In response to “In Blackwater Woods” by Mary Oliver
At first, I didn’t see the patterns in life. I thought everything was finite, a one-shot-only type of deal. I never let things go in fear that they would end. I found it easier to keep my fists clenched than to open them to emptiness. I thought people were like flowers; I caught myself pressing memories in a dictionary in hopes that I could preserve a specific moment in time—unmoving, unchanging, forever the same. I thought life moves in a linear fashion and I would eventually be forced to reach the end anyways, and that scared me. I wanted to be static.
I didn’t realize that people shift in and out of their selves constantly. We are ever-changing, progressing forward and stumbling backward every single day. There is a circular motion in life. I see this in my grandmother; in her old age, as she slowly loses her memory, she reverts back to a child. I watch her become shy, meek, cautious, and uncertain of the world as if it were unexplored and brand new instead of worn out.
Most of all, I see this cycle in myself. I feel my past, present and future selves surrounding me all at once. They haunt me, at times, since there are so many of them, and they each tell me different things. Normally, one might be overwhelmed by so many varying ideas, but I don’t mind. They’re all ideas I once thought, I do think, or I will think, and I feel recognition within myself.
There is something comforting about going back to the known; it is more than coming home, it is returning to the addictive familiarity of past habits that once defined who we are. Its sweetness makes us think that, just for a moment, we’ve overcome the limits of passing time and landed in a state of eternal continuity.