Snow drapes the town in satin white,
tucking us warmly into shelter.
I see the ocean in its crystalline form,
saturating flat undulating ground.
Transported to the sun-drenched Jersey shore days of my youth,
I feel the salt water tangle in my hair,
as swells of laughter and gulls peak between the ocean’s inhale and exhale.
Bare skin and unadorned feet browning and cracking.
My gaze catches on the snow when it falls
and on the ocean when I’m near it,
the same way it used to when I’d primp on the beaches
to flirt with boys.
My gaze, while peripheral, was held steady by them, too.
But, in the cute, summer boys I would lose myself
in romantic sojourns –
and in the shifting forms of water,
I regain my sovereignty amid each circulating droplet,
remembering with quivering assurance,
that I, too,
have been part of this landscape
since the very beginning.
Every influence I’ve ever encountered has shaped my character and disposition. I am who I am because of an endless parade of circumstances, people, and input. There is no “me” in which to point to directly. Instead, one must point to every single other person and everything else – and continue pointing, as the “me” you’ve grown accustomed to is always shifting.
I would be someone all together different if I wasn’t a student of Thich Nhat Hanh’s – if I wasn’t a devoted listener to Ani Difranco or, back in the day, the Grateful Dead – if I hadn’t moved across the country to Montana days before I turned 19 – if I had had different BFF’s growing up, different boyfriends, different parents – if that grade-wide ecosystem project hadn’t happened in 8th grade – if I hadn’t been raised by the Jersey shore in the summers of my youth – if I had shaved off all my hair only twice, instead of three times – if even one flower or butterfly I’ve met had not caught and held my breath in its beauty.