Inspired by Mary Olivers poem ‘On being Country Bred’…
Being country bred, I am at ease in darkness;
like everything that thrives
in fields beyond the city’s keep, I own
five wooden senses, and a sixth like water.
These things I know
before they set their mark upon the earth:
chinook and snow,
mornings of frost in the well, of birth in the barns.
think not to confuse me with poems or love beginning
without a sign or sound:
Here at the edge of rivers hung with ice
spring is still miles away, and yet I wake
throughout the dark, listen, and throb with all
her summoning explosions underground.
I have wondered often who I would be now, if I had not been Country Bred. There are so many things central to my self perception that grew up from my time being nurtured and cradled by the wilderness and the wild untouched forests I roamed as a child and young woman. There is something Raw and Immediate that hovers in the green lush world of trees and plants and animals and death and cycles and seasons. Never as a child did my grasping mind understand just how important all those unhurried hours under the blanket of the sky were to my soul, how nourishing those baths in the creek, the nights spent laying under the full moon with a song in my throat and a silvery cord of awe sprouting from my plexus. I learned the laws of life and death in every kitten that was born and in its playful scavenging life with never enough food, its timely or untimely death….its final rest in the woods beside the house….in the designated Pet Graveyard. Wooden sticks tied together with vines and twine into a lopsided cross to stand guard at the head of the grave. Night-swimming in the lake, laughter surfing on the waters ripple, hide and seek beneath the foggy cloak that hugs the waters face. Dock games of tag and sharks and minnows. Hanging wet clothing in the trees of the forest after swimming, to dry out for the next days swim….and changing into dry gear…..all so that it remains a secret that we spend these hours frolicking in the water and sun, too far from the house to be permitted alone without adult eyes. Such elaborate means of warding off the Questions of adults, the rules and the confines. Swinging from treetop to treetop in the pine forests that walk like soldiers behind the lakes edge…..testing the bodies strength and integrity in mid air…trusting….always trusting….that my steps are in line with the Universal Ebb. Knowing without doubt that I am cradled and held by something Mysterious yet Magical….and playing with that knowing like a small child enthralled with the shadows from the sun making music on the earth. I grew up Wild, untouched by mans laws and rules except on those brief forays into school or town, where the rules and laws of man were carefully and artfully discarded. I would climb to the top of huge oaks and sit embraced in the limbs writing poetry in my tattered notebooks…..draw pictures of birds and animals and strange twisting creatures…..sing songs to the world or the sun or the moon or whatever it was that fed me with inspiration on that particular day or night. I would twirl and spin beneath the stars till I became AllOfMe….like a Sufi, dancing my Soul into balance and knowing the voice of my destiny as it spins its tune out in rhymes only I could hear. The river. The second mother of my childhood. Refuge from the hot sun, the baking humidity of the Southern Summer. So much time spent, pretending to be a fish, or a mermaid, or some other mystical creature that dances to its own song, swims to its own beat. Picking berries and pricking fingers, spending hours in the garden eating fresh food from the vine, never knowing that one day I would trade almost anything for that same luxury. In those forests my love for Snakes and for Spiders blossomed. All things taboo, all things that most hide from or run from, I sought. I still seek. I have the Forest in my blood, in my veins, I have the canopy of stars and planets and sky spread over my skin as a sheath, I have the River in my soul, and the cycles and the seasons they continue to turn and to rise and to fall, and I am spread out with them, layered like leaves on an autumn ground……made tender by the soft humus of my individual journey. I asked to be broken open, to be played as an instrument, to be as raw and true and free and strong and pure as the beasts in the green forests, to be as receptive as the lake and as purposeful as the river, to be as passionate as the sun and as reflective as the moon. I have a hungry heart, that chooses to love and to break and to bleed and to bless others, I have a hungry mind that loves patterns and plays at patchworking ideas and language. I have a hungry body that craves flesh, hot touch, wet touch, rubbing nuzzling tussling tickling rolling playing crawling running swimming climbing smiling fucking….how I love this body that feels so much and gives so much and receives so much pleasure, and so much pain. I have a hungry soul that eats Joy, and stalks Life, any experience is worthy, every dance is sought, every lesson learned. There is nothing in this great playground that I scorn, it is all fodder for the spirit. I am Wild. Untamed. Unconventional. Authentically Ridiculous. Absurdly Brilliant. Lusciously Alive. Strangely Serene. Passionately playful. I love with my Body, my Mind, my Heart, and my Soul. This Dance is one of Wonder. I wander freely within it. I am country bred…..filled with the archetype of the Wild. And for this, I give thanks. I kiss the Earth, belly to the dirt, every nerve and vessel filled to bursting, with the sweet vibration of Carnality. I wake throughout the dark, listen, and throb with all her summoning explosions underground.
copyright Charleen Johnston 2011