Surrounded by a green wonderland, mountaintops flirting with the bubbly clouds, and the sweet Southern sunshine turning my office-colored skin a simple shade of pink, I stopped rowing and I listened. In my kayak, caked in mud and refusing to remain idle even in a non-existent current, I felt the motion below and heard the songs of birds in the trees and watched the dragonflies swarm near me. A few feet above, a fish bubbled to the top of the river hoping for food, and a yard or so behind me were my parents and Mr. Possibility. I had purposefully rowed far ahead, going with the pull of the water so I could have a moment to myself. A moment for…
I’ve always taken the serenity of my hometown for granted – especially the old dirt roads that learned to ride a bike and then a car on. I never took time to lay in my bed and watch the Oak trees blow in the wind or notice how the lines in my mother’s face fill in the sun. Or how my dad’s skin glistens at the height of day, scarred and beautiful from hard physical labor and fire fighting. I never saw the ironic peace that comes from mud squeezed in between your toes or a trusting butterfly that lands on your arm as you move.
It’s funny then, how each time I’ve returned to the South for a visit since I traded tractors for subways, I’m told how much more calm I am. That I’m more relaxed. That I’m quieter. While I’ve transformed in many ways, I don’t really think I’ve eased up – if that was the case, I would never make in Manhattan. However, I do think I appreciate North Carolina far more than I did when I lived here. As they say, you don’t really know what you have until it leaves or you leave it.
And so when I come home, when I sit down my bags and I don’t have to think about my metro, keeping my wallet close, walking with ambition and confidence, budgeting money and carrying my god-awful heavy laundry bags a block or two, I release it all. I do relax. I do become quieter because I’m not forced to speak or to hustle-and-bustle with the best and the worse. When I’m home, I conquer what I always hope to do from time-to-time in New York – I master the art of just being.
It’s not just in the physical sense either, but it’s a mental unwind, too. I don’t worry as much, I don’t overthink, I don’t think about my weekend plans or wonder who is doing what and if I want to go. I don’t question if I’m spending the night with Mr. P or if he’s staying with me or how we’ll survive in an un-air-conditioned room for a night.
Of course I shouldn’t worry about such things while I’m on vacation – though if we’re honest, if I was truly on vacation, would I be writing this blog? Let’s hope not. But if I could capture the sweetness of the quiet I find here and bring just a little bit (under three ounces so I don’t have to pay $25) to New York – maybe I would be more peaceful. Maybe I would let things go easier, maybe I wouldn’t hesitate in my decisions but have a warmth about them, maybe I’d actually have a tan instead of spending far too much time indoors. Maybe I’d find less reasons to be angry and frustrated and more reasons to be happy and thankful. Maybe I’d spend more time enjoying right now this minute, this afternoon, this day, and stop fretting that tomorrow will work out how I’ve planned it to.
If the fierceness of the North met the sweetness of the South – what would happen? Is that what I am? A little bit of both, with one growing exponentially and one waiting in the wings of yesterday? I’m not a Southern Belle and I’m not a Manhattanite – so who am I? And how do I keep both part of the me I’m becoming?