My name is Catnip, and I live in the forest. I live in a tent, and occasionally under the stars. I live in the Sierra mountains of California, at 5,000 feet elevation, brushing up against a culture of dirt trails and trees stretching their limbs to the sky. I work 22 hours a day caring for children far away from home and from moms, sweeping through veils of ash and work so hard it makes the brain go whoosh - stop - freeze - keep going, going, go. I shower infrequently. My camp name is Catnip, and I miss civilization - I miss beds and central air conditioning and my mom. I miss talking to those I love on a regular basis. I miss wearing clothes that fit me and having time to dwell on my own thoughts.
But there is something about this place that makes it worth it, a quiet agreement that through utter exhaustion and children creating disaster at every corner, an understanding that in the brain quashing work there is an unexplainable fulfillment. There is something here that makes me happier on a more regular basis than I have ever been. Even in the worst moments, when I am so tired speech is difficult, when my stomach beats its own angry and acidic rhythm over the sheer stress and abuse, when my body wants nothing but to stay inside its sleeping bag at the bell's toll at 7 am, when the moments build up until my self is ready to burst from the seams at any slight movement... I want to be here.
The short and infrequent 24 hour breaks are a sweet relief, an opportunity for laundry and a shower that lasts longer than five minutes, but the thought of leaving for good is oddly unpalatable. My summer camp is a fairy land of children finding happiness and ultimate fears in one fell swoop. With reality suspended, suddenly everything is possible. Each day is a world of its own as moments stretch and replicate.
I am finding a voice, though I cannot discern if it is mine yet. I am finding. I am.
"I think you want to raise your arms to the sky."
- from "E" by Katrina Vandenberg