Song: Sage The Gemini "Good Thing" Reading: Women Who Run With the Wolves
Right off of 12th street in Tulsa, Oklahoma there is a gravel path that spans the length of the man-made creek. I don't know what those are called. Watersheds, maybe? If you walk far enough down the gravel path there are bundles of dense trees on the right side. Without any warning a forest just springs up. My best friend Sarah and I would wade through the water and ride our bikes along the path. When we discovered the forest, of course we trekked into it. You don't find a forest in the inner city of Tulsa and not go explore it. If you walk deep enough there is a creek with a rope swing, a fallen log, and an old shack. Sarah and I visited there often, we'd swing over the creek, steal kisses, and dream. Most of my memories of 12th street are punctuated by my time with Sarah in our secret forest.
One day, in particular, our neighborhood was flooding from heavy unexpected rains. I flew down the stairs from my room to answer whoever was pounding on the front door. It was Sarah. She begged me to come to the forest. The creek in our secret forest would be high, she promised. Her eyes sparkled with hope of adventure. I called to my mom that I was going to play with Sarah and we walked down the street. We waited, per usual, to hold hands only when we got far enough down the path for no one to see us.
The usual knee-high grass in our secret forest was laden with dew and water. We stomped through the mud and down a root covered hill to our swing. Hope gave away to elation as we stood staring wide eyed at the raging creek. The water was very high. The fallen log that connected the creek banks, usually extremely high from the creek bed was soaked from the waves of water pushing their way over and under the log. Somehow we determined that the best idea was for us to see if we could balance on the log. Junior high girls can be given to such risks. There is something about being young and in a secret forest that makes you feel invincible. We took our shoes off and made our way down to the log. Sarah nervously insisted that I go first. I balanced my way to the middle of the log and motioned for her to join me. About the moment that she made her way to the middle to meet me I started to slip. I wobbled and contorted my body. I jutted my arms out straight the way one does when they are trying to keep balance. I stiffened my body and focused all my attention on not falling.
And then I fell.
I grabbed the log and called for Sarah's help. She wouldn't help. She stared down at me wide eyed and scooted her feet away, in case I were to attempt to grab them. She said that she couldn't grab my hand. It was too much of a risk. If she helped pull me up, she might fall too. She walked back to the bank and I attempted, with little success, to pull myself up. It was too wet and the log was slimy and smooth from years of erosion and water. I decided to let go and try to fight the current to get to the side of the creek.
I let go.
I kicked and pulled and eventually made it to the side of the bank. I was soaked and covered in mud. My legs were torn and scratched from the roots and rocks, and one of my fingernails was bleeding from clinging on. My adrenaline transitioned to hot rage. I screamed at Sarah, "YOU ASKED ME TO TAKE THE RISK FIRST AND THEN YOU WEREN'T EVEN THERE WHEN I NEEDED YOU. I JUST NEEDED YOU TO GRAB MY HAND!"
This memory is so vibrant to me, even eighteen years later, because I didn't talk to Sarah for almost three months after that day.
That moment in my life has re-played in various ways; in love, friendship, and work. I step on the path of adventure with people I think I can trust. I see the raging water. I see the precarious log, and I accept that often I am the bravest one. So I step out on the log and take the risk first. When I fall, because we all fall in some way, they do exactly what Sarah did. They protect themselves and won't risk.
I guess it makes sense. If you aren't looking out for you, then who is? Maybe I am reading too much into why I was hurt enough to refuse to talk to her for three months. Metaphors and memories tend to fail that way.
What I do know is that even today, when someone is brave enough to push me back a little and step out to take the risk first, something lights up in me. Someone else being The Brave One, The Responsible One, and The Present One endears me to them. It leaves me in awe because I still have those scars from clinging to the side of the creek bank of life, trying to fight not being swept away by the current. There should be people that will take risks for you, for us. There should be people who walk to the middle of the log and beckon for you to walk out to them.
When they make it to the middle though, if they slip, be willing to grab their hand.