For a long time, I associated the word “rock” with people or items that are stable and strong and not necessarily of geological material. Recently I discovered the verb usage of rock, transitive or intransitive, or a noun/attributive noun are very much interchangeable, tumbling down the river of life.
In a recent session with Tammy, I found my “little self” perched atop “The Rock.” I hadn’t thought about The Rock in a long time. During a turbulent spring violent water had most likely deposited it, flat side up, amidst the much smaller, still stones that made up the riverbed.
It wasn’t pretty like some rocks are. It didn’t glisten or sparkle in the sun, it bore no fossils to fuel my vivid imagination, no initials or dates as some of the larger stones had indicating it had been used as a marker of some sort. In fact, it had no endearing qualities of being anything “special.” It was quite the opposite – a craggy old thing with lichen popping its crevices here, and there, a sprout of a fern. It bore an unassuming, stoic, silently pulsing presence. It was close enough to the creek (read like a local: “crick”) to hear and see the water and close enough to the embankment for shade.
I believe I found The Rock around my fifth summer-year of life while down at the creek exploring with my big brother. By the time I turned seven, I spent most of my free time on its warm flat surface, drawing, daydreaming and reading under the canopy of hardwoods that spilled down from the hill above. The Rock soon transitioned from a noun to a verb. It had become more than a rock. It had become a safe place; an escape hatch to another world where I could be or do anything at all, a place I could easily disappear to and “become.”
The Rock was easily accessible after school. In the wintertime when the woods became difficult to traverse due to trap lines and hunters or the winter daylight waned too early, I could still get to The Rock and release my mind after school. It was cool near the water when the summer heat bubbled to the crass songs of cicada and starlings cracking the thick air. Wintertime brought hours of analyzing tracks in the snow as well as feces and urine sprays identifying callers, while fall brought stunning blazes of rich color and spring, the delicate “Mayflowers” and the scent of new life along the embankment. I was always gifted a surprise in which to lose myself while on The Rock.
It was on The Rock I began to contemplate life. It is also where I discovered the dark spots within me where I would store occurrences and thoughts. All that I had no control over and all that hurt; all that no child should have to bear on small shoulders without an adult to guide them, to give support and gentle words of advice. And love.
At 19 with one year of culture shock referred to as “higher education” in the brute, unyielding winter of western New York under my belt, I abruptly left. The two weeks I was back at the house between college and leaving for Florida I spent a lot of time on The Rock.
Through the first years of moving south, when I went to visit, I made time for The Rock’s flat surface for reflection. In later years my brother Donald returned, our parents his caregivers until he passed away in the house.
Right around then was when The Rock left. A flood of the Schoharie and surrounding tributaries of the Mohawk took The Rock to another destination in April of 1987. 1988 in Florida had me riding life bareback, continuing to pack my boxes of unresolved emotions, sadness and pain. The party-time, reckless, carefree years I had found faded into hard time in Real Ville. It only made sense when I went to visit my brother that year, I found The Rock had moved on.
To be sure The Rock hadn’t ambled slightly downstream, I scaled the abutments of the bridge to the spot where The Rock had rested. The flooding completely changed the creek and embankment where The Rock had sat. Feeling sadness was something I didn’t – couldn’t – allow into my life at that time. Everything, every little thing – was about my ability to survive my present. I could only just make it with the minimal emotional resources I possessed.
Feeling the true knowing of the term “you can’t go home” steeped my spirit and made my heart become harder, sharper and evermore closed. Though I wished The Rock well, in my heart, all I could feel was one more crucial loss of the safety I didn’t even know I was longing for slip further away downstream.
Today, with a whole lot more available time to reflect, I am grateful for The Rock and for my human rocks, most especially, my husband and our Border Collie, Boo Rowdy. It has taken cancer to force myself to open the boxes. I am delivered keys I fit in doors, rattle locks and take in huge, deep breaths like a modern-day Alice in the wonderland of her own self. With all the courage I can summon, I open them, walk in and get to work.
The journey has been amazing, sometimes very sad, hurtful though very often filled with joy as I connect to build an emotional being whose soul is accepting of love, worthiness and kindness – for herself. I have so very much gratitude for this ability to begin healing more than the physical and for this clear new open window on my changing world.