“After a while the middle-aged person who lives in her head
begins to talk to her soul, the kid.”
–Anne Lamott, from the novel Joe Jones
Yesterday morning I awoke to perfection. My eyes fluttered lazily in the pre-dawn moments as a lilac-scented breeze shivered through the curtains and the wind chimes tinkled while a growing chorus of bluebirds and warblers, robins and wrens greeted the rising sun. I lay silently for a few, precious minutes, basking in the peaceful glory–but then my traitorous mind remembered the long list of chores awaiting my attack, and I stumbled grudgingly from my haven.
When I retired almost two years ago, I mistakenly thought all my days would be my own, to do with as I pleased. And while I do spend a disproportionate amount of time in my pajamas (which can be verified by the Fed Ex delivery man, the UPS man, the mail lady and the neighbors), I am almost always busy–too busy–letting the weight of responsibilities and the expectations of the world steal my days and consume my thoughts. There is always just so much to do.
I’m sure you know exactly how that feels.
And so it is no wonder that my spirit cherishes those rare occasions when I can push aside the multitude of grown-woman worries and fears and allow the tender, awe-struck child within to bubble to the surface. Just when I begin to worry that I have lost her forever, buried alive beneath the rubble of Superwoman obligations, she suddenly reappears, and my faith is restored. How can I possibly surrender to this old-age nonsense when there’s still a giddy little girl inside me?
I remember the first time in my adult life when I realized my inner child was still alive and well. I was on a dream trip to New York, attending a Broadway musical with friends, and for the entire two hours of the musical I could not stop smiling. Sure, I was still a boring, frazzled English teacher from the Ozarks, but for that brief time I was also a giddy little girl dazzled by the big ol’ world opening before me.
Giddy Girl reappeared a few years after the New York trip when I was meandering on the sunrise beaches of Sullivan’s Island–and then again several years after that when I was standing in silent reverie at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. And then she emerged again when I was riding on the back of my husband’s motorcycle through the Jemez Mountains of New Mexico and exploring the sprawling, old streets of Santa Fe. And more than once last summer she surfaced while we were taking sunset boat cruises around the lake.
And although I never know for sure when Giddy Girl is going to make her presence known, every one of her visits seems to be accompanied by the same sentiments.
Peace. Contentment. Joy.
Thanks to my husband, I recently had the grandest giddy-girl experience yet. For Christmas, he gave me a gift certificate to attend a three-day photography workshop in April with famed nature photographer Tim Ernst–three days of hiking through the woods of Northwest Arkansas, shooting waterfalls and wildflowers and absorbing as much as my frazzled mind could comprehend. It was a gift so thoughtful and generous that it made this grown woman cry while her inner child squealed in excitement and immediately marked off on the calendar how many more “sleeps” there were before the Big Day.
And when that Big Day finally arrived four months later, my inner child bubbled to the surface again and stayed there for the entire three days. I was over the moon with excitement, somersaulting through the clouds and sliding down rainbows (or something equally as goofy).
I was a little girl wading through the ice-cold, knee-deep waters of rushing creeks. So what if the grown, non-swimming woman worried about being viciously attacked by lurking water moccasins or being swept downstream into the crashing boulders? The grown woman used her tripod as a walker to brace against the rapids while the little girl bravely splashed her way through the current because she had been promised waterfall prizes on the other side.
I was a little girl shrieking in terror when the baggy containing one of my lenses fell from my vest–and a grown woman grateful for the knight in shining armor (dressed in husband clothes) who rescued the lens, unharmed, before the current carried it away.
I was a little girl traipsing down over-grown trails and climbing over colossal, fallen logs–and when one of those fallen logs decided the grown woman needed to join it on the rocky ground, the little girl blushed in embarrassment but picked herself up, brushed the dirt and dead leaves off her bruised knees and elbows and backside, and hobbled on.
I was a little girl excitedly scampering through a field of enchanting wildflowers, so focused on clicking away at all the beauty that I never noticed the poison ivy tangling at my feet and silently spewing its venom. And even though the grown woman paid for that inattentiveness for several miserable weeks to come, the little girl within wouldn’t have traded that wildflower paradise for all the Benadryl and calamine lotion in the world.
And I was a little girl desperate for the teacher’s attention and approval, staying up late into the evening, editing pictures and asking questions and seeking advice and cherishing occasional compliments. The grown woman knew the alarm clock’s shrill was only hours away, but she also knew she could sleep when she got home–that this time was too precious and priceless to be frittered away in wasted slumber.
And even though it was an old woman who slept (and scratched) for days after returning home, she never stopped smiling, and she’s smiling still–for she has finally realized that the child within will always be with her. That giddy little girl has claimed a permanent place in the grown woman’s dancing soul and is joyfully waiting for her next opportunity to bubble to the surface again.
What a lucky girl I am.
So what about you–what makes you giddy with delight? What brings you such peace, contentment and joy? And if you don’t know those answers yet, please keep searching until you do–your inner child will thank you. I promise.
These are just a few of my photos from the workshop, and if you think you might be interested in attending one of Mr. Ernst’s photography workshops, you can find more information here.
Wild phlox by the roadside . . .
Six Finger Falls . . .
Wild iris (with poison ivy hiding somewhere nearby) . . .
Fuzzybutt Falls . . .
Morning fog over the “Arkansas Grand Canyon” . . .
One of my first attempts at night photography . . .
My favorite–a cascade at Big Creek Falls . . .
And Giddy Girl being schooled by one of the instructors, Ray Scott, who is an exceptional photographer himself. You can view his photo galleries or order one of his books here.