I remember the mid-night dampness on the grass that cooled our sweat. I could swear I heard my heart shake the leaves. I don’t think I’d ever seen stars lay so thick, but maybe I was never good enough to see them that way, my eyes too shut. My palms faced the sky, heavy veins pulsing with gratitude and my skin smelling of sage and purity. I let a spider crawl across my wrist and down my thumb.
“There may come a point where you feel like you’ll pass out or die, but you won’t,” he told me reassuringly. “Just breathe and lay back. Feel the dirt between your shoulder blades. Breathe in through your nostrils and out through your mouth. Focus on the space between your eyebrows.” And I did. I pressed my shoulders hard on the cold dirt, feeling it pool together as sweat poured from my body. Every push of blood away from my heart through my arteries I felt. The oxygenated blood returning felt warm and wet and heavy with confession and surrender. When the flap was opened, letting the night air in and the sweltering heat and steam and prayers that fell from our lips out, the world was changed. I collapsed in the leaves.
I remember trekking single file through the forest in a light blue dress with pink and purple wildflowers, the hem tracing the tops of my bare toes that kicked up twigs and dirt as they stepped in rhythm to the chants I learned and sang with the women before and after me. We held bundles of sage and wore flowers in our hair and left an echo in our wake, our voices carrying through the trees that surrounded us. When we made it through the path, the sun between the canopy, I saw it land on his face. But it wasn’t the rays that brought light to the clearing. It came from his eyes, big and beaming bright, his cheeks pulled back, and I’d never seen purer joy than in that moment when he looked at me. I’ll never forget the way he looked at me.
Originally written May 11 2017, on Anna Maria Island.