My very first skydive.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Every streetlight a reminder...

After working for almost 5 straight weeks to train our student leaders and to open the College in the midst of the worst tropical storm Vermont has seen in almost one hundred years, I was ready for a break. After a little more than 48 hours with the most energetic child I have ever known...scratch that...she is one of the most energetic human beings I have ever known, my body didn't feel like I'd actually had a break, but my head and heart did.

As I was driving back home late on Sunday night, I threw on an old mixed CD I had made seven or eight years ago, and hadn't listened to in a long time. One of my favorite things about mixed tapes or CDs is that they often capture a time and place in my life better than any journal or blog could do. Like so many things in my life, if I like it, I will listen, watch, read, eat, or do it over and over and over until I'm bored with it. So each CD is a commentary on who I was, what I was doing, how I felt, etc about that moment in time. I have one mix of Sting, Matchbox 20, Third Eye Blind, Frank Sinatra, and the Rolling Stones that I listened to over and over during my road trip to Montana to visit my sister in the summer of 2000. Whenever I hear Desert Rose or Motorcycle Drive By I can smell the smoke of the forest fires, see the Tetons, and recall rolling around on the floor laughing with my sister. (If you know my sister, you can feel free to ask her about the time I tripped on the stairs up to her apartment....and well, I'll let her tell you the rest. It was so embarrassing, but so funny-and just one of the many reasons we were rolling on the floor laughing.) And don't even get me started on the Destinationless tapes...White Rabbit by Jefferson Starship, Diet Cokes, Marlboro Lights and one of the best friendships you could ask for...but I digress.

The CD I was listening to during this drive home had some BoDeans, Coldplay, Radiohead, Billy Bragg and The Killers on it and I had titled it "Making Dinner" which brought me back to the time I first met Voldemort and I was still a bit smitten. More than that, it reminded me of time when I was feeling strong and directed-life had resumed a sense of normalcy after the death of BL. And then came track 14. I knew it was there and yet wasn't expecting it. One of my favorite songs ever-one of the songs I have never become bored with-Nightswimming by REM. You were hoping for something more profound? Well, I put this song on almost every mix I ever made.

It takes me to so many different places in my life I feel like I must have been singing it since childhood. It really started with late nights in Wilder at J's apartment in the early 1990's, where I escaped some of my teen angst and quietly rebelled against my goody-two-shoes image by smoking cigarettes and staying up late. (I know, right? I was sooo out of control.) That whole album, Automatic for the People, represents the beginning of my journey down the road less traveled-off the path everyone thought I would take. Perhaps that is why it is so profound for me.

The road less traveled took me to Silver City, New Mexico. While most people in their late teens and early twenty's re-evaluate their world with alcohol, weed or some other recreational drug. I decided to become a flower child. If you know me now, you just choked back your laughter. Its ok, I understand. But I was a flower child who didn't drink or smoke pot. I just bought a lot of second hand clothes and stopped shaving my legs. And I spent a considerable amount of time at the Mimbres Hot Springs Ranch, a modern day commune tucked away in the mountains of southwest New Mexico. The families that owned the land built their own houses, grew their own food and had some of the most incredible and luxurious outhouses I have ever seen. They also had natural hot springs that they had tapped into and built small pools around so you could soak all of your cares away in the dry southwest air. When the spring water was too hot, you could hop out and jump into the cool, refreshing waters of the small swimming pond adjacent to the upper springs. And because we were flower children, we swam naked.

It always felt liberating and scandalous at the same time. Like I was completely comfortable in my own skin (indeed, I was only wearing my own skin) and yet I knew that this person would be unrecognizable to my friends and family back home. When and if I spoke of it with them, they rolled their eyes, smirked as though they thought I was trying to be subversive, or shook their heads...sometimes all three in the same moment. I couldn't explain it then, but for me, this song illuminates everything that swimming in the pond at the Ranch, under a clear night sky full of stars was to me.

Nightswimming deserves a quiet night.
I'm not sure all these people understand.
It's not like years ago
The fear of getting caught
Of recklessness and water.
They cannot see me naked.
These things, they go away
replaced by everyday.

You, I thought I knew you.
You I cannot judge.
You I thought you knew me
This one laughing quietly underneath my breath.

It occurred to me as I was driving home, listening to this song, how in those days and nights at the Ranch I was the most pure and authentic person I could be. I wasn't less full of doubt, I just embraced all of the possibilities with less calculation.

I gave up my flower child status a long time ago. I routinely shave my legs and can't imagine swimming naked with people I barely know. But I love that for a brief time I was that girl because she taught me so much about how to live my life. And I am grateful for a song that helps me capture that moment when I need a little reminding. I hope you all have that song.

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