I was such a grimy child. I could sit outside and play in mud, or dirt, or sand, or a tree, or my little wading pool, for hours on end. I hated baths and was scared of the shower. I mean, I went to school clean, but did as little as possible on my own to make that happen until I was at least ten.
People thought of me as a tomboy. For awhile, I did, too, but looking back, I realize I never was. I didn't play with dollies much, or Barbies much, though I had both. And I had a little toy kitchen and tea sets and all of it. But they were just accessories to a chaotic life. Neither did I play sports as I was tremendously clumsy, at least, according to everyone around me. I don't remember myself that way. I rode my bike for hours, and could jog for several miles at a time. Latterly, the family bowling gene appeared. Whatever.
As a child, I played with clay, paint, craft sets, crayons, glue, rocks and sticks and leaves and paper and paper and more paper. Yet no one thought of me as artistic or creative in the slightest.
I'm beginning to wonder if they thought anything interesting about me at all, other than that I was always covered with dirt or something colorful and sticky that was probably also stuck to my carpet.
I played detective and cowboys and indians. But all girls did, because there weren't exciting girl things to be. We sometimes thought we wanted to be the superhero or the cowboy because he was cool, not because he was a man. I mean, by extension, men got to do the exciting powerful stuff, so that was part of it. It's just—it was the merest breath of a hop for me to want to be Bret Maverick to, well, wanting to be with him. I mean, not that way, that came later. Just there, his, breathing in his awesomeness.
Tonight as I undressed to shower after putting in 70 leeks, and gosh do I hate planting leeks, yet I love growing leeks, I thought about how I was as dirty as when I was seven. Not really at all, though. It wasn't visible except on my hands. But I'm an adult, and so of course, I felt just miserably but also gloriously dirty from digging and raking and planting today. And of course I love a good strong shower, and emerging clean and new. Yet I can't wait to get out there tomorrow and do it again. I mean, not plant more leeks. Something. Something else I can nurture and grow while playing in the dirt.
Yes, this is a dull photo of 70 baby leeks. Gardening is tactile.
This wasn't really about that when I first thought of it...um, unlike other women I know, I haven't thought of myself as a "girl" in many years. And never truly a "tomboy," which, really, is fairly misogynistic if you think about it. Sometimes I think I don't relate to other women very well because they're trying so hard either to be one or not to be one; I am never quite sure about it all. But then, too, in certain ways, women can relate only to each other, and it's important to recognize and cherish that. I do.
I spent many years watching my children enjoy doing the playing and digging and messing, and so I did very little of it myself. But it's who I am naturally. I chop and mix and bake or shake. I throw paint around. I collect stacks of books. Sometimes I spill things. And I dig in the dirt. But I also like a neat clear space, tidy shelves, organized tools, and clean skin.
This is me preparing to remove garden grime. I decided that if I shared this fairly terrible photo, every other photo of me that follows it will look very good by comparison. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder...
I'm continuing to strive to be the best parts of myself; the original ones and the later ones that come with maturity.
She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellow'd to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o'er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.
And on that cheek, and o'er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!
It never hurts to think well of yourself, or at least to think well of your possibilities. I really am pretty much who I have always wished to be, just have to do a bit more with it.
Then, too, I am also thinking of Joseph Cotten's perfect, almost over-chiseled lips. The sky is growing dark and my attention turns from the external to the internal. So to speak.
Rita, girl, you are a mess. But I understand.