Right now we stand on a ledge. We have stood on this ledge for years now, centuries, and yet we don’t jump and we don’t step back. We are standing on this ledge breathing in puffs of air that come out short and come out long and sometimes don’t come out quite at all. We are standing on this ledge and below us is not an ocean, like I know you have been picturing, and not a rushing city street 40 stories down and not anything that could kill us or silence us or take away those little breaths that we have been counting and counting on for years now, for centuries. Our toes curl over the ledge like we want to know what is beneath but we cannot see it because we refuse to lean forward, worried we might fall into the depths of the Earth. We come up with stories in our heads about what lives below us, this Great Mystery. We tilt our heads up and ask questions to the sky, why? what? how? can I?
The sky does not answer.
We let rain wash over us, storms of blood, salty and sticky and sweet and at first it disturbed us to stand there and our bones got tired and our heads got heavy and our feet hurt but now we love the taste of blood on our tongue and we turn our faces into the storm with closed eyes, just in case we accidentally see the yawning cavern we think is below us. We have been standing here and all the while the animals of the Earth have gown used to us, comfortable, drawing close and nuzzling our hanging hands, trusting. We stand still sometimes and we shake in a fury sometimes and still the animals have kept us company. When our waving arms drive them away ever so slightly, we apologize and they tell us, “it’s okay, just don’t do it again”.
And then we do.
We haven’t learned this whole time, standing on this ledge. We see only that big sky that hangs above us blue and heavy and unaware and the empty stretching directly in front of us but, god forbid, we do not turn our heads and we do not look down. We have been painting pictures onto the canvas in front of us of what we’d like to see, what we dream about. We have tried painting endless blank canvases into worlds of green and blue but they keep coming out red. We have muddied purity so many times that sometimes it just comes out black and we must wait for the rain to wash it blank again.
We always restart.
The ledge might only be six inches high, towering only ever so slightly above the unknown. And while it is sturdy enough to have held us up for years now, for centuries, it is the most precarious of them all, built of threads and strings woven together by story and color and culture. The threads are bending. The threads are giving. The threads are breaking and we think to ourselves we really ought to know what we will fall to. Is it our death that lies so close or so far or is it another ledge to stand on. Have we been waiting on a cliff or a staircase? Have we been waiting to know?
The threads will break.
We can see now so clearly that all of our particles that churn together and move together and breathe together are ready and shaking and trembling with potential energy and they are longing to be kinetic to utilize bonds and breath and step down off the ledge and lower our eyes and turn our heads and tell new stories to the sky. Stories of grasses growing thick and tall beneath our feet, not worn down dirt and clenched toes. Stories of blue and green that don’t involve rainstorms of blood that we justified for years now, for centuries, because we need sodium in our diet. Stories to the sky that are brave, that are true. We long to fill canvases with landscapes and portraits and to see our own face for the first time and not be horrified. We long to step down from the fragile net that has cradled us and waited for us to no longer need it and feel solid earth, bedrock.
With closed eyes we are standing on a ledge, waiting, as we have been since our grandfathers and their grandfathers and the grandfathers we do not know we have tilted their faces to the sky. As we have been since God or Allah or Buddha or Mother Earth built a fragile web for us to stand on. Only now we feel it deep inside us, the courage building, the courage moving, the courage waking up and rubbing “maybes” from squinted eyes.
Only now we are falling.