Always leave the banjo tuned and a full cup of coffee left in the pot, and never look down at your phone while walking over tree fall. The next person who comes along to sing to the sky, holding a warm cup of coffee, just might surprise you with their ability to learn everything from nothing. When that first pitch of their breath hits the cool air around you, you might find yourself shaking a little with the unexpected. Always leave the banjo tuned so they can sing on key.
You sip your own coffee, standing on the edge of a bluff looking over a prairie nestled in between mountains. It nearly aches, the way the river bends through the willows and reminds you that your body is a series of rivers moving from the mountain of your heart. Another note, higher than the Osprey slips into the coffee cup and into your mouth. Warm, it slides out to your fingers and toes in a smile. A small group of buffalo walk along in a seeming dance. They move quickly, slowly, leaving land behind them covered in footsteps. You put your feet in their steps, feeling the flex of their muscle moving their two ton bodies moving your two toned body, pale from winter.
The banjo plays on, a tinny vibration blooming in the countryside grass. You notice a buffalo never eats an entire grass plant. The world has natural lawn mowers. They are gentle. Gentler than you are. You find yourself wistful for a touch so gentle to take only what it needs, while leaving enough to grow. There are bare places inside of you, forgotten and hidden, where others were not kind. Where you gave more than you had. Then you slip away back into the cup of coffee. The patches of sadness you carry aren’t heavy anymore. They have become scars tucked into the folds of your existence.
But the buffalo keep walking, and the banjo keeps playing, and you are tuned in.
Winter. A daunting word for a Californian girl who has never been below zero. Her skin is made of sunshine and warm wind, and her laughter dances in the Poppy fields splattered across the hills. Winter has always been a myth. It has entailed snow and mistletoe and warm socks, though her winter is forty degrees. The second clouds cover the sky, she crawls into her pajamas and starts a fire. Winter has been a type of weather rather than an entire season, and winter never lasts more than a day. Though, the past week she had spent sitting by a once frozen lake, she realized that spring in Montana is what she had always believed Winter to be.
Spring has been reaching down her strong, delicate fingers to crack open the ice that blanketed the lake. After the week of stretching and shrinking, the last bits of ice have been broken through and the lake has begun to thaw to her best shade of blue. If you ever have the chance to achieve two springs in one year I would recommend it. This transition time is rich with growth. Small sprouts shoot through impossibly cold earth at ground-breaking speed. And the earth seems to be laughing as the color tickles it’s surface. Gray. Brown. White. Blue. Now, Green scream across the landscape. The willows, tired from carrying the weight of snow, reach their burgundy arms to the sky. The sky tries on different jackets. One day snow, one day rain, one day…
Today the clouds broke away from the fog and the fog away from the sky and the blue pierces your heart in a way you haven’t felt since the first time you fell in love. The wonder and curiosity and excitement all wells up inside of you in a way that makes you want to cry and shout and burst out giggling all at the same time. Instead, you sit there with the world rushing past you in the bench seat of a pickup Chevy. The lake and the willows and the clouds all preparing themselves for their Spring splendor. And you thought your friends took a long time to get ready for the party… Nature takes her sweet time, arriving fashionably early or late exactly as she pleases, always ready to impress.
So we sit here, you and I, patiently waiting for the sun to shine enough and the rain to fall enough, and the wind to calm down enough for Spring. Being from California, I have never known how to wait for a season passing. I would love if you held my hand as we waited for the colors. If you have stories to share, or wisdom to impart, I welcome it all. It seems that seasons teach patience. It seems that seasons teach one to wait for things to come and how to let them go. It seems that seasons trigger some wonderful intuitive part of ourselves that need the cycles of opening and closing. If you want to join me for this change, you can find me by the river where the sheets of ice are being blown across the lake and colliding with each other.
