What Really Matters

By Joanna ES Campbell 

When the body betrays or the mind plays a trick, this mountain teaches  what really matters. Our house rests in a cleft near the south brow – or, in a friend’s ticklish words, God’s eyebrow. Dennis bakes bread, and I carve thick slices for toast, as if it’s a turkey. 

Love the land

Love yourself

Love others

What really matters are the plants on my window sill and patience in resurrection ferns. The intelligence of paxil.  I follow lichens of their own map-making – places unknown on yellow pine, emerald bark puzzling onto copper needles. I can not hear the forest inside my house. Not really. Not the minute clicks and hicks of a movable world. Are those Ants? Worms? The chatter of millions. 

What matters is the muscle I’ve learned will tear. My fingers will curl from hours of carving. I whittle away the days – literally – stilled by a piece of green maple in my hands and the anatomy growing with each stroke of the knife. I curl the wood and wonder what is left beyond the shape of a spoon. The core. 

What really matters is multivitamins for menopause and heeding the stranger’s advice at Jiffy Lube, “Be gentle with yourself,” she tells me as she pays her bill.  Her muddy boots, perhaps a clue. “It’s real, the effect on your psyche.”  You got it, I nod. 

What really matters is the vulture near the edge of the cliff, the air sliced open by wings. Yes, enough. 

Or the pelican far from this mountain who dives head first into the ocean. Over and over, unflagging in their belief. Yes, enough. 

As if the water knows a secret. 

Maybe it has something to do with the suede roller skates given to me by my wild-haired priest of a husband. Or maybe it is the lynx who spoke in my dream and the moment we became lovers, his paws the weight of snow on my shoulders – he licked my fur until it glowed silver. 

What matters isn’t the worry there are no words, not enough words, words to make sense. What matters is soil speaking each day to the lungs of flora. You are honed by the breathing of trees, rewarded by gleaming spoons and low blood pressure.  What is left? What is left? 

Love the land

Love yourself

Love others

Joanna ES Campbell holds an M.S. in Resource Conservation from the University of Montana and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Seattle Pacific University.  Her checkered past includes teaching ecological literature and land ethics in the Wilderness & Civilization Program at the University of Montana; organizing statewide heirloom tomato festivals; and graduating high school by the skin of her teeth. She is the undefeated 1986 jump rope champion of her elementary school in which she peaked athletically.  Her writing can be found in various guest blogs and anthologies as well as Farming Magazine, Art House America, Arkansas Review, Process Philosophy for Everyone, Relief, and Orion Magazine. She is co-author of the book, Taste and See: Experiences of God’s Goodness Through Stories, Poems, and Food, as Seen by a Mother and Daughter. Joanna lives on Petit Jean Mountain in central Arkansas where she putters with her husband on eleven wooded acres. She is currently writing a lyrical memoir drawn from her experiences of wilderness and community in North America. Follow her blog at joannaescampbell.com 

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