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  • Writer's pictureJaime Pollard-Smith

City of Rocks

Patient, plodding, a green skin

growing over whatever winter did to us, a return

to the strange idea of continuous living despite

the mess of us, the hurt, the empty.

-Ada Limón, “Instructions On Not Giving Up”

This summer on a trip through Idaho with my dad, we visited City of Rocks National Reserve. There are giant rock formations that resemble identifiable objects, such as Elephant Rock, Twin Sisters, Window Arch and Breadloaves. These landmarks were used on the California Trail by emigrants searching for a better life out west.

As we rode through the “city,” I couldn’t help but imagine the enormous sense of relief the weary travelers must have felt upon seeing these giant boulders rising in the horizon. These rocks were confirmation that they were not lost, which many of them celebrated by signing their names on the rocks’ surface. The signatures are still visible today.

I recently stumbled upon my own metaphorical City of Rocks. With all of the recent upheaval and change in my life, I was operating in a one-foot-in-front-of-the-other mode. It was MLK Jr.’s idea of not needing to see the entire staircase before taking the first step. While the work of setting up the second chapter of my life has been necessary and validating, it has also felt like survival mode. At times I have struggled to find myself buried in the rubble and the busyness. Add to that the global impact of a pandemic altering the way we function in our everyday lives, and I felt much like a weary pioneer in search of some sign of my true self.

Cue my “City of Rocks.”

I just moved to a new home, started a new semester of teaching, and returned to some normalcy in my life. Somewhere amidst my persistent onward movements, I began to notice familiar landmarks of my core self.

In my favorite yoga class, at a poetry reading, doing a partner workout with my best friend, teaching a writing workshop with students in an actual classroom, working on projects for an upcoming community literacy project, making plans for future trips and celebrations with friends, and even writing this blog...

Here, along the dusty and strenuous trails of my life, I found myself again.

Reconnecting with who I am came as a natural consequence of taking some brave steps forward. Establishing a new home and stepping out of the familiar (not to be confused with comfortable) and into a fresh beginning is frightening; however, with each friend and loved one who passes through my front door, I smile at the same response. “It is so YOU.”

It is. It’s me. And I love it.

I always preach the power of telling our story, but writing and living it is the ultimate liberation. Choosing to listen to myself and move forward into the unknown brought me to right where I need to be. I am grateful for recent landmarks of self along this journey. I will sign my name to this place and keep carrying on.

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