How are the trees changed by the wind?
There’s a teacup half-filled with coffee just to my left, and when I lift my eyes I’m looking out of a window in Ireland. In Ireland. I’m going to say it one more time. In Ireland. As far back as my memory extends, I have dreamed of coming to this place. The reasoning behind my fascination has always been elusive, but I have been ever-captivated by the idea of it. I’ve also been constantly in love with the middle ages, and more than playing House I liked playing a game called Castle Days. The image in my mind surrounding that time period was Ireland. And Ireland? Is exactly the way I’d imagined it for something like 20 years.
I left home just over a month ago, and prior to doing so my travels were less than extensive. I’d listen to people talk about the places they’d been and what they’d seen and experienced there and I would just ache. There was this empty pool sitting inside my chest with vines growing up through the cracks. It wasn’t ugly, but it wasn’t serving its purpose. And then last spring a friend, now one of my closest ones, started talking about this trip to Greece for her best friend’s wedding and how I should come. How we could make it this greater trip with countries on either side. It was such a foreign idea, I could hardly fathom it. But I wanted it. And I felt myself slowly start pulling at the vines, and filling the cracks in the cement, and estimating the cost of the water. 41 days ago I was home. And 41 days later, I’ve been to five new countries and a Greek wedding.
Before I left, I heard it time and again, “This trip is going to change your life.” And I’d casually reply, “Yeah, I know,” before I glossed the statement over and moved on to something else. Like an heirloom in the hands of a child, I just didn’t understand what I was holding. I couldn’t yet know the weight of it.
But I can tell you this.
Two and a half weeks ago I was standing on the top deck of a ferry moving away from Corfu, Greece at sunset. I’d found a space to stand alone and face the sky as it smeared itself into the water, and I was crying. When my friend climbed the stairs to find me she joined me in silence until I broke it with my thoughts, once I was finally able to cross the border of feelings and the often mapless land of words. Once I was, at last, able to say something beyond, “Look at this,” in a tear-stained laughter. I tried to explain how I was changing. I’d say tried and failed, except I know she understood. She knew how it had felt to swim in a turquoise sea beside ourselves in disbelief at what it felt like to be so deeply happy. She knew what it was like to be broken open again and again, and to be filled. To be taken in by strangers and experience an openness that only vulnerability can bring. To want to offer yourself to the world because the world has offered itself to you.
But anyway. I’d asked a question.
It’s autumn now, and when the wind blows, the leaves that are ready let go of their branches. I wish that I could be so graceful in my letting-go. I wonder about the life cycle of a leaf and all the shades they go through before it’s time to float down to meet the earth. I marvel at the idea that an invisible force can completely shape something that appears so unyielding. I wind through forests as gusts blow through and wonder if I feel the wind as much in the innermost part as I would on the perimeter; I wonder how the trees might protect each other. But they all seem to possess strength from somewhere within no matter where they’re planted. And I know that, without roots, they wouldn’t be standing at all. Without roots the wind could not move through and change them, yet leave their cores the same.