Zoe meows at the foot of the door to the garden. Since my ex-husband and I adopted this wide-eyed black cat from a shelter in Washington, DC five years ago, she has been strictly an indoor cat – an unfortunate result of an apartment lifestyle. However, now that she is living at my dad’s house, she likes to spend as much time as possible outside. Funny how both my cat and I are discovering our primal connections to the simplicity of nature at the same time.
Having just finished my yoga practice in the living room, I run down the stairs and open the door for her. As I grasp the knob, directing it back inward, I feel an energetic pull the other direction and instead head outside as well.
I don’t think I ever realized how peaceful my dad’s garden is. Though it is quite tiny, the stone walkway that ends in the middle of the land is surrounded by several trees and bushes, all bursting with different colored leaves and some with blooming flowers. My bare feet graze the warm cement as I follow my cat into the main part of the garden, squatting into a half louts pose on one of the flat stones that sits directly under a Fuji apple tree. The fog has burned off, allowing the sun to shine brightly upon my rosy face. I squint my eyes and tilt my head upward, enjoying the juxtaposition between the warm sun rays and the cool breeze against my skin.
I take a sensually deep breath and suddenly I am transported back to my childhood. After all, this is the same yard where I played, laughed and cried countless times since we moved into this house almost 30 years ago. This is where I fought with my little brothers about whose turn it was to be ‘it,’ and where I smoked my first cigarette. This is the place where I learned how to shakily throw a basketball into a three-foot hoop and where I received countless hugs and kisses from my mother. I even have an image of her, pregnant with Daniel, standing in the door frame as I ran past her – I couldn’t have been more than four-years-old.
And here I am yet again, technically now 31-years-old but in truth I am in a timeless spot where every Melanie who has ever existed in this backyard is present and with me. Tears begin to stream down my face as my past comes rushing back. I am not filled with fear or anger, but an overwhelming sense of sadness. So many of my years living in San Francisco were overshadowed with a faint yet very real hatred for myself. But how could I have been so hard on such a precious little girl, a confused teenager, a driven 20-something, or the beautiful being that is now sitting out in the sun?
The tears grow even heavier as I express gratitude for the fact that somehow against all odds, I have learned to love myself again with the same enthusiasm and curiosity as that of a child.