I’m falling in love with myself and parts that I have never known because only winter knows them. It is winter that coaxes the creativity from our wind-chilled bones. It is winter that reminds you that you are only human, and you are fragile and I am fragile, and we need each other. We need fire, in our homes and in our hearts to keep us warm and alive. It is the same fire in the sky that burns the fire in our hearts that burns spring through winter’s cloaks. So while Spring is coming, let’s run to the lake, run to the earth, run to the places that have been hidden to see what happens when they bloom. Because they are blooming like the song on the tip of your tongue that wants to be heard. I’ll sing with you if you’d like…
In the blank spaces, imagination rushes in to create what it will. It is as if there is no choice but to fall into the void left by unknowns. That first time your eyes meet another’s, their color flashing into yours and staying a moment if you are lucky. Opia n. “The ambiguous intensity of eye contact with a stranger,” pours a warm rush of adrenaline to spike your heart rate and make you gulp. At this moment the other person is pure potential. They are everything you ever wanted and never wanted simultaneously, and you are not sure whether to approach them or let your fantasy be the only reaction you ever had. There are unexpressed parts of you that begin to bloom, hoping someone will notice them and honor them. This stranger could be their scapegoat! Though the fear of not being accepted had an equal weight of dread attached. So you sit there stuck in the middle of a “what-if” and decide to walk away. The final “what-if” lingers on your fingertips as you create stories that you trail behind you.
I realize the stories you and I both write. I, maybe more so, end up designing narratives so vast and detailed I end up loving people I have never met. My weakness is the men who write. Whether it is songs, or essays, or letters, words are the way I process my world. I find myself writing to strangers, waiting for the response that triggers me and keeps me close, and pulls me closer. Closer to them and closer to myself. I find myself opening unintentionally, as if my inner world has been begging to be seen. Maybe we all have inner worlds that have been hidden because we don’t think they are safe in the open, and the attention of a stranger ignites hope in those worlds. Our stories end up with new potential to run in a completely unpredictable direction.
The unpredictable becomes an addiction. And the lines across the screen from a stranger you don’t know, and the words on the page from a friend you are learning, and the random shirts and orchids left on your bed, and all of the art of the dance keeps you dancing. Though you would love to find a partner, you are happy with the ones you have had. There hasn’t been one yet who could pick up on all of the tempo changes and wide ranges of emotions that are within you. So you wait and dance your own dance, flailing limbs and all, hoping that you might booty bump a stranger accidentally that can climb the mountains, and sing the songs, and love your friends with you.
Falling in love with strangers can happen daily, monthly, minute by minute. It hits you at the moment you feel recognized. When it does you’ll find yourself running, either to or away from whatever caught your attention. If it is that glimmer in their eye, or the way they used the word “Ranunculaceae,” lean in and breathe. For all of the negative “what-ifs” there is the what-if of never trying. There are the good maybes and the bad maybes. Maybe the human on the other side of the hemisphere has a thing or two to teach you about hard to get Or maybe you feel so cherished and loved, you aren’t sure you care about how they loo. Or maybe your stranger snores, and maybe they can’t carry on a conversation in public, maybe they are so caught up in their own egos that they run on chasing strangers to achieve a storm of raining hearts falling behind them. But maybe they’re the ones with rain buckets out waiting to catch you and your storm where you are dancing.
This is why I fall in love. This is why I don’t mind admitting it. This is why I run and jump for that triple spin pirouette and end up falling and bruising both knees only to get up again. This is why I let love go. I hold onto the hope that one day there will be that crazy stranger who understands. Because I understand that no one really understands, and the gentle door left open in that stranger’s curiosity is what will keep you alive. This is an invitation to all the strangers to go find the other strangers. Whether your connection is through words or music or punching in numbers for the boss man, let it shine out so that glimmer in your eyes means something.
When you get caught, don’t fight it. If you can’t dance their dance, run to get a breath of fresh air and jump back into your own. There is only one thing you really have to remember. No matter what, no matter how long you end up staying strangers or lovers or friends or anybodys with your stranger, never never lose your curiosity. Each person is a universe that you will never know fully. So jump dive and dip into that longing glance. It is yours.