This week has been noticeably darker than last. Perception is funny that way. Change gradually happens over time, but noticing it takes one studied moment. All of a sudden--but not so all of a sudden--the sky is so much darker in the morning. I look out the window as I get dressed and it feels as though I have made a mistake, as though it is the middle of the night. My running buddies and I begin our run in the dim, grey-black light of dawn now; that strange, sort of other-worldy time when eyesight is a secondary, sort of backseat sense, when my feet have more memory than my mind.
Its been a dark, otherworldly kind of week in other ways too. Lovely, Dark, and Deep, in fact.
Amy McNamara a while ago, but it has been bobbing in my subconsciousness this week as I get ready to write a review of it for BookBrowse. In it, Wren, the main character, is struggling with the deepest, darkest kind of grief. She was in the car that killed her boyfriend. She has survivor's guilt, the horror of complicated circumstances, and a sadness that is so deep it renders her, for a time, literally speechless. She is also unable to motivate herself to do anything--except that she runs. She takes long runs through the Maine woods. Through the dark and cold.
Wren runs. She very specifically runs through the woods at the edge of the ocean. And I have been wondering about that. What allows her to run...when she simply can not function in any other way? What is it about being in the woods and by the water that is tolerable, or familiar, or perhaps even comforting? What is it about the dark and the cold that has, at times, a startling warming and illuminating effect?
Wren says early on:
I came here because it’s pine-dark and the ocean is wild. The kind of quiet-noise you need when there’s too much going on in your head. Like the water and the woods are doing all the feeling, and I can hang out, quiet as a headstone, in a between place. A blank I can bear.
Oh wow, right?
The intersection of the woods and water with the cold and dark is that otherworldly place. It is a place void of the objects that are imprinted with your routine and your history, it is a place where your spider-brain can take a rest from sending out invisible threads of connection. You simply are in this place. Feet pounding, breath puffing, heart pumping.
All of this reminds me of my curiosity about this whole perception-is-funny and change-seems-to-come-out-of-nowhere thing from my first paragraph up there, and as I have been thinking about that, and about writing my review of Lovely, Dark and Deep, and also about a real person in my own life who has been struggling with grief and pain for a long time and who is only now, maybe, naming it and facing it, I have come to the (tentative, first-draft) conclusion that finding a ritual out in a natural landscape (running for me, running for Wren, walking for this real person in my own life) offers this very unique experience of connecting to a rhythm (of seasons, of sunrise to sunset, of waves and wind) that is at once a part of you and unattached. Of course the landscape holds its own deep histories and stories, and they matter to all of us (and we would be wise to listen up) but maybe what I mean to say is that those stories and those rhythms are not attached to our spider-minds as much as they are attached to our bodies and because of that we are forced to use those bodies--legs, lungs, hearts--to ponder our problems.
Oh boy. I don't know. Like I said, very tentative and first draft. But definitely swirling around inside me like mad. I'd love to hear what you make of it all.