my system, placing me instantly back in that eleven year old mindset. One of childlike wonder and awe. One where every single day was a new adventure. When a burlap sack could instantaneously transform into a ballgown or a cardboard box could just as easily become a rocket ship… A time when imagination covered every inch of my existence with a thin layer of shine, sheen, glitter and glamor. Feelings of depression or unhappiness were foreign to this sprite-like imp of a kid. She was full of spirit, full of untapped potential, full of the desire to learn and blossom. She was unfettered by outsiders. Unaware of societies restrictions or standards. She didn’t know that life would ever be difficult. She couldn’t wait to grow up, have a family, be in love and flourish into adulthood.
And then I grew up. Complications developed. My views and perceptions shifted significantly. One knock after another. Problems I had as a kid compounded and multiplied until they became debilitating. I failed to prosper. I failed to develop. I failed to reach the goals and dreams I had in my youth. I wanted out. I wanted an easy way out. I felt that I had utilized all of my resources–therapy, friends, school, jobs, books, pets, family, athletics, passions, hobbies, etc. Nothing helped. Cutting did not help. Being skinny and intelligent did not help. Excelling in school did not help. NOTHING could abate it. The light in my world drained until I was enveloped by darkness.
But, the walk through the woods that winter day reinvigorated me. It reminded me what I was and what I could be–the beauty of the world encircling me. My breath swirled in front of me like a wisp of smoke, my skin taut and frigid, fingers chilled to the bone, ears burning with each gust of wind. I took long strides, concentrating on the crunch of dead leaves beneath my feet. My eyes rarely averting to the sky above–instead choosing to focus on my ultimate destination: an area of the woods that I used to refer to as the meadow. And it was here that I remembered how life should and could be.
It is a small section of the forest. The winter grass grew calf high, green, plentiful, immediately injecting vibrancy and life into my veins. The fallen tree offered the perfect place for sitting and reflecting. The trees above were situated in such a way that they appeared to be forming a barrier around me, preventing me from leaving this most sacred of spots. They wanted to keep me there, allow me a respite from the outside world, hoping that with time I would see everything in a different light. Red berries, green ferns, gray skies and brown leaves–colors that I will never forget, colors that will never run together in my river of memories. I cried a lot as I sat there. It was literally my last stop. My last chance to feel that desire to try again.
And what I was provided with by my surroundings that day–less than a half-mile from my home–was enough to last me a lifetime.
Ever since that day I’ve never considered suicide again. I changed my thought process during those minutes that I spent in the woods. I learned to seek out the good and to push out the negative. To force myself to remember that nothing is ever as bad as you think. And despite all the issues I face daily, I will never sink so far below the surface again. I will never drown. It’s just a fact. I underwent a transformation. A beautiful one.
All it took was a stroll through the forest. A walk upon the dirt, the fallen foliage, the broken sticks and scurrying insects–paths trodden with footprints of deer and man alike. Wild and civil. Contrasts. The sun, the sky, the clouds, the moon, the stars. The sound of gently trickling water. The crevices, the gnarled trunks of century old oaks, the beds of creeks long run dry, and the sound of silence filling my ears with that which I had ignored for so long.
So, yeah, I have a strong connection with nature. I feel it in my bones. I crave it when I’m denied access to it. To me it is perfect. To me…it is heaven.
And on nights like tonight. A stroll through the darkness is necessary to make it til tomorrow. It may be scary. It may be frightful. It might even be a bit dangerous. But, it’s soothing to the soul. And nothing else feels more right.