wild and green

photo of budding flowerwild and green

On my wedding day, I was filled with anxiety, mine and my mother’s.

I was wild and green in the ways of the world, though I thought a ceremony in Butler’s green garden would transform me into a more peaceful creature. I stood with my mother, waiting for my intended to arrive. I was there and not there: I firmly remember the carillons that sang and the placid old canal that drifted by, the buzzing droopy-headed zinnias and black-eyed Susans, the old-world rose bushes—all beautiful, contained, tranquil.

Carefree, not wild.

That day I’d turn into a wife, half of a unit, domestic, safe and saved.

On the outside I was transformed already, placid as the canal, sure of myself as the bees were sure of their buzzing industry. Yet I was wild inside, standing there next to my mama, a roiling mass of ancient fears.

Wild like a frightened doe, tired from running, running. Heart beating hard, danger clanging so constantly that mostly I was not even aware of it. Danger simply ran in my veins, and had for as long as I could remember.

Danger was wild in the rivers of my blood. Danger splashed in the waterfall of my heart.

I had no business getting married, but to be wild is, after all, dangerous. Plus, I was tired of being hunted. Somewhere inside I thought being caught would save me.

– – –

Deer were always an obsession for me. As a very small child, I drew deer after deer. I painted pictures of deer, read books about deer. I loved deer and wanted to be a ballerina so I could gracefully move like a deer. And disappear, like a deer.

But deer are wild things. Peaceful, except when under attack. Always wary, though. If a deer is cornered, and cannot run away, if a deer is outmatched and at the mercy of a terrible predator, she cannot hope to win by fighting. In cases like that, she will freeze.

I froze once, like a deer
I froze, like a river
I thawed and ran fast again,
like a deer
Like a rushing stream, like snowmelt
down a mountain
even when perhaps I should have paused to think
I was wild and green all my young self seemed to know
was freezing and rushing.

– – –

On my wedding day, I was young.
Younger even than my 23 years. Being frozen keeps you from growing up. So does running.

I was green. The lushness of the garden, the safe feeling I had next to my intended—gave me a sense that I was on a path. A path that might lead me out of my wildness. My scary, uncontainable wildness.

The path would rescue me from myself.
This was a sweet green notion, a kiwi of a belief, juicy and promising and bursting with seeds of hope.

What I did not know, in my greenness, was that you cannot shed your wildness like a snake sheds her skin. The wildness is inside, part of you.

I was right about the path, though.

It did lead me out, and then, decades later, landed me back in the thicket of myself, heart beating wildly, learning at last to savor the moments of life that stretch across the bones of time like supple muscles. Stretching, tightening, strengthening, and finally, letting go.

I’m still wild and green.

Older now, I have learned to listen to the wind, smell danger, believe the things my own heart tells me, and to love the wild frozen little girl-deer I carry inside. I learned that love does not rescue. Love merely holds your hand, then pushes you to grow. Self-love and every other kind of deep love pushes you to the edges of your self.

And when you grow, you risk.
One person’s sunshine is another person’s scorch.
One person’s neat-cornered bed is another person’s prison.

Sometimes you have to grow alone, in the wildness, where the deer appear and disappear to keep you company, silently.

(I wrote this from a prompt by Natalie Goldberg, “Write about when you were wild and green.”)

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  1. #1 by Mary Ellen McCarthy on March 19, 2017 - 3:48 pm

    As always beautiful and thought provoking. Thank you

    • #2 by Elaine Olund on March 20, 2017 - 10:02 am

      Hi Mary Ellen! Thank you for commenting. It means a lot to me. I really appreciate the reflections back very much.

  2. #3 by Dawn D on March 19, 2017 - 3:57 pm

    I love this. Again 😉
    It reminded me of the feelings I experienced on my own wedding day. Heart beating fast, somehow aware that something important was taking place but it was as if I was standing on the sidelines, watching it happen, going through the motions but there was no happiness, no elation in it. I was like frozen.
    If I’d listened more closely, I would have known I was heading into a trap. But I hadn’t been taught to think of marriage as a trap (at least with the wrong man). I’d been taught to be a good girl and be happy already that a man deigned look at me and consider being with me forever. Take care of me. As if I wasn’t able to take care of myself.
    Your posts always stir so much within me Elaine. And the writing is simply so beautiful!

    • #4 by Elaine Olund on March 20, 2017 - 10:00 am

      :-)thank you, Dawn. Stories connect us all, I think. It’s really generous of you to read and to comment. I appreciate your input so much.

      • #5 by Dawn D on March 21, 2017 - 1:02 pm

        I get a lot by reading your stories. Very selfish deed indeed 😉
        Seriously, writing my thoughts out helps me process them and I haven’t been able to write much myself lately. So… commenting helps me. 😊

      • #6 by Dawn D on March 21, 2017 - 1:03 pm

        And yes, I agree, stories connect us…

  3. #7 by angelamoore2013 on March 19, 2017 - 10:52 pm

    A beautiful reflection, Elaine.
    “Being frozen keeps you from growing up. So does running.” So very true. xxx

  4. #9 by Ellen Austin-Li on April 7, 2017 - 11:57 pm

    I don’t know how I missed this post! So glad I stumbled upon it as I struggle to weed-out emails. This post is filled with poetic images. I remember you recently mentioning your affinity for deer when you were young. Your insight into the parallels between you running or freezing to the behavior of a deer is intriguing!

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