The Path Home

 As I walk by the creek, I scan the path for signs of what’s happening in the tops of the trees. Little bits of the branches break off and show me that way up there the red alders are putting out the first, green catkins. The cottonwoods or not yet budding, but I have learned that when they do, the perfume of their flowers is called “balsam of heaven” and has healing qualities. And I know that if the winds come while the cottonwoods flower, some of the branches will blow down onto the path, and I will gather them, and in this way I will learn a new medicine.

I recently read another version of the Bluebeard myth, in which the path and the woods feature. (Look: the Osoberry is fully in bloom, the first flowers of spring. After many months of gray it feels like a miracle. )

I dropped off my son at school this morning. After many days of distress this week, I am washed clean. Or at least relieved at the calm after the storm. I set a predictable schedule with him last night: we would leave each morning between 6:50 and 7:10. I can commit to this. I make coffee, I pack his lunch. We are ahead of the game. At 6:40, we sit down to play a little chess before he leaves for his dad’s house for what feels like forever. At 7:05 we are out the door. It helps that I have seen through the veil of busy-ness to what my boy needs. It helps that I have accepted that it is okay to wear a snowman onesie in many more places than home, including daycare dropoff.

This other version of the myth is called The Robber Bridegroom: the young girl is going to marry a man because of his rich house and spite of her misgivings. Just so. She is invited to go to his house “for dinner.“ When she gets there she learns from an old woman (some ancient maternal wisdom that is still surviving at the time the story was told and retold and retold, as I am telling it now) that she is to be the dinner. Some part of the girl knew this and so as she walked to the man’s house, she scattered peas and lentils along the path so that she could find her way home. Shades of Hansel and Gretel.

Funny how fairy tales weave with the same threads a different cloth. Hansel and Gretel’s breadcrumbs are eaten by the birds. They are lost with no trail home.

But this girl does not scatter dead crumbs; she scatters living seeds. She is allied with the wild forces of life. She spends only one night in the robber bridegroom‘s house before she escapes with the old woman’s help and when she leaves the evil house, the peas and lentils have sprouted and in the moonlight the leaves glow and show her the way home.

When I leave Forest’s school, the pearl of dawn is turning to real light. I am allied with the forces of the wild. Snowy owl, the pace of earth’s change, which is within me. I am growing. It is both invisibly slow and irresistibly constant. As I walk along the creek, as I think of this, I scan the path for what is happening above and around me. There are no lentils or peas sprouting, but the green canes of the wild roses are just swelling with leaf buds. This creek shows the way to the season ahead. Another story, another piece of the wild shows the path way home.