September 05, 2019

By Rachael Petersen

When my mind buzzes with unanswered questions, I listen to nature. But today, spring's response is almost too resplendent for me. The traumatized cannot afford to buy into beauty. Every ripe thing is a harbinger of the ruin to come; every bloom too open to be safe. The siren song of my body cries out in panic, alerting me to the foregone conclusion of catastrophe. Something terrible happened to you, it says. Do not blossom like the dogwoods or magnolias or tulips. Shut up and close down, lest something terrible happen to you again.

I run faster. While exerting effort, my pounding heart makes sense. But in stillness it is just a blood-pumping tape stuck on high-speed repeat.

My burning legs cut cool air. Looking up, I ask nothing in particular: what would it take for me to unstick my story? Would unsticking my story unstick this throbbing muscle that beats like a trapped bird beating against the bent ribs of its cage?

I wish memories were as easy to edit as these lines. Circling the pond, I ask trees to reveal their secret of revision, to apprentice me to their constant shedding of leaves. Show me the bravery of letting go, I beg taciturn trunks. Pulling a budded branch to my face, I make myself a student of its trust that something new will always sprout from what lay dormant in the cold.

But the lesson I seek speaks through a golden light, suddenly soaking every silent leaf. I turn from the forest to catch a sliver of defiant sun bursting through low-lying clouds. Such blazing radiance is not easily contained. A luminous stratum stretches out across the horizon. The pond below lends its liquid mirror to the light, echoing teachings in a million tiny ripples.

Today, the setting sun speaks -- that great engine powering all green growth. I listen.

It says: Icarus flew too close to me. Maybe you did, too. Forgive yourself all that was sacrificed on that majestic, doomed flight of ambition.

It says: you are not stuck. You forget how far you crawled on charred knees after you fell to Earth and searched for safe ground in which to plant the seed of yourself.

It says: you think yourself the center of the universe, unmoved and unmoving. But my setting deceives. You cannot be stuck, for movement is the price of being born: you are hurdling around me at 67,000 miles per hour. Count your Copernican blessings.

It says: the Earth's circling grants spring and spring grants rebirth. Being born — especially a second time around — hurts as much as you do now.

It says: see how I do not discriminate between you and the cherry blossoms when I bathe Earth in the light of new beginnings?

It says: trust that you can blossom and still be safe. You cannot imagine what beauty you will unfurl.

It says: stay rooted but reach toward the light and don’t stop reaching.

Tears and darkness fall. I am suddenly content here on Earth, taking my cues from wise green things that inch skyward and bend towards gentle, fading light. And like the trees, I finally know that know growth is slow and that opening to beauty hurts, but radiance is always closer than we realize.




Rachael Petersen is a writer and researcher living in Cambridge, MA. Writing at the intersection of spirituality, ecology and technology, Rachael is curious about how we can create meaningful experiences of belonging in a culture that conspires to separate us from each other and the natural world. Her curiosity has carried her to small-scale indigenous communities around the world, researching how digital tools interact with their cosmology. Previously, she deputy directed Global Forest Watch, an initiative that monitors deforestation in real-time from space. Her creative writing has been featured in The Outline, The Rumpus, Ruminate Magazine, and Anywhere Magazine.


Did you miss this one: On Attention?




Photo by Caterina Giannottu on Unsplash

Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up. We don't allow comments that are disrespectful or personally attack our blog writers.

Also in The Waking

The Naming
The Naming

November 07, 2022 1 Comment

Did any of the first beasts resist their names? Did Adam grow weary of his endless task?

Read More

On the Endangered List
On the Endangered List

November 04, 2022 1 Comment

Still, she remembers cradling that tiger of a beetle in their sunny, grassy backyard as the sounds of her parents arguing drove through the kitchen windows. She never saw such an insect again.

Read More


September 26, 2022

His idea is for the train to go into the hills and slow in the woods, and for the boy who’s been lost in the woods to see it, board it, and for the train to go full steam ahead back to town to reunite the boy with his lonely and shaken father.

Read More