Last night, I tell you, the air was full of spirits. I walked outside into the darkness with my dog for his last outing of the night and the misty thickness wrapped around me like velvet. I could see out into the meadow beyond that it was likewise thick with mist. More to the point, I couldn’t see out into it at all. The mist was like a living thing, swimming along the blades of grass, and wildflowers, into my yard, and across my face and hair.
In the corner of the yard where trees cover the boundary between my space and the park came cracking, just a wee bit, like branches under the feet of wildlife. I paused and looked down at my dog who paused long enough to look at me and try to figure out why I wasn’t wandering around. He heard nothing, or if he did, he was supremely uninterested. Therefore, I’m quite sure it wasn’t a deer or another critter or he would be after it like a shot. It was something more interesting.
I looked longingly into the misty dark where something out there wanted to play. I wanted to as well. I could feel the wildness well up into my chest and my pulse speed up just so slightly in my ears in readiness to run for that field, through that field, listen to it, dance with it, speak to the spirits of the night. The grass was so soft and dampened under my bare feet. The earth was so rich. The spirits were waiting.
Then the litany of “I have to” sentences came and crushed wildness right out of me.
I have to get the dog inside
I have to wear appropriate clothes if I intend to go out there
I have to wear bug spray because there are ticks
I have to be aware that I’m a woman and 34 acres of darkness isn’t too safe
I have to get to bed
I felt all of my social programming completely defeat me, and the eagerness drain right back down through my feet sadly into the earth. I felt all of the “be realistic” and “be an adult” and “you have responsibilities,” come and ruin everything.
Truth be told, if I were unmarried and childless, I would have ignored most of that list. Sure, I’m not okay with the tick thing but putting on pants and bug spray would solve the only two “have to” items I cared about. In would go the dog, and out I would go, to dissolve into the foggy dark. I’m not afraid for my safety, and I was not tired.
Things change after marriage and kids, though. At least, they did for me. While all of the household was perfectly safe and I was not needed, I would have to inform my husband that I’d be out for a bit. No problem. However, being very practical, he would ask me to bring a flashlight and bring one of the two way radios in case I need to call for help, and don’t forget that bug spray, and isn’t it a little late for this, and shouldn’t you be getting to bed? Etc. He would say all of the stuff I had already said to myself because the real world “have to” list is a real thing. Grown women don’t run around in 34 acres of dark fog alone at night when they really should be in bed. What kind of example does that set for the kids? Alleged maturity. It ruins everything.
I’m not an idiot; I wouldn’t do something that was honestly dangerous. I do know the difference. But I’ve been “adulted” and civilized and constrained. I walked back into the house. I whispered goodbye to whatever was in that back corner under the trees. I got into bed and I wondered, am I living authentically? Nope. How many nights of full moons or eclipses or tree frogs or falling leaves have I denied myself due to the real or perceived pressure of “real life and responsibilities”? So many.
When did I allow this all to happen? There’s a reason the kids are happier. They are more free. I can have them come inside for the night, but their hearts don’t give up on the dream of what it will be like when they’re grown and no one makes them come inside. Apparently I parent myself right into bed even though I’m finally free to do as I please, and have been for a long time now.
So now I added a “have to” to my list. I have to figure out how to fix all that. Wish me luck.