Walking down the street, she could feel the sunlight creeping through the damp elm leaves, cascading onto her face as she walked from shadow to shadow. The feel of last night’s rain rising up to meet hot prairie sun. The grinding sound of baby stroller wheels meeting gritty sidewalk came up behind her–mothers and fathers walking their kids to daycare before heading off to work. As she approached the city park, surrounded by high rises, she took a deep breath. The smell of grass and earth rose to her nose.
It’s hard to capture what it is to walk on the same earth as your ancestors. To stroll casually through a city where they fought hard to give future generations a chance.
This city, the sand accumulating on curbs. The thundershowers shuddering over creaky houses on hot August nights. The way that it wove new and old together. Grinding poverty, shining plinths jutting out at odd angles to perpendicular streets. She had to be here, she needed to pay homage to the people before her. Maybe they had seen a vision of her, red-headed and pale, struggling to find moorings in a world that made no sense. Maybe they had no connection to her at all, when they haunted this place. What a different place it was. Forts and carts, oxen and furs.
She toyed with the idea of making this her forever home. The comfort of her great-great-great-great grandmother’s breath sighing into summer nights–reassuring her she’d be okay.
But then again, we’re fighters, she thought. Nomads. We move to find ourselves.
Instead she delved even deeper, across an ocean, through munroes and bens. Over tufts of cold grass and through the cracks in granite walls. She went deeper into history. Wore her bones down into nothing on the cobblestone streets. She wept for no reason on street corners, struck by the poverty and misery that people had felt in the dark crevices of these cities, so long ago.
She could feel the ropes of ancestry weaving into her skin. She could feel herself move between time and space, dreams of kohkoms and grans and sinewy faces of people long gone came to her at night. She was moving between the veil of past and present, but woke every morning to find herself firmly here. Whatever it was, whatever story she was meant to live, it was one of movement and song. Of watching crystal drops of rain fall off barbed wire at sunset. Sighing into fat green grasses. Birds visiting her while she sipped coffee and tried to find the way forward through all the paths crisscrossing ahead of her. Her feet uncertain on the rocky earth. She wanted to sleep forever, to let the tiredness out of her bones. She carried the weariness of generations inside her, old before her time, but she also sought out the newness of baby’s laughs. She was hovering between now and forever.
She imagined herself a raven. Bold but canny. Joking to keep sadness at bay. She wanted to scoop up all the misery she sensed around her in her wings and fly away with it. She wanted to see laughter on faces cut with lifetimes of disappointment. She wanted that light to shine always.
But she knew the limits of now. She knew the lessons we are meant to learn.
She stepped back out of that future pause and into the moment. She kept walking down the dawning street. Unsure what the future would bring. And she began to hum a song.
“la la la la la. you are loved. you are love you are love.”