It’s funny. The things we bury away. The things we refuse to feel. We think it makes us strong to detach from fear, and sadness, but I don’t feel strong. I don’t really feel at all. I’m empty. Numb. My phone rings. It’s distant; in a separate world. I ignore it and when it finally gives up, I turn it off. My friends blabber around me, making plans for the uniquely warm day. Suddenly I stand up and move to the door without a word. My mind is blank and my body moves on its own accord. I feel the confused gaze of unknowing eyes as I let the door close loudly behind me.
I find myself on my bike, peddling hard. My vision is blurry around the edges. Distorted slightly. The sensation is familiar but at first it doesn’t occur to me that I am crying. My mind turns its back on my sorrow. I am not sad. My tears are simply sick of my eyes. With every sight and every sound I feel further separated from myself, unable to perceive the sensations as my own. The streets are busy. Traffic wizzes around me. People. Everywhere. Claustrophobia shatters my emptiness and leaves me feeling desperate for an escape. I bike faster.
I trudge through thick mud, a byproduct of the waterlogged soil that has dutifully absorbed every last drop of melted snow. The park is quiet and as my claustrophobia departs it leaves in its place hollowness. Birds chirp and their calls echo inside me. I walk slowly to the edge of the creek and look down at the water. It is bluer than it has been, brighter. The sunlight spread across the surface and the river is a mirror. It reflects the sky, the clouds, the treetops. And it reflects me. As I look at my reflection I find that I barely recognize what I see. My eyes glow slightly as they bore into me. I find it impossible to hold my own gaze. Those eyes that know me. They looked at me with sly confidence. They see through my walls, deep into the cave of my being where hides all that I have buried away. They threaten to expose me; to shatter my strength and break down my barricades with mallets of vulnerability. I cannot look any longer.
I do not need to look away to evade my own gaze, I simply change my focus. I now see the tiny pebbles that lie restfully at the bottom of the creek. Some are sharp, some smooth. The soft sandy-brown riverbed gives them a place to slumber peacefully for as long as they must. Some reach half-heartedly out to the warm air through the surface of the water, flirting with a life that is not their own, while others remain safely tucked away. Snug between their brothers. Content in where they are. Perhaps I am one that braves the reach to a different world. Perhaps by coming here I am reaching out from the water that seems to be enough for those around me; reaching to the warm air that lies just beyond the life I know. Maybe it is an accomplishable feat. But then again, I am not a stone, nor do I slumber day and night in a cold clear creek. I am simply human.
From nowhere ripples erupt through the surface of the water and distort the image that I had lost myself in. I look up to find myself taken aback. A quirky looking duck stares back at me. His green head floats tall above the water. His yellow beak points towards me. To his left swims a smaller female duck, her feathers lighter and her personality more timid. She doesn’t turn toward me the way her partner did. The male duck starts to show off. He plunges his head into the water as his date watches admiringly. When he resurfaces he ruffles his feathers and then suddenly flaps his wings, thrusting his chest out of the water elegantly. The creek shutters as he lowers himself back onto its surface. After only moments he returns to swimming gracefully across the water’s surface. I find myself mesmerized by his smooth movements. Then I realize in amazement that a duck, not the most majestic of creatures, is enough to hold my attention. To fight off my emptiness and replace it with thought and wonder. To take in his grasp my cluttered, fuzzy mind and lend me a much needed helping hand in finding clarity.
Clarity. The quality of being clear. The quality of transparency. Could it be that after all this time, after all the numbness and uncertainty, what I’ve been facing is a simple lack of clarity? Perhaps, I am not the longing stone after all. Perhaps I am the ground. Opaque. Masking the secrets that reside within me. Displaying on the outside only a flat, concrete surface of who I am, while the depths of my being lie undiscovered beneath my skin. Maybe we, the ground and I, can learn a lesson from the creek. The water, clear and inviting lends its secrets to us all. It is nothing if not transparent. It shows us the extent of its depth and hides nothing, opening itself up to the world and thereby embracing itself in its entirety. And it is honest. As the light skates across its surface, it offers to us some clarity of our own. It reflects back to us who we are. Offering us a window through which to see what lies behind our own carefully composed walls. Keeping nothing from us.
It’s funny. The things we bury away. The things we refuse to feel. We think it makes us strong, but if we are so strong why then do we feel ashamed when we meet our own gaze on the surface of a clear creek? Why do we choose to look straight through ourselves and delve instead into the unhidden depth of the creek itself? We tell ourselves it is because we know ourselves too well already and are thus more compelled to get to know others. But perhaps the real answer is that we don’t know ourselves well enough at all. We look through ourselves not because we already know all there is to know about what lies beneath our opacity but because we are scared that deep inside us we are not who we think we are. That when we truly face ourselves we will find secrets and emotions for which we do not have adequate strength. That if we allow ourselves true clarity we will be vulnerable, breakable like glass. But not all that is clear can be shattered. The creek, clear as a crystal, is invincible. Immortal. For too long I have been running. Running away from my weaknesses and struggles. From the part of me that I buried away in an effort to be strong. From the fear and sorrow that hides in the caverns of my heart. And as my flat opaque outer surface, much like that of the solid ground, has moved relentlessly away from the things I have hidden from myself and from the world, the void between the two halves of myself has left me empty, and numb. But as I take one last look at the creek and gaze deeply into my reflection, I feel something again. My sadness catches up to me suddenly and tears again flee my eyes. It may not be the feeling people tend to seek in life, but it is just nice to finally feel. And gradually I begin to feel whole again. The warm sun breaks through the clouds lighting up the bleakly “beautiful” day and I am reminded what its like to feel truly alive.