Joy in the Uprooting

I give you this to take with you: nothing remains as it was. If you know this, you can begin again, with pure joy in the uprooting.
— Judith Minty

A few weeks ago I sent a long text to my friend. We go together like black velvet, Lana del Rey records, smoldering incense and smoky eyeliner. We often talk about the way shame tries to have his way with us. About the heaviness we carry in our hearts and on our (my) hips, and the guilt that piles up with the clutter we're too ashamed to admit. It's about the tangled + messy spaces we find ourselves in and feeling like we're all alone in this raw, unbearable place.

She is my safe-house. That day was particularly hard. It was the week of the new moon which is when I am most-deeply filled with creative energy and clarity of mind. I seem to get more things accomplished then. It's when I see life without the moon in my eyes; in the gleaming dark I can make out all the things that like to hide away because light is too bright and cheerful sometimes. And this day found me a furious storm in my tiny apartment kitchen.

“Throwing away that which no longer serves,” I said to her in a text as I rooted through my cabinets and yanked the drawers out of my fridge. “Things that expired over two years ago. And yet the guilt! Guilt because of all the wasted money spent on things that just get thrown away or because I never had time energy or space to create something with them. I hate my kitchen so much.

“Right now I need to go to the store as we are scrimping through the freezer and fridge trying to get enough together to make a meal. Last night I had enough to make my husband dinner with leftovers for me. Final touch for him? A sprinkle of red pepper flakes. Only, I opened the wrong side. I gave a hearty shake and nearly died as half the bottle of red pepper flakes dumped over the entire meal I just made him. I sat and cried.

“And then the dumb pantry. It was so disorganized that every time I tried to get something down, a whole bunch of things would fall into the trash can below it. So today I overhauled my entire pantry and refrigerator and threw out two trash bags full.

“But I did find a bag of black-eyed peas that smelled like earth when I washed them. And enough things to make some pumpkin bread. I love love pumpkin bread and today is the first day of autumn. Seems appropriate.”

Gypsy Flags

In so many ways this season has been one of uprooting. It is holy work—knees to the ground, dark fingernail moons crusted with earth, feeling for the wispy tendrils of something to hold on to. This is the refining work of a mystic—planting and uprooting, pulling apart and weaving whole. Knowing what stays and what must go. It is staring shame in the eye and moving through into life's next blessed invitation. It is knowing that blessing and releasing can be one and the same and achy and beautiful. It is the willingness to fall headlong into joy.

I will never underestimate the rustic grace of running cool water over a handful of dried black-eyed peas and pressing my nose close to inhale the earth of them. Or foraging through an aged sack of onions for one I could chop for my soup, or pulling fresh and steamy pumpkin bread from the oven. Or of another weary traveler trying to navigate the wilderness of a messy yet beautiful wild life, who texts back with a rare and perfect kind of tenderness and love.

“I have to believe in a light,” she said. “I'm believing in it for both of us right now. It's just a star in the sky but it will get closer and there will be another side to this. There must be. In clearing out you are making space for new. For space. And for simple. Holding onto all these truths. For us all.”

Hillary McFarland