Walk Around
Walk Around
26 - The Most Important Thing About Life Is That It Happens

26 - The Most Important Thing About Life Is That It Happens

Thoughts about movement
Image by Jen Hauser, @chthoneural_
Image by Jen Hauser, @chthoneural_

A week ago I sent my friend Jen a poem I wrote called Selfheal. They told me that they too have a meaningful connection with the plant, and then sent the above image back. When I saw it, for some reason these words came: "Believe in your next steppingstone."

I find linearity over the long term hard, especially these days. It seems the moment we live in asks for flexibility. So, when I find myself at a crossroads, I tend to take the approach of just doing something without thinking too much. That way, I trick myself into action before overthinking can stop me.

In the end, to make any step at all requires conviction. So it is a belief, however small, that I know what I'm doing. An actual belief. And that's the source of any meaningful forward motion. Belief in yourself.

I remember sitting on the banks of the Boise River with my sister Teal a few years ago. And she was in a creative conundrum, stuck about making things. I listened and thought and looked at the cottonwoods around us, at the deep river flowing by and the sandy banks. It seemed she felt restricted, and in one sense, was doubting if she was really an artist or not. I said: "You just have to give yourself permission." I don't know if those words helped, but she certainly has made a lot of work since—some of the best of her life, really.

Lately, I find myself socializing more than I have in a long time. I'm just saying yes to invitations really. But for many years, I didn't get as many as you might think, being in relatively small, somewhat isolated places. And even though this is a season of storage, where one "...should act as if their intentions were already completed" (Neijing) socializing feels good too. In the end, if I get to bed at 9:30 or 10, that's good enough. I'm storing up other things maybe—friendship, connection, and love.

I think it's true, that we all need each other. We are all a part—like cells, filaments, or molecules. To feel this truth is to see a path forward for all of us together. I think socializing is a unique kind of motion, that creates life between those involved.

Something that's without motion seems like it's no longer alive. Not that nothing can come from stasis, but that stasis itself lacks an animating ingredient. It's interesting that, as far as we know, nothing in the entire universe is motionless. Because true motionlessness requires 0K, or absolute zero. The point in which all movement stops.

Maybe this animating ingredient is kind of like belief. Maybe it's a kind of spirit. A movement to one side. A glint in the dark. Some flame to be nourished.

I had a thought recently—that the most important thing about life is that it happens. It has to keep moving, keep flowing.

I don't know where this idea first came to me. But, I remember an interview with Jim Harrison that Jenna Rozelle posted a while back, and maybe it slotted into my head somewhere. I reflected on it a week later, that a person is like a river. And how I've always thought of myself like water. And that I wrote a whole book titled "A Body of Water," from which the poem I sent Jen, where this email started, came from.

I'll share that poem now:


Prunella vulgaris

Maybe it was on the day the greenhouses opened
when the sun made it too hot inside
that we had gone down to the blueberry barren to prune.

I guess it was the first day that felt like something had changed.
That morning I'd watched the light hit a new part of the wall.

Down under the blueberries, pruning them with dull shears.
Laying on my back
looking at deep blue sky between the branches.

Cutting out what doesn't need to be there
Leaving only what's left

I wrote this poem on a warm, early spring day on North Haven island in Maine. We had wandered down to prune the blueberries for the coming season. The berries grow in a patch above the beach, and below that lies the water. Across the water is Vinalhaven. From the berries you can see the distant shore, and a lighthouse; a few rock walls.

Pruning means to remove growth, dead and sometimes living, to let the plant flourish. And in my clumsy way, I wrote this poem about a friendship, a family really, that I was on the verge of losing. In the end, I lost them. But the poem was one of the things I had to help me through the immense grief that occurred afterwards.

Now that I read it again, years later, I realize that it's true. Sometimes, all you can do is remove what doesn't need to be there, and leave only what's left. And it's true, that this process is heart-rendingly beautiful. It takes a toll on the plant to prune it, as it does on the heart to move on. But in the end, no matter how much pain is endured, the plant, and the heart, can heal.

I think this is what I mean about moving on, about being as a river, about steppingstones. It's the only way forward, to go forward. But it's hard, because it sometimes necessitates letting go, and therefore loss. And it requires a belief in, and care of, yourself. Not the easiest things to have, or to do.

Which is why we all need each other. We all need to stay connected, make space, and nourish ourselves and one another. We need to listen.

All day long on the day I wrote this poem, the name Prunella vulgaris was echoing in my head. Over and over, Prunella vulgaris, Prunella vulgaris, Prunella vulgaris. What is that plant? I thought to myself. Why, it's selfheal.

It's actually where we can heal, it's where we have to. By ourselves. We can heal ourselves. And we can accept help to heal ourselves through others, and through that, help them too. It's just the way it works. And I have a secret too.

I don't think I wrote this poem. I think the plant did.

Thank you for listening.

All my love,
- Hudson

Walk Around
Walk Around
We Are All A Part. Writing and recordings about nature, existence, and wildness—at three miles per hour.
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Hudson Gardner