I have normalized the absence of an occasional sharp pain, located ambiguously between my throat and lower ribcage, for some time now. While this pain may not manifest the same in others, this is how it feels to me: I draw myself into myself, feeling the cracks form slowly enough to agonize, quickly enough to feel acute, along a wriggling line between two points on my upper torso. I lay there, often immobile, showing myself what love I can find within my being, telling myself that it’s okay to feel this way, telling myself that I must feel this way in order to remain healthy.

I often go years without experiencing this cracking; I remain conspicuously whole for these stretches, assuring myself that yes, it is healthy to abstain from crying dry tears, healthy to feel just fine. To some degree, I prefer this manner of being: a method of existence trained for years as a matter of practicality. There is a reason I remain this way for years at a time.

A few weeks ago, an exceptionally warm, dry wind blew over Oregon. While we are no strangers to wildfire, this was an unusual occurrence, undoubtedly caused or exacerbated by our increasingly unhealthy planet, and flames erupted across the western half of the state–the half that most think of when they think of Oregon: wet, temperate. These fires continue to blaze as I write from my apartment in Texas, and while it would be ridiculous to assert that there is any connection at all between the pain of my home state and my emotional pilgrimage, I do feel some kind of spiritual attachment to my homeland. I sympathize with the feeling of years of underbrush being rooted out by a sudden act of natural violence, a result of years of management and irresponsible guardianship.

This metaphor ends where another begins. While I’m certain that the flames ravaging the communities I grew up knowing are irrevocable evils exacerbated by the limitations of human prescience, I am not so sure when it comes to the wounds exposing themselves on my chest; these wounds more closely resemble the cracked clay of summer mudflats, which still support teams of life. They return naturally to this state cyclically, perhaps as my emotional body will. We are in the fledgling stages of adulthood, and the cycles that appear on the span of years have yet to be affirmed as more than isolated events of minor trauma.

The cracks on my lips that appeared a few days ago look like the ant ravines in the clay. The openings between the vague spots on my torso look the same. The gashes that appear in the forests of my homeland bear some resemblance. All of these things heal, but which are cyclical? Which are unsustainable? Which support new life, and which prevent it from taking root? Will my topsoil run off with the next major rain, as it will in the counties that will never be the same in my lifetime?

Too many questions. Too much nuance. Too few answers to create a satisfying conclusion. I am thankful for this opportunity to feel more deeply–my unending steadiness has been a frequent source of frustration–but it does force me to question my truths.

Apologies. Stay well as anyone does.

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