Thursday, 26 February 2015

Parallel Universes: Leaving Ossabaw

I'll certainly write more when I get home, sort pictures, and come to my senses. Still, I need to get this down so I remember exactly what this feels like.

I have spent the past year researching and studying mythologies and folklore. Many of those stories have an element of faerie magic. I am holding those tales at the back of my mind as I process this.

The last hours on the island, I spent cleaning and polishing and helping people gather their thoughts and belongings to depart on the boat that returns to the mainland. Ossabaw is a coastal barrier island, one of the few that is nearly pristine wilderness and not housing or commercial tourism development. There are no grocery stores, no malls, no gas stations. It is perfect and as silent as a wild forest can be. Every morning I would wake and quietly slip out of the bunk room around 5am. I'd start the coffee pot in the kitchen and then slide on boots and coat, walk in the darkness the long narrow path to the dock.

I was never frightened of the open water at this place, at the dock. The marsh was in reaching distance and the view was more river than ocean and it felt like home, something manageable and beautiful. Every morning brought something new: the first was total darkness, walking alone I met a small group of Ossabaw pigs on the path. I couldn't see them, but hearing them close in the dark? It was frightening. I raise these pigs, I know not to meet them alone in the dark, even the gentle ones. The next few mornings,  fellow writers joined me in my early morning meditation. Watching the sun rise, quietly and subtly over the water, no blazing dramatic production, just a slip of blue, silky white, and the darkness falling away. The next to last morning it was pouring rain and I went anyway. Standing the the cold rain, I saw piglets playing the marsh and I felt so much wash away, I had been burning with ideas all day, writing furiously and spilling it all on  to paper, too fast and I was beginning to burn at both ends. The cool rain brought me back to grounding.

This world feels like a fold in time. I almost went to the college here, choosing the easy path instead (keep my museum job, have babies, and attend the local state university). Moving is hard. But these streets, these rivers, these people? They may have been my neighbors, my friends.....this place would have been my home. Or not. I mean, I could have been as easily killed by a rolling out of parking gear on a hill car, or gobbled by alligators, or married and have babies and moved away. I can't dwell on the what could have beens. Except for the feeling of having lived here already forever, knowing the landscape as if it were my birthplace. It is a strange feeling.

I thought that was that. The week was over and I scrubbed counters, stripped beds, put the clutter of books and pens away. I began to feel panic, I thought of the boat ride and dismissed my panic as the unreasonable phobia that I've been fighting for years. When it came time for me to get on the boat and go, I couldn't let go. I asked to walk the path instead of be driven. That long path I walked every morning, hoping the familiarity would ease the transition.

I began to cry. Or weep. Or completely fall apart. This place has hold over me that I can't explain. I feel at home here and enchanted by the music of the wilderness. Alligators and blue herons, marshes and bones. It feels like all the landscapes I have loved all rolled up into one.

No light mention that my love of poetry re-ignited here, just one year ago. A slow awakening, but I am working daily to bring it back to life. It feels like falling in love again, just as I remembered and maybe why I put it away nearly twenty years ago. Falling in love, the intimacy of words, especially poetry, is dangerous, always. I am careful and cautious, to a fault. But this? This is me falling apart and rising up from the destruction. Taking apart why I couldn't write, and re-mapping ways to travel around that.

The boat ride was as scary as I predicted, but it didn't rain so my fear that a monsoon would sweep me over into choppy waves was not realized ....this time. Friends held my hand, and eventually I stopped cowering on the floor of the boat and held my face in the wind.


Back on mainland, Jj, Holly (friend not child), and I walked the streets of Savannah in the delicate, cold rain. I started shivering, the deep down shivering that has only ever followed childbirth, by traumatic surgery. I knew it would cede if I slowed my breathing and calmed down and it did, but left me feeling dizzy. I bought what we now call a "Calm the Fuck Down" essential oil patch (Bergamot from Nourish) to help with the transition. This is when I remembered the tales of people stolen by faeries and then returned after living in the other world, the world of magic.

Ossabaw is a place that people see the poet and artist. Not the me that is a terrible housekeeper, a frazzled mother, an novice farmer, or a failure in all the ways that I struggle to keep all my busy in the air. No one cried because the bananas were broken, or fought over ponies, or made demands on my time ungratefully. There were chores to do, but always someone there to help. It was different than at home. I feel terrible admitting that, and I will go home and be more fully present.

I share with these writers this fragile and vulnerable side, my words, my histories, my heart. And they embrace it, know the struggle, and I feel so much less alone than I do on the range lands and rolling hills of my home. This magic is powerful, and the time precious. Just enough, even if I felt torn leaving it.

It was stepping on the shore of the return dock, the boat captain said, "This is the most dangerous part, when you get out of the boat, Watch your step."

Yes. This return is the hard, sad, necessary part. This is when the magic broke and reality settled back around my shoulders. This is when I started shaking. I can't pretend it was just the trauma of the boat trip. No, I really can't. I feel like the faeries have returned me and the enchantment has left me changed, in this dreamworld, like a cloak or a charm, an affliction that is hard to wake from.

Probably sleep deprivation and homesickness, but I had to write this all down before the feeling leaves.

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