Letting go

I have a framed print hanging on my wall… of an "Indian" maiden sitting on the shore of a river, with a big old full moon hanging low in the sky behind her. It hung on the bedroom wall that I shared with seven brothers and sisters when I was a little girl, and now, here where I sit typing, it hangs in plain view.

I guess that it has followed me, and has always been part of my life. I can never remember a time that I was not fascinated by that image… or that I did not in some way, relate to that beautiful face, or to that hand raised in a gracefully-finger extended wave… I have always known that she is a princess, lonely, lost and searching, though she has a place and  a time…as we all do  🙂

It is very likely one of the oldest things in my home.

When I was a young day dreamer… <big smile> note that I did not say when I was young and I used to daydream!  For I have always (and still do) daydream!  When I was a young daydreamer… from time to time I was her…or she was me…in my daydreams.

I was so very far removed from the reality of the life that I lived as a child— in that daydream. There is no crowd surrounding her, I hear only the quiet lapping of rippled waves against a river bank when I look at that image.

But I have always wondered what my big attraction was with that particular image. As long as I can recall, I have said, "I want that ‘pikcher’ someday!"  And I spent countless hours of my early days, asking "Who is she waving to?  Why are they there? Do you think that there are other people that we cannot see? Do you think that two women really paddled their own canoe like that?  Why does she have one braid and the other girl has two? Is there a fire behind her?"

So, here I sit, some 47 years after the first time that my infant eyes probably gazed up from a crib, and made eye contact with that lovely woman. 

The outside world today is serenaded by angry bluejays; I can hear them scolding other birds over only the skies know what?

The fog has burned off and the sun, the breeze,  and the leaves are working together to make a dappled dancing pattern on the oriental rug at me feet.  <smirk> it goes so, so well with the native American things hanging on the wall.  I bought the rug though; it is optional–there is no emotion forcing it to stay, however, the things on the walls? They have been gifts, inherited or in some other way, come into my life with a story.

Silence for a moment. I glance out at the bird feeder and see that the gray squirrel is cleaning it out again.  The jays have momentarily moved on, simply given up. Nature can be such a case of tenacity! Who has the most?

The artist of the print?  I have never been able to find anything on it, and in truth, to me it resembles  prints done of silent movie stars… but I know so very little about art, and life is so short. Learning about art is not very high on my list.

If I did not have to work those 40+ hours outside of the home, I  might be brilliant and know danged near everything, <laughing out loud now> but the reality is this; I don’t know who painted the original, and I have ceased to wonder about it.   I simply appreciate it for the beauty that it brings to this retreat in the far end of the house.

There were years when I rarely glanced at it. years when I forgot about the simple peace that I felt when I looked at the picture.  Years when I was so damned busy, that I nearly forgot who I was… and surely, not in any way, was I that Indian maiden…

The seasons turn and years turn, bringing new seasons of our life with them.  I had spent countless years searching for who I am, and searching for understanding…and searching for peace… and one day, my eyes fell on that old picture. That same picture that had hung on the wall of my grandmother’s home for no less than 70 years before it moved to my new home, where it has hung for almost five years now.

I felt peace settle through me, like a drug spreading through my veins… and I was once again consumed with daydreams and memories…

I looked into her face, and I can see now, that she is searching too… and I believe that she is sad.  That there is something that her eyes gaze toward, but never really see… and I used to think that she looked toward a person, that she was greeting someone, but now I believe that she does not look forward with her eyes, but instead, she looks back behind her with her mind– and is letting go of something, or of someone…

I never knew the place… I had never seen such a shore until I was in my late twenties, and another summer at the river, night after night sleeping on a boat finally showed me where the artist could have looked for his background.

It was on the far side of the Allegheny River, fifty miles upstream of Pittsburgh, where the riverbanks are still lonely, dark and silent. Overgrown with wild grapevines and studded with mammoth sized boulders along the shoreline… this was it…

The long straight stretch of river ran east west here, before making its next wide sweeping turn toward the south.  And in the warmth of a July evening, I watched a big old yellow moon clear the low riverbank upstream where the Kiskiminetas river had carved away the inside bank at its mouth.

