INTRO from WILD DAYS:
Some days are wild days with ringing phones, buzzing doorbells, beeping microwaves, pagers and clocks. There are mounds of laundry and dishes and junk mail and bills to sort and process. There are places to be, appointments to keep, a list of things to do that lengthens twice for every item crossed off. Most of it has no meaning. It is the backlash of our efficient, industrialized society, where we try to do everything, all the time, every day. Picking up the dry-cleaning, rotating the tires on the car, returning the weekend videos. Yes, the logical mind argues, “It must be done.” But how and when do we recharge our symbolic batteries and fill the empty recesses of our own hearts? These many details crowd out time for our own souls. We need time away from our hectic lives to live, to connect with ourselves, our world, our creator and one another. Where in our planners do we fit the nourishing, expansive delights of writing down our thoughts about life, of watching a spider build her web, of prayer, or of looking into the eyes of a child to find who lives there?
When I was eleven, my mother took me to a doctor for my ailments. He gave me a diagnosis: mononucleosis and stress. He looked over the top of his bifocals and told me to stay home from school and rest completely. Then my mother took me to an artist friend of hers who gave me more advice. I remember her kindly, wrinkled face and her eyes when she said, “Promise me that you will spend time every day watching the clouds. Watch them move and spin, look for animals hidden in the clouds.” I believed them both. I stayed home from school half of the sixth grade. I took my medicine. I looked at clouds. (And when my mother wasn't watching, I read everything I could slip from the bookshelves.)
My sixth-grade teacher came to visit me once at the end of the term. We talked for a time. I showed him a report on Australia I had put together from a National Geographic magazine. He told my mother I didn't have to do any more schoolwork. I had advanced past my classmates and would be ready for junior high. I must have learned a lot from the clouds outside my window.
But that was then, and now is now. I am “a grown-up” with responsibilities. I am a wife, a mother of seven, a daughter, a church member, a friend, a volunteer, a teacher, a housekeeper, and so on. I am so many things that I begin to lose who I am. Lists suck away at my soul. Yet the lists become longer. I rush about frantically, like a wild thing, trapped. But the trap is of my own making. I want to be all of those things. I just need a little space to remember why I have chosen them. I need a window and a breath of sea air. I need a door to go out, so I can come back in again.
So when days are wild, I grab a journal and pen and head out the door. I leave behind the phones and buzzers, beeps and lists. I tell my children and parents, friends or husband, ”I'm going crazy; you come too.” So we go to some wild place to watch the clouds, the river, the birds, the blossoms, the wildlife. It's like coming home. Home to the planet where I was born and where I grow. A place where my body can rest while my spirit soars. I have with me my loved ones, my thoughts, an open heart for discovery, and my journal to record my wild days. I bring my journal to capture these golden moments: the sudden stillness of a deer watching, the smell of rain in the pines, the songs of hidden birds, my bigger children helping the smaller ones to cross a stream, the taste of sun-filled wild blackberries. I record these in my journal in words and pictures. They will feed me on darker days. --Karen Rackliffe © 1998