Sunday, September 18, 2016

Recess and Redo, Turtle Shells and Memories

After work I attend an art reception, where my piece wins an Honorable Mention. I'm stoked by this given the caliber of work in the show, and also because I am dipping my toes back into the arena of exhibiting my art after an almost three year break. But it's a school night, and after a bit of socializing I hurry home with my son so we can begin homework and end-of-the-day routines. First, however, he grabs my hand shovel and I follow him into the woods, aware of the quickly diminishing sunlight. It always seems darker deep in the woods, I think, as he digs with the small shovel until he finds what he is looking for - a fat, writhing earthworm. We are fostering a young Box Turtle for a couple of weeks before releasing him back into the wild. The survival rate of these little guys is pretty low, and we wanted him to have a fighting chance. However, in a short time he'll need a foraging area about the size of a football field, and we can't provide that, so we'll be letting him go. No matter how good one's intentions are, too often wild things die in captivity - first the spirit, then the body.

At my son's school, there is an occasional special day called Recess or Redo. On this day, students have the choice to enjoy a variety of sports-based recess activities or redo work that they may not have done their best on. I love this concept. You can enjoy a bit of fun and freedom from regular school routines...or you can go back and change the final outcome of a test, assignment, etc. by redoing it.

It would be nice to have a recess and redo in life, wouldn't it? I groan many mornings lately when I check Facebook and discover it's dredged up particular memories from a few years ago. Joking with a friend over coffee one evening, I made the comment that sometimes I wish I could disable that memory timeline feature. "Don't you just wish you could go back and not have wasted so much time and energy on mess that didn't deserve it instead?" She says, and we laugh. Recess or Redo, I think.

I don't believe everything is a lesson. I believe some things are just gloriously poor choices that we make, usually when we are trying to confine ourselves to inauthentic ideas of who we are or should be. I'm not proud of the times when I chose to not respect myself and who I am by allowing myself to be treated poorly or to be in a relationship that wasn't right for me because I felt I needed someone else to be whole. I don't look for lessons in all the choices I made regarding this, and given the chance, yes, I would redo - or rather undo - a few memories, ones which resulted in my losing focus on my goals, which took years to get back and, as my friend said, ultimately amounted to just a lot of wasted time and energy.

Would I redo every failed relationship? Of course not. I wouldn't redo meeting my son's father because then I wouldn't have the handsome, amazing boy who is the light and love of my life. I moved across the country for love once, and I wouldn't redo that either, because the experiences I gained from that time of my life were amazing. These were ones where I truly learned lessons about who I am and who I am becoming. Were it not for these lessons, I, too, might have died in captivity years ago. First my spirit, then my body. A few since then, however...yeah...I cringe when Facebook spontaneously pops up with unpleasant (to me now) memories. Not because of the people in them, no. I cringe because of me, and how out of touch I must have been with who I really am to have even created those memories to begin with. That's what I'd really like to redo -  my choice to settle for much less that I deserve, to remain deep in those woods even when I knew darkness was approaching.

A friend calls to ask me if I would like to have three Box turtle shells that he found in the woods. He's collected them over the years, but now feels the call to let them go."I thought of you," he says, and I smile. Twenty-five years ago, my father brought me turtle shells from the wilds of Florida because when he found them, he thought of me. In my son's room, there is a rattle that I made from a turtle shell that I found in the woods near our home when he was an infant. He carried it for years when he danced in pow wows. Now it has a special place because it, too, has the power to call forth memories. Good memories. Memories of life. Memories of dancing.

There is a full circle in this, in seeing ourselves as the true, wild beings that we are, able to remain in captivity for only short time periods before withering away, no matter how carefully cared for, because the space we need to grow just isn't there. As I am writing this, my son runs downstairs. He's found a box we were missing, a small box of toys and mementos that were mine when I was a child. We have been searching for this little box, afraid it was lost in the flood last year. But he's found it, and together we open it.


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