Saturday, December 23, 2017

Lighter than a feather, pass through the gate

I try to talk about this often but I cannot get the words right, I cannot make you know like you where there.

When I was 25 years old I stood alone in front of an early painting by Vladimir Tretchikoff in the South African National Gallery and wept.

The painting was a tribute to the religion of ancient Egypt, and featured the scales of justice at the opening to the underworld. Here, Anubis would weigh the heart of the dead person against an ostrich feather. A pure heart would be lighter and the person would pass through the gate. A heavy, impure heart would be heavier, and Anubis would devour the soul.

I knew then that my heart was heavy. I was disappointed in people for lying and misleading, for being derailed by despair and fear and addiction. I was furious at the society I found myself in, for solidifying segregation and poverty. For breaking humans utterly. For breaking me.

In Cape Town I got hurt in ways that I thought could never heal. Maybe I'm not fully healed, but I also accept that I can't go back to a time before I gave up everything to live there. But O! In that museum my heart was heavy with disillusionment and frustration and violence and falsehoods and hunger and bureaucracy and wasted, wasted potential.

I thought I was too young to be so bitter. I thought I'd seen too much to ever feel a feather again.

It's been six years. That's not a tremendous amount of time. It isn't a lifetime. But it's enough to shed some of the heaviness in ways you may not even notice.

But I did notice, when I smelled creosote and watched red Sedona rocks baking in the sun. I noticed the absence of so much pain and disillusionment. I noticed that I can still laugh and, Underworld Take Me!, I can still love.

How fitting that I spent so much time admiring ancient petroglyphs. And in a city named after a phoenix.

During a week in the American West, my skin cleared up and my lungs dried out. I stood at the highest altitude my feet have ever known. Higher than Table Mountain. It made my sinus cavity SCREAM and I had to be patient with my breathing, with my own limitations.

I took an alternative route back from a hike along the Superstitions and encountered so many cactus needles that my jeans turned to lace. I threw them out. It's OK to let things go when they have served their purpose.

I won't cling to battle scars.

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