Thursday, May 08, 2008

Reconstructing Heidi

This past winter has been emotionally difficult for me. I don't think it was a full blown depression, but a "recess" of sorts. Not the fun recess you always enjoyed in elementary school, but the "backing away" kind of recess that seemed to set me apart, withdraw and tuck in. Starting my degree work, Jacob's diagnosis of juvenile diabetes and the S.A.D. of winter seemed to pull me into myself. It didn't have the ear marks of many of the other deep, dark episodes I have lived through, but I knew I wasn't my best self.

Spring has finally descended on the east coast, and I knew that getting to the shore was a high priority for me. Things kept getting in the way of that and yesterday I finally had the time, the car and the break to get away. I looked at it as a time to restore my soul. Getting near water always seems to do that for me, especially when there are waves involved. Lake Geneva always had beautiful waves, white caps even. For such a small lake it had noisy waves and I always found peace when I was quiet enough to listen.

Our ocean here in the Bay of Fundy has incredible tides, but most of the time they are noiseless. There are a few beaches though that make noise as the tide comes in. Yesterday morning I knew I wanted to be at one of those beaches. The best one, Jasper Beach, is such a long drive, but the music of the waves in the rocks is like no other place on earth.

Gas prices are high and my desire to sit in the car for a long period was low, so I decided to go to our favorite beach combing spot which is the closest to home. The little town was under construction. They are widening the road for the dreaded natural gas line that has railroaded it's way into our serene little spot on the planet. The trucks, construction and dust was everywhere. I wasn't sure I would get into my secret parking spot to walk to my secret beachfront - so I opted for the boat launch instead.

It's a nice little park with a few picnic tables and an expanse of rocks to climb and comb, and I had always wanted to see if it was as rife with beach glass as I had hoped. It was not. But the smell of the sea and the sound of the water was there and I climbed the rocks and toted my camera in case there was anything that moved me.

The noise of the trucks kept interrupting my thoughts and I began to get frustrated. No glass, beeping trucks and that still, small voice of fear in the back of my mind saying that God wasn't going to show up today. That I was really going to be on my own again, that familiar feeling I seemed to push away all winter.

I finished the beach and started to roam the park. Enjoyed the small violets pushing through the leaves and brown grass as if to thumb their nose at the noise and winter. I remember picking those as a little girl in my back yard for my mother when I should have been napping but snuck out of my window instead.They brought back nice memories.

My tummy rumbled and I remembered my packed lunch and thought that sitting at one of the picnic tables in the sunshine might redeem the day. As I sat there I took pictures to show just how amazing the view here truly is. I am blessed. People save their pennies to vacation in such beauty and it's literally right down the road from where I live now. I was grateful.

The thought of opening myself to my surroundings so that I didn't miss anything came to me again and I said a prayer that I be aware.
I watched as about a dozen ducks came into view. I think they were eider ducks, but I wasn't raised around here, so I'm not sure. They were amazing as they would dive deep, for nearly a minute and resurface down the shore, popping up and floating, returning again to the deep, all knowing where the flock was going, all staying in close contact and all resurfacing together to continue down the shore.

I tried to noodle out the deeper meaning of community, fearful this was the message I was supposed to "get" today. Nothing deeper came. Again, frustrated I gathered up my lunch and returned to the trusty, old Volvo to pack up and head down shore to the glass picking beach so that the day wouldn't be a total wash.

As I walked back through the grass I came upon a pile of old, seaworn bricks. All shapes and sizes, collected by someone and set there so purposefully. I walked on to the car imagining the child who saw them as treasure, but the parent who disagreed and made them leave those precious objects behind. It seemed like such a loss. So much work to collect.

As I got to my car I was struck with the urgent need to honor them somehow. Collecting rocks has always been a bit of a silly habit of mine. The thought came to me that I could build an innukshuk with them. I stowed my gear, slung my camera around my back and returned to the pile and attempted to carry all of the loose pieces to a place of honor. I would regard the time and effort that child (because, who but a child would labor so diligently and have their hard work be shunned so carelessly?) put into collecting these precious objects. Just tumbled old bricks that had floated down shore from the factory that used to employ this community.

Now I had a puzzle. Since moving here I have become fascinated with innukshuks. They are monuments that say "I was here." The Inuit in the north use them as markers for winter travel. Their formation is ritualized and the stones are gathered by the whole community. Each type of formation tells something to those trained to read it.

There is water here.

We went this direction.

Civilization is that way.

To those looking for markers along their path they are life savers.

I have always rejoiced at seeing them along the highway. Tiny landmarks that spoke of someone taking the time to signalize their place in history. The ones we have locally are not those of the great tribes, but they still speak of signposts along the path to me.

I have heard that each stone gathered is to be used by the tribe to make the innukshuk. I had 13 pieces (my favorite number since childhood) and they were all shapes and sizes. These were not stones either, they were former bricks, so they were not the types I would have gathered on my own. I would have chosen some long, flat rocks to give stability and arms to my statue, some sturdy legs for a good foundation. Not these random, misshapen lumps. I was tempted to give up. Leave them in a pile for someone else to find. A small ebenezer to still honor the work, but definitely a project that required much less from me.

