By Jes Wright

What does it mean to be alive?

To get out of our routines—jump off that sunken space on the couch or chair, and move.

Step into spaces. Feel the uneven terrain. See fresh leaves of milk thistle with pearly veins. Hear the persistent cry of a hawk in flight, circling around and around the river bed.

Feel the sun through the soft haze, so we squint because we’ve ditched the sunglasses, wanting to see the world exactly as it is.

We breathe in—nothing at first because our smell has grown accustomed to the dull senses of living inside—and then it all smells alive. The dry oak leaves crunching under our feet, and the soil waking up from last month’s rain, now beginning to dry a little, but still warm and wet enough to be the source of green shoots.

We see the bunches of mistletoe clinging to the barren branches of a Valley Oak, trying to recall if they have a symbiotic relationship.

The hawk’s cry sounds closer, and we see it swoop toward the river below where the waters are clear and moving.

And we return to the idea of symbiotic, wondering if it’s truly possible that we can be graciously dependent, but still our own entities. Can we share a space equally?

The mistletoe would never survive without the oak’s nutrients, so is our being alive in a relationship like the oak and the mistletoe— always defined by the needing of another. Or how others need us?

We define our space of self by our relationship within a space of others.

Mistletoe has been defined by us—humans—as the space under which to kiss. As for the mistletoe, it is what it wants of itself, not what we want of it.

And yet the mistletoe and oak have a hemiparasitic symbiotic relationship. It’s not an equal exchange, but one in which another clings to a larger space. The oak doesn’t really suffer, and we—humans—find delight in a surprise stop under the mistletoe on those days we step away from our routines, pausing to think about our relationships.

The way we linger in our connection with another, but we never want to be so dependent that we lose sight of our own lives. We need an equal flow of give-and-take exchanged with take-and-give. Constant breaths between our communication.

Yet there will be moments when we sink our roots into another so much that we become one, and then we must remind ourselves to be alive without the help of another. That we must get up, and get out into the world.

Feel the sun through the soft haze, so we squint because we’ve ditched the sunglasses, wanting to see the world exactly as it is.


Photo: (source)

Editor: Dana Gornall



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