On the ferry from Wellington to Picton, I am reminded that there is still wilderness—
pure, blue water; lush forests; mountains without scabs of road or winces of artificial light.
Over talks about the Grand Canyon and the Catskill Mountains, I am reminded that the entire US is not an overpriced parking lot, however much it sometimes feels that way. I’ve been a nature girl in the city for too long. I need trees and ocean and fresh air and stars and no sounds but crickets for miles. Even suburbs feel peacefully exotic. How amazing that the darkness is allowed to stay as it is; that the sun competes with no other shiny gods.
Of course what I want most for myself is peace and contentment. I don’t know of how to envision that without also picturing a family. Here I give myself permission to want what I want, but also to not taste the desperate fear I have for as long as I can remember. I want to live my life loving what’s in it, from my best friends to my family to my ridiculous cat. If I find grace in my life instead of stewing in the discomfort in it, I know good things will emerge.
There is no use now in hating my country for not being like this one. Yes, I wish for more wilderness. But it’s not so much a destination as a voice I usually forget to listen to. I can navigate the New York City subways with my eyes closed, but I once knew how to pitch tents and start fires. There are many different dialects of survival. At the end of the day, there is no one way to live, except—
In my darkest times, more recently than I like to admit, I resolved that I would keep living because I wouldn’t want to hurt the people I love. Then, I reasoned, if I’m going to live anyway, I might as well not be miserable. Of course it’s not easy. The pills aren’t magic and didn’t make her love me again or take the sting away of the brunch everyone was invited to but me. But the resolution to be okay is not a resignation—it’s the loudest battle cry I could ever muster. I will be okay. I will wake up again and again and again. I’ll fall in love again someday. I choose to live a life in which I believe in my own happiness, right now, with what I have, and with the faith that I will continue to be okay.
There are no guarantees, for anyone. No one knows from the first date that they will one day divorce this person; tear out the root of the mountain they call home. We buy insurance for our homes, cars and even lives, but never for our hearts. It’s because we can never really see inside them. They are the darkest roads of rural New Zealand that come into view only as you step upon them; the tip of the iceberg; the last great wilderness.
Joanna Hoffman is a poet, performer, teaching artist and LGBTQ advocate. She has been on five National Poetry Slam teams, and ranked 4th at the 2012 Women of the World Poetry Slam. She is the 2012 Champion of Capturing Fire, the queer international poetry slam. Her work has appeared in decomP, PANK, The Legendary, Sinister Wisdom and Milk and Honey, a Jewish lesbian poetry anthology. Her full-length book Running for Trap Doors will be released by Sibling Rivalry Press this summer. For more information, please visit joannahoffman.com.