You think you are small. You crouch at the edge. This one like so many before, the low riverbed where you seek sustenance.
It’s far from a river, really, barely a trickle. You crouch here and watch how pebbles below the surface make water glint. In the copse of trees between one set of houses and the next, the big road bearing down just around the bend, this is the closest you come to a sacred place.
You think your small thoughts. Some are not good thoughts. Some are downright mean. You think your small thoughts while also thinking, “I wish I could be thinking different thoughts.” Your idols, the ones who make their life into a composition, a symphony, an epic story, they think different thoughts than you. Big thoughts. Thoughts about wavelength and chord progression and machinery and codes, about science and atoms and the cosmos. They draw lines between the stars and make constellations where their gods and goddesses can rest.
You instead think of your grievances. The wound you are still nursing. The shame from the one you caused. You think of your crush. Your grocery list. The way your body falls short. You think of your own thinking, weary of thought but also hooked, turning yet another corner in the hall of mirrors.
You think you are small, too small to make much of anything — a decent living and maybe dinner. People tell you that’s enough. You want to believe them but this want confuses you. Because also they tell you that you can achieve big things. And you want to believe that too.
You think you are small and shouldn’t be. You measure the expanse stretching between the tiny shush of your pulse and the boom of your would-be greatness. The limits of your frame make you itch. You can feel yourself pushing out of the tight, tiny skin that holds you in. You can feel yourself shrinking back, weary.
So you stay here, crouching by the river, watching as ripples gleam silver then bronze. Water striders hop across the still surface of an eddy, their feet dipping into the creek skin but staying afloat. Launching themselves from this tension, so fine, their whole bodies lighter than a single one of the hairs on your head.
Right now, somewhere on this earth, others not so different from you wander deserts, temples, bazaars. Still others climb to the top of towers. They scale cliffs. They descend into pits with luminescent worms climbing the walls.
You are drawn only here. This glinting curve of water in motion, the illusion of stillness. You are happiest here.
The happiness feels small. It feels wrong.
You’ve had the ache of wrongness for so long that when you find this place where the pressure lifts, you want to stay. To honor it. To pray a little. To call it into you, to maybe (maybe) let it accompany you out into the hard places.
Which are not so hard, of course. You know this. Your days are quite gentle. Your dear ones love you, if imperfectly. You have books on the shelves, cabinets stocked with nuts and noodles. You have music. Good work. Good friends. Freedom to wander unaccosted. You have a body that moves more or less as you ask it to. From this abundance, you maybe could grow bigger. You maybe should. Like a garden plot in full sun, you suspect that you might flourish, if only you could make sense of this stubborn smallness.
You suspect that your mistake is in thinking that small is the same as done, or maybe your mistake is in thinking that small is actually small. You suspect that your mistake is somewhere here, if only you could zero in on it.
Meanwhile, the ribbon of water unfurls without end. Above you, branches drift low, their green dappling the light. Last year’s leaves carpet the ground. The crunch and rot a dank copper that curls into its own next becoming. Eventually you release your crouch and sit. Your rear meets the earth’s softness, finding a cushion in last autumn’s remains.
Your hands, the ones that want so much to reach for the water, they clutch something. It weighs almost as much as you. You have it clamped tight, your sclerotic grip turning your fingers to claws.
It’s okay if you don’t know what it is. You may never know what it is.
But you should know this: It is your grip as much as the thing itself that pushes you to burgeon and pulls you to shrink.
As you sit now cross legged by that copper dappled creek, let the earth hold you as it does all things. Let your hands open in your lap. Let the thing come out. Notice how it immediately recoils against the light filtering down through the canopy. Notice its mewling, spiky, ravenous need. Its scars. Its weeping sores. Its petulant demands.
See how it lacerates you as it seeks a way back in? Feel how it lurches toward the sunless place where it can hide again, where it can metastasize?
Notice also how you long to gather it back into yourself. To tuck it away.
The urge is understandable. That voracious injury is your offspring. Your precious one. It is what grew deep in a pocket of your spirit violated long before you remember. That violation was not your doing and was never your fault, no matter how they retold the story. No matter what they erased. They tried to convince you, well before they demanded that you be big, that you be docile. And sweet. And less. That you were a burden. That you should shut up. That you should be different than you were, bigger smaller brighter nicer stronger easier tougher. That you should ignore the fraying ropes barely holding their stage set together. That you should disregard the evidence and keep following the script.
You don’t have cast about for an injury here. You don’t need to give your trauma a name. You, born into this world, were born into a wrongness of one kind of another. You are a casualty. You have survived. This living wound chewed out a bed for itself in your gut, and you have carried it because no one else would.
You do not have to keep owning this living injury. Because you are a good creature of the earth, you grew it in your too-young womb and have fed it for decades. Even so, it is not your job to give it quarter, in you or in the world, anymore. It is not even your job to destroy it. Your only job, when you are ready, is to return it to its rightful home. Back to its own mothersource.
It is not too late. You are not too old, too small or big or stupid or damaged or broken. No matter what your hands hold, warhead or banshee, you can give it over now. The creek will carry it away. As heavy as it feels to you, as treacherous as it seems to set it loose, it will turn to leaf debris and dandelion fluff the moment it touches the water.
Let the water churn your wound back into its component parts. Let that piece of you return to the air and the earth so it has a chance to grow again into the sustaining force that it could have been had the story been different.
The story can still be different.
Set it on the water, dear one. You have no need for it anymore. Set it on the water and watch how it merges, how it turns into what it was meant to be. Free of you. And you, at last, in your tiny enormity, setting yourself free.