My kid called from the Mohave Desert. (And I’m not speaking metaphorically.) Tent up, flapping in the desert breeze. Backpack and bottles strewn about like her bedroom used to be. Her skin freckled & parched from trekking 130 miles in the heat. It’s her third leg hiking the 2,650-mile PCT.
A photo chirped my phone the next morning. A flower …growing in the desert.
And I want to know how it’s possible? How beauty blooms out of waterless earth? How hard, brown sand sprouts vibrant, delicate color?
Lo and behold, my noggin went digging for something deeper. How does an emotionally unhealthy heart ever open?
Laura knows how I love wildflowers. And her affection for me touches a need to see, love my own Mama.
There she is sitting in her chair. I’m watching her profile pointed at the TV as I’m walking up to the very same house that basements my cluttered childhood. She’ll be happy when she sees me. It’s been a month. “Where have you been?” Perked up and sounding just like Marie Mooi. My Granma Mooi was a fiery one. She had two emotions—annoyed and amused. Mom is amused today. She sounds annoyed, but I see bright eyes voicing her disapproval of my absence.
I go right in. Down on knees, head to womb where I first began. Close. Her warmth and softness bundle me up, the tip of her finger kissing my cheek. How long can we hold before we must pull apart? Before the pain gets too intense. Before we need to go from close, to closed. Protecting ourselves from feeling exposed, defenseless, rejected. A few more seconds and it’ll all be over. We’ll both be safe. I’ll go my way, and she will stay. For another month.
I’m reading Dirt, by Mary Marantz. It’s a memoir of growing up in a single wide trailer in the deep mountains of West Virginia. Unique as her story is, (and irresistibly written) many of us will readily relate to her struggle with identity. More specifically, how our emotional health gets utterly ignored. How somewhere between the garden and the grave it was engraved on our sleeves—you don’t need to feel anything.
Like flowers in the desert, we have miles yet to discover. Who knew all this abundance could survive after so long without water? Why are we so quick to explain away how green leaves and tender petals push through stubborn soil? Can’t we stay bundled in the cushion of the unknown—the tingle of a dream we keep trying to forget?
“I’m just jealous,” Mama admits. Mad how Laura is away, moved away from living fifteen minutes away. And I feel it too. The ache when love feels so far. And you’re not really sure you said and did all you could. Your chest stockpiled with stuff you never had the courage to give away.
Did I mention my Mama opened her cell phone this morning? Left a message in her annoyed voice, “Hi Jo Ann. It’s your mother. Where’ve you been? I’m missing you. Bye.”
I’m missing you, she said. Did ya hear that? Let’s replay, replay, replay.
I won’t be deleting but repeating these rare, fragile feelings. Hoping to water them. Watch them grow, spread into something long thought impossible.