Hardened by the season

Hiding behind the veil of the softening trees.

I learn to find my place and keep my space as the tourists begin to flock, moving in like the geese soon moving on from the delta flats where they hatched their young.

Swelling of the pussy willows.

Cirrus clouds to breach an otherwise stark blue sky above me.

Soft.  The Aspen are filling with lace of caterpillar like seed pods draping delicately from their softening branches.

The subtle art of learning to stand up softly… when I see my technique is much too harsh.

Soft.  Small as I may be, this is not a word many might use for me.  At times I wish it were.  But life, or destiny, the way I was born, the path I chose, or the way things just turned out had something else in mind.  I’m not saying “tough” is good, but chances are, you’d use that word to describe me more than “soft.”

I guess it started as a skinny little girl when the biggest girl in class was after me.  You know the type. For dramatic purposes, I’ll paint her portrait as a young female version of Lennie Small from “Of Mice and Men.”

Jenny Tole was her name. Big boned and slow witted we said at the time.  Probably an unkind and untrue description.  Children are too often cruel.  She came from the wrong side of town and I never remember her around much past fourth grade.  Don’t know if she dropped out or moved on.

I became the object of her attention, me, the smallest kid in class, always sitting front row center in every class picture at the suggestion of the wide eyed and every smiling photographers, probably so I wouldn’t get lost, and being closer to the lens, perhaps I would appear larger…

It started as a rumor.  “Did you hear?  Jenny’s got it in for you…” And spread like wild fire until the entire class was abuzz with the prospect of the ensuing battle.  And I just remember feeling they all felt I would triumph.  Though half her size and weight, at least that’s how it seemed at the time, they laughed like it was a done deal.  No one would whoop me.  Why?  I do not know.  So I tried to convince myself I could win a backyard brawl, though I don’t believe I had ever hit anyone besides my brothers before then.  And the prospect truly frightened me.

I remember being sick to my stomach, the tangled gut feeling every time I walked (ran!) home from school wondering and waiting to see if she was in the bushes about to attack.  For the first time in my life, I didn’t want the school bell to ring.

Now what I don’t remember is exactly what I did, so probably no big dramatic battle scene must have ensued.  Sorry, I know that would be fun to hear.  However I have these memories of turning to face her, feeling a bit like David against Goliath, though somehow at the time being overwhelmed with this HUGE feeling and imagined myself actually towering over Jenny.  I felt strong, mighty, powerful.  A dark red rage.  I would not be scared any longer!  I remember being in her face, pointing my finger, and putting her back in her place.

No punches flew. Whatever I said, it worked.  I think we even became friends after that, which I guess is probably what she wanted in the first place. Ginny and Jenny.  The mouse and the elephant.

I told myself harshness is how to handle people. Stand up!  Be strong!  I find myself still saying that. I know no other way.  I try to learn, and usually fail.  As one friend said, sooner or later, they’re going to disappoint you.  And I will you. So why do we even try?  Such socially strangled creatures we are. How dependent upon one another.  No matter how I try and fail, try I still always do.

The harsher side of self.  Longing for an internal softening.

The land here, my husband says, is harsh.  A winter away in a softer land has reminded him anew.  There was soft, pink, moist, mild.  Here the sun, wind, air burns, cracks, parches with little comfort from hard rocks and rushing river.

And yet of course it is the people which will always hurt more than the elements. So against them must I don the heaviest cloak.  And the softness that I allow myself alone on the mountain, letting down my guard when no one but nature surrounds me, closes off and shuts down for the season as the sentinel arrives to stand guard and protect.  The inevitable conflicts await, approaching with the season.