A good friend of mine, whom I have not seen in many years, mentioned to me yesterday that my return to Baltimore was like coming back to reality. I understand her sentiment perfectly, as I have felt the resistance so many times to “return to reality” after a wonderful vacation. After all, the reasons why I needed the vacation in the first place had not changed. I have several projects that are at very critical junctures, and each of them needs serious attention to ensure they are successful.
One of the first things I did upon returning home was to re-read Lisa Knopp’s essay, “Braided,” from her book, The Nature of Home: A Lexicon of Essays.* In the essay, she writes of her braided hair (down to her waist) and compares its braiding (loose or tight) to the central Platte (winding through Colorado, Wyoming, and Nebraska) as well as to the plurality of God, most traditionally in the form of the trinity. Knopp points out that braids, in any form, must be balanced and appreciated for their overall effect. Break it down into individual strands of hair, and suddenly the effect is lost. The balance of the braid, as well, is equally important.
She writes that the central Platte, once balanced well for its braids of water, life, and land, has been thrown out of balance, and the damage has been significant.
According to Knopp, in the 1990’s, the Platte’s braid loosened due to manipulation for “flood control, power generation, and the growing urban centers that demand water for showers, dishwashers, washing machines, green lawns, and golf courses.” Man’s contribution was detrimental to the nicely woven braid that nature had made for many hundreds of years.
A once-thriving place for migratory birds was now an overgrown forest with nothing more than a creek running through it.
Knopp states: “[Migratory birds] prefer broad channels and shallow water because they are protected from such nighttime predeators as coyotes, dogs, and foxes and not so long ago, wolves and cougars. They prefer wet meadows to woodlands because of the greater food supply. If the river becomes too loosely braided, more land than water, more trees than light, the birds will go elsewhere–though I don’t know where that might be.”
The very same thing happens to us in our own lives, doesn’t it? We get too stressed about one aspect of a project or aspect of our lives, and it throws everything else out of balance. A bad day at work can derail even the best of us, when we think that what we need to reset ourselves is a moment of indulgence–food, drink, maybe even a new outfit. After all, we deserve it. But too many bad days at work means too much of that compensation; you gain weight, you become too dependent on alcohol, or you start missing bill payments because you’re spending too much on those new clothes or electronic gadgets.
Thank goodness that the weave of Life, Love, and Home is not centered geographically for us, as we might believe. Coming back from Ocean City yesterday, I realized that I’m in control of how tightly weaved my braid is–a braid that I take with me as if it were literally flowing down my back. My attitude toward my projects is not geographical at all; in fact, our beliefs need to transcend the notion that their success lies within the physical boundaries of a workspace. The challenges we face are not the variables; what we bring to them are. With these three refreshed (life, love, and home), I am ready to handle the challenges that await, one at a time, and allow each of them to resolve in a wonderful new light.
*Lisa was one of my mentors in grad school (Goucher College, Master of Fine Arts Program in creative nonfiction) and lives in Lincoln, Nebraska. She, like all of my other mentors at Goucher, was patient, inspiring, and supportive with my writing.