by Julie Barnes

Mystery at work in me: busy and fruitful. Shovels and John Deeres moving piles of earth around my inner landscape. The map no longer matches the terrain. No cataclysm this time—no Arctic winter, Pompeii explosions, or flood to goad us two by two to safety. My inner ants have been at it so long, dutifully affectionately lugging sand grains. Covert Project Freedom—they didn’t ask my permission but worked under cover of night like brownies, unseen but longed for. 

How I have hungered for freedom this wide and deep! Smells like 2nd Beach on a March Sunday morning when only nuts with dogs are out walking and people, pious as I, are usually in church in town. Dogless, I undertake my sacred walk. I fight the urge to strip off my cowgrrl boots and let the water’s frost claim my toes, giving myself to waves polishing stones. I sing to myself with boots on. I watch the plovers chase near the restricted area where they’ll nest awfully soon. I tuck my square little hands into jeans pockets and savor the warmth of my own body. I can feel Spring coming in the dampness, the softening around me. Spring, the lover I wait for all year, with her audacious bloom.

This freedom is about space, not taking up space but softening into it, a half-lit stage with an audience of friends ringing it. Watch them with blessing and loving indifference. It’s the space of a clean well-stocked kitchen, oil soap scent lingering on floor boards, lavender on counters, tools washed and ready for use. There’s potential and room for creation.

There is great freedom in giving oneself fully, demanding nothing in return. The power in emptiness, dusted, mopped, well-tended space becomes a garden of light and silence.

It’s the words you have waited years for finally said back to you, magnificent and different than expected. “I love you,” she said and meant it utterly, “You have my permission for everything.” Perhaps it is possible to belong fully to oneself and also to another. It’s the difference between claiming and possession. When you are whole, when you keep God close, it is easier to let others be, not because you don’t need them but because you fervently need them to be wholly themselves. These things always fold back in on paradox. 

In becoming the queen of gently wiping my own tears and rocking myself to sleep with a tenderness so silken and abiding it almost shames me, I unite. I am the snarly little girl tumbling with dandelion fluff in her hair who won’t stop playing; the adolescent vixen who toys, smolders, and pounces with hungriest mouth; the crone who cradles her tea, croons to her cats, and watches the moon through an upstairs window with old, wordless love.

There is great freedom in giving oneself fully, demanding nothing in return. The power in emptiness, dusted, mopped, well-tended space becomes a garden of light and silence. That un-peopled beach, that clean slate kitchen. A receptive dancefloor. A sitting corner to write. A spot friends bring culinary offerings to sit down billowing their talk and touch. I am quietly in love with the world, and it’s getting harder to hide. In love with a specific form of Spirit that lives in a glorious body I will one day know by heart. She is not the catalyst for joy, but a natural outcropping of it. Divine light made human, like we each are.

I’m not resisting anymore, my foolish heart unlocked. I am needy of nothing and eager for every bite of living I can swallow after tasting. I am no longer saying to God “why” or “later” or “not this.” I am no longer dissecting other people’s lives with insect eyes and finding my own hands lacking. My empty hands, palms up on knees, accompany the breath as it settles and deepens. They are available to hold whatever’s close and calling for touch. They catch raindrops, wipe the crust from the old cat’s eye, and trace a lover’s beard with affection. They are poised and capable to live it all without refusal. They are soft-fingered, well-padded palms, crisp clipped nails pink with health, warm with blood, ringed with memory one band for each, God’s tools and my joy. I could die for the sweetness of this fully-engaged freedom. §

Header Image: "Dandelion Fluff" by Djordjer (Own work) CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Julie Barnes is a creative whirlwind of dance, yoga, prose poems, listening, and laughter. By day, she supervises and trains staff of community health programs on holistic approaches to mental health, collaboration, and self-care. By night, she holds sacred space for movement, builds community with fellow artists and activists, and finds the joy in simple activities of daily life. Her interfaith spiritual path is about service, respectful dialogue, finding pleasure in dynamic relationships, and experiencing the Love we all are through movement, stillness, song, and silence.