I am reminded of it at the most random times, sometimes multiple times a day and then not again for weeks. It’s like I’ll turn a corner and there is it, a smell or a sight or a sound that brings me right back to the heart of my late teens and early twenties.
When I was in the South.
I cherish those years so dearly, but they feel like a different lifetime. There are moments that remind me that I did indeed spend five years in Georgia and that it shaped me, or maybe brought things out of me that were already there–a love for writing and literature, a loathing for yoga that’s watered down or involves push-ups, long bike rides on flat roads that line cotton fields, bluegrass, the way my friends’ parents pronounce certain words, rock climbing, honest work, sandstone, kudzu and pine trees, Southern cooking, gnats, live music, being homesick.
It all feels like a past life, a different life.
It’s like when I went home from college for the first time, after just a few months of being away, how I looked at my street and my house and the small town I had spent 18 years in at that point, and it looked like something out of a dream. I knew it like the back of my hand but also forgot that I knew it. Or it’s like looking at an old picture of yourself, from when you were a child, how you can’t remember having the picture taken, or that particular day, but you know that shirt you used to always wear, how it had a hole in the sleeve from getting snagged on a fence, and you can’t remember being that small, that young, but you know so well what it was like to be you in that very moment.
I have a story to tell.
We had been in the same room all weekend. The one with the bright blue walls, second story, level with the spanish-moss draped oak trees. That room felt like a tree fort. Thunder kept sounding, the sky had turned deeper, with clouds that twisted into each other. And then, in one instant, the rain came. Steady and loud.
My brain was so full from the weekend of learning about yoga and philosophy and anatomy and spirit and myself that it felt bigger. The other women, my fellow yoga teacher training students, were lounging on yoga mats and bolsters, covered in blankets. All bare feet. Just ten more minutes, and we were free to go.
Don’t you want a ride home? It’s pouring out here! She had to yell over the rain.
Nah, I’ll be fine. I live two minutes away.
You sure? You’re crazy!
I wanted to walk home in the rain, I was feeling all ethereal. The rain permeated my hair and felt cold as it reached my scalp, I was the only one on the streets. For some reason I felt like I was sneaking around, like I was somewhere forbidden. I tried to quiet my footsteps, my breath, even though every sound I made was masked by the rain and thunder.
I had just rounded the street corner when I saw them. I stopped walking and my body turned rigid. They did the same. It was a pack of wild dogs, about five of them. There was one bigger one, in front of the rest, the leader I supposed. The others were smaller, skinnier, looked more afraid of me. The leader did not seem afraid, but she was curious. I was both curious and afraid, I think she knew that. We locked eyes for a solid ten seconds, I’ve never been so still in my life. The rain came down around us in sheets, the wind was pushing it sideways. We were all soaking wet, drenched hair and little rivers running off our ears.
She was a big dog. Brown fur that was stained dark from the rain. Definitely a mutt, but without any lab or retriever, more pit bull and doberman. There was a sweetness to her eyes that all living things have, no matter how dangerous the rest of their body appears.
But it was quite clear that I wasn’t in charge anymore.
I remember how that felt, how I could feel all the energy draining from my head–my thinking, analyzing, fixing everything brain, and it traveled down, right to the heart of my gut. Lower even, to my legs, to my feet.
She held me right there for a few more moments. And then, without thought, her body relaxed and she trotted off. The other dogs followed her. None of them ever looked back at me.
The South is dark, it’s receptive, it’s quiet, it’s listening, it’s wild, it’s feminine. The Bay is loud, it’s bright, it fixes things, it’s thinking, it’s control, it’s masculine. In the South, people pray. In the Bay, people go to therapy, read psychology books, examine their relationships, fix everything, download happiness apps, and take pills.
Y’all can never pray too much, my yoga teacher told us.
More than happiness, give me grace. Give me the bravery to fully feel whatever emotion it is that I am experiencing, the wisdom to remember that it is all fleeting, the softness to let go of control. Give me the ability to move out of my head and into my heart, lower even, my belly, my feet. Give me an intuition far louder than my mind.
How I wish to be more like those wild dogs, especially the leader, how she stared at me and after a few moments she just knew, nah, this girl ain’t a threat. Ran off like it never happened. There were no words, no thinking, no asking the other dogs about it. She made a decision based on feeling, just intuition.
Give me that!
I hope all of you Bay Area folks are enjoying the rain. Stay warm and take care of yourself,