It was the summer after my father had passed away.  His soul walked away from this world on May 4th. He hated hot weather, and I always kinda figured that he chose to move on before the worst of the heat had arrived.

So there I was, looking at the background of the Indian maiden painting… and searching my own soul for the meaning of life…and for the first time in my life…the meaning of death.

I sat on the edge of the dock, with a toe dangling in the warm water… the current slow, lazily drifting downstream.  For a brief moment, my meandering mind settled upon this thought: I recalled the morning at the bus stop at the end of that old farm lane, Six of us waiting for the school bus, killing time.

We glanced at the pond above the road, and chatted about how Karen and Cheryl’s grandpap caught the snappers in that pond, and then there was a big "turtle soup’ day held at his house…

And then, for no particular reason, I started talking about that creek, that creek that sprung from a spring up in the pasture above the road, the spring that my grandmother’s only brother died beside, in a meadow beside a gas well…

And how that nameless creek that had carved out skunk hollow fed ruff run, which fed the Buffalo, which fed the Allegheny, which formed half of the Ohio at its headwaters, which fed the Mississippi…which flowed out into the Gulf of Mexico…

It was an epiphany for us!  Suddenly we all identified with it, with the world…and we understood how simple it was to get to some place sooo big, from here—which was someplace soooo small!  They all stared at me like I was a genius!  Like I should be making maps, or teaching geography!  But I was ten years old…and those things were far beyond my years, lol, and never the intention of my shpeel.

We all had a moment, brief though it was, that it just went on and on, unplanned, even if we let go…

And I never looked at that little creek the same way again!  I could never look at its rippling and gurgling surface, and not see the tiny part of the greater thing that it was…

And I had many long thoughts over the years, as I watched it flow… about molecules of water… changing, moving and how MY water, right here, in this stream, will see foreign places that my eyes might never behold!

And here I was, years later, sitting on a dock, watching the water flow by me… and I held my hand up, in true Indian-maiden-painting fashion, and ever so gracefully extended my fingers at nothing in particular…

At my dad?  At life? At death? Or hell…was it the Gulf Of Mexico?

Or maybe just the peace of that moment. Maybe a moment when I could feel what is inside of me, without the torment of what surrounds me… and I can give a wave at what is behind me… while my face wears the look of one who is searching.

So here I am today, in the  company of bluejays and squirrels, high and dry with no shore in sight, save the shore behind my Indian maiden in the painting…

I feel the warm of the evening air, hear the gentle lapping of the waves, and see  my own shoulders  bathed in the pearly yellow moonlight. I am awash with, and I feel her, peace, her pain, her moment of letting go…

There is no understanding to be had… about life, about death, about where the endless current takes us…

And nothing is changed by letting go, save this; the peace that we gain when we learn to do so…                                                                                                                                                                   

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About Teresa Cypher

I live with my husband in a humble house in the middle of a tall stand of hardwoods, bordered by soybean and corn fields, in western Pennsylvania. Mother of three adult children and "Grammie" to one sweet little girl, I revel in family gatherings and celebrations. My husband and I care for the gardens on our property--our little corner of heaven, have a glass of wine at sunset, and like to watch the stars come out. Currently working in QC and Development for a Bio-technology Company that produces green, agricultural products. I came into the world a creator of stories. Having been born into a litter, the 7th of 8 children, in a farming family, I have spent most of my life trying to be an individual. My dreams took me there. From the time I was a little girl, I was a thinker, spending any time I could find to be alone--the bastion of undisturbed thoughts, dreaming of other worlds and of fairy-tale love. My mind never shut off-- through the years when thoughts allowed me to escape the everyday world of farm life, to the daydreams while I was raising children and being the cook, the baker, the candlestick maker,and the taxi driver-- all while working full time. It took until middle age for me to realize that my meandering mind was writing stories! Once I sat down and started typing, it took 2 months to write my first book. My biggest challenge at first was getting my fingers to type fast enough to keep up with my mind. My daughter bought me a small digital recorder so I could save my thoughts until my fingers could catch up. The story that I wrote, Across The Night Sky ,was years in the making, and timed well...after I had experienced real life and the joys and heartaches it brings. I think that time gave me a well-spring of experiences from which to merge fairy-tale love with the cynicism adult life creates--while never losing sight of the beautiful and wonderful that love is. Writing is my passion...this incredible discovery in mid life that often keeps me up till the wee hours of the morning. I am so very fortunate to have the opportunity to devote my time to something that brings me such joy.
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6 Responses to Letting go

  1. Delete52Mitch says:

    Powerful essay, one that I\’m sure many people, myself included, can identify with. Rather racy picture, too! Congrats and best wishes from Alabama!