No. I was determined now. This was my puzzle. As I looked at each one I realized that they were the color of my hair. I had personalized these stones somehow and would feel a measure of failure if I was unable to build them into a statue to stand tall.
As I put the stones together I remembered the conversation I had with my counselor the day before. I went to him in an attempt to untangle the snarls I have had this winter. Getting my assignments and reading done for school has seemed to be an insurmountable task somehow.

I spoke of fear. So much of it unnamed and unidentified. I had told him that sometimes it feels like my head is full of molasses and I am just unable to put two thoughts together enough to build something with. Fear that I wasted my best brain on bad theology, fear that I have nothing "academic" left in me, fear that I will fall back into the bad habit of telling men in authority what I think they want me to say, instead of voicing my own thoughts and ideas; even though these are men who respect and care for who I really am.

And then I spoke of the past few years of deconstruction. How I felt like I had dismantled, torn down and razed just about everything in my quest to find the truth, about God, about myself, even about truth itself.He said that sometimes the deconstruction process is so complete that we sometimes feel like we have nothing left to stand on. That even if we had left a few steps of the old foundation in place that we would have something at least to build on, even if it was a weak foundation. He used that metaphor to talk about building on molasses and slogging through it. He acknowledged that it's a lot of work.

I realized as I played with those bricks that what I was really doing was beginning the reconstruction process. That those bricks were the parts of me that had been dismantled and left strewn about my feet. I puzzled over each piece trying to make them all fit back together. Many times I was tempted to go find those base rocks that would make the process easier, but I knew that would defeat this process.She kept tumbling around me, and I scrambled to catch each piece. I found as I progressed that I had a good solid statue, but that there were some extra pieces left over. I began to feel a bit of a failure and then I realized that as I reconstruct Heidi, and everything I now hold dear, that there will definitely be pieces I won't be putting back into the structure of my theology, belief system and person.
It was okay to leave some of those broken pieces lying at my feet.As I walked away I turned back to see her. To admire my handiwork. I even snapped a picture. Then I realized that I should snap my own picture to mark this place. To say "I. Was. Here."

As I got back to the car another drove in. Up until that point I had the place to myself. As I turned the engine over I saw a father and son get out and a bit of panic crept in. "What if they knock her down?" I just knew she was too tempting to be left standing. And I realized that I had no control over this.

She could be rebuilt and I'm still standing.


heidi said...

what a beautiful post . . .

Heidi Renee said...

Thank you Heidi, that means a lot!

sonja said...

I love this ... there is so much beauty woven through it all and so much pouring through the photos. Thank you.

TNQR Rev said...

I read this without posting a comment here, but came back to comment after reading the post on your other blog.....
This post is beautiful, the continuation of a redemption story. One of the things that I think makes a person beautiful is knowing on the inside that if you share what is hidden inside that others may see you as less beautiful, and the fact that they share them anyway -- the process of vulnerability smooths over the sharp corners and makes a person more beautiful in the long run. You have many reasons not to let yourself be vulnerable and yet you find the courage to do so. Of course, the process can be quite messy in the meantime. No wimps allowed! Someone will be blessed that you have shown them a way, giving them courage when they couldn't muster it up for themselves.

wilsonian said...

You are freakin' fabulous.
And that's all I've got to say about that.

Hope said...

You are so beautiful inside and out.

gracie said...

that's the artiest looking Ebeneezer I ever did see! thank you for the courage to build it, share it and write this, you are a 'storyteller of redemptive truth' par excellence.

Kel said...

ditto wilsonian and gracie

your innukshuk reminds me of a surfer, poised to take a joyride on the perfect wave

Heidi Renee said...

My dear sister circle - you all honor me with your comments here - thank you, it means more than you know to understand I am not alone in this journey. Love you all!

anj said...

I've come back to look at 'her' and read your words, and feel what you wrote. There is so much here - so much to return to, so much to stick my nose into and breathe of life deeply. Thank you for writing it. Thank you for sharing it. Thank you for owning it under your name.

Tara said...

Now I know you!! Thanks for stopping by my pages and for the comment. I will not give up on recovery...I promise. I looked up some AA and CoDa meetings today and got the when and wheres. Thanks for the encouragement. The part that stinks about the hierarchy in CR...I was one of them, I was a "T". I just didn't fit in. Like a duck outta water girlfriend. People don't like it when you take the mask off. It scares the byjeepies out of 'em. But what good is recovery if you always have to mask up to be a part of? Back to secular recovery for me...where it is safe!

Anonymous said...

This is truly beautiful Heidi. I thank you for sharing it with us. Your courage to wander on your own to find a place of healing inspires me more than you know.

Anonymous said...

I love your inukshuk, and I love who you are Heidi. Thanks for telling us your story of the day at the beach.

(PS. I collect rocks too.)