  2. Deborah says:

    I would have been lost in such a painting myself, and so appreciate your journey.  Here I am boiling eggs and potatoes for salad later and this mundane task interrupted the dream that your writing had set, somehow breaking the spell you had woven around me.  Life is like that don\’t you agree.  Just when we think that the answer to all our questions is just within reach a timer on the stover reawakens us to reality.  But the reality is that it is all a circle anyway, and yes poetry and cooking go hand in hand.  Staying focused to the beauty of each moment is divine.
    Blessed be.

  3. Laugher1957 says:

    Hi Willow!  I sure can relate to your picture….some things that seem to stay with you through time and never change..I can\’t help but wonder…how much thought the artist put into it?  Was painting it just a way for him to fill his afternoon, or did he contemplate on it for weeks…maybe even months before grabbing the brush?  Did he have any idea what an impact it would have through your life?I think sometimes your writing is like that….maybe some meaning to you…..but to other so much more….things they see and read and look at differently…..ideas and feelings that our felt only by the reader…..how long will the impact of your writings last?  Great work as always!!

  4. Unknown says:

    Hello Lady W, what a lovely writing!! It says so much about what you were feeling as you wrote and recalled
    the days of yore. So glad you have added the picture to the piece, really sets it off. You need to continue this story,
    I\’m sure you have many more wonderful memories that go along with the picture. Again, great work,
    all the best always to a Lady called Willow.  🙂    Rick

  5. Angel says:

     Each time I visit your space I am disappointed in myself for taking so long to make my rounds to other friends spaces and to absorb their thoughts and pictures, music and more.    But I am never disappointed by what I find here dear girl.   Your writing I believe, becomes even more powerful with time?  Is that because in the past months I have interacted with you enough to know a bit more about you than I did when I made my first visit to sign your guest book?  Or is it because more and more the stories and the insights you hold are rising to the surface,  ripe to be shared?  I wonder.   And I wonder about us searchers to Willow.    We are an unusual lot.   I believe both you and I look at the world through positively hopeful eyes.  I think we both have tremendous gratitude for the gifts around us,  big and small.  I think we are innately in tune with the small joys of life.   The sound of a babbling brook, the green buds of spring, the hushed silence of a new snowfall.   Basically we see goodness, beauty,  and hope all around us.    And yet,   we search…..  sometimes it seems endlessly.   And in the midst of all of our appreciation for life and our vitality for living we maintain behind the twinkle in our eyes and the easy natural smiles, a certain ever present sadness in our eyes.  Not always recognized by the people we meet but perhaps recognized by the fellow searchers we cross paths with every now again as we travel along in life.    I do not know about you but this is the part that confuses and befuddles me most about myself.   It\’s that part of me I both embrace and yet see as a contradiction,  that I can find such joy and such peace in the world around me and yet, that I can still have such longing that makes me search.    Do you ever wonder how we searchers can be both at the same time? 
    I have seen this painting before and I do appreciate it\’s beauty!   Is the maiden in the canoe approaching to take her back home?  Or is she leaving the Indian Princess there for a purpose,  or at her own request.  Does she wave good-bye or hello.   I somehow sense she has chosen to remain in that place for whatever reason to find her own peace.   By the way,  I love the Incubus song.   Take care my friend,
    Angel

  6. Debajit says:

    You and your mind……..
     
    You are a beautiful butterfly lady.
     
    Take care
     
    – Your Friend
     
     
    PS- Don\’t be sad that I am not writing anything about your this diary. I just loved reading it and trying to feel like you did. 

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