“Lean into me,” he said.
It was like something out of a Simon Ortiz poem:
And the stone wall
I lean upon spins me
wordless and silent
to the reach of stars
I hesitated, suddenly too conscious of the sharpness of my shoulders, the hunch of my back, the stickiness of my skin. It was a lesson in finding spaces: finding the curve of someone’s neck to nudge your head into; finding the end of someone’s reach to extend with your own fingertips; finding a space to coexist, even if only for a brief moment.
This has been my relationship with Aotearoa. It’s been nineteen months. At times I hear him whisper in my ear, inviting me to settle, to nestle myself into his embrace. I feel warm. I feel like a part of me could be at home here.
But then, like wind against stone, I realize that I’ve bent myself around him and “the stone wall / I lean upon spins me / wordless and silent” once again. Suddenly, the stone is too cold to lean against. Suddenly, it is too hard. Suddenly, I no longer want to bend. I want to travel straight. I want to pretend that I know the path that I am meant to follow. I want to decide.
When I pull back and tense my shoulders he senses my retreat and says again, this time not suggesting but requesting, “Lean into me!” It’s the same poem again, different part:
Lean into me.
sings in quiet meditation.
We are wordless:
I am in you. (lines 24-26)
It’s always been my nature to resist: to struggle, to fight against stone, to pound my fists against the surface, knuckles bleeding, fingers bruised. I’ve never been one to open, not completely anyway. But Aotearoa taught me.
The journey up to the stone was smooth. Leaving my Hawaiʻi and moving was the easy part. It was trying to determine what to do when I got there that took time.
We are measured
by vastness beyond ourselves.
Dark is light.
Stone is rising. (lines 7-10)
Like Maui who raised islands from the ocean, I rose stone, pulled it from the land, and watched it grow taller as I neared its base. That’s when I faced the harsh reality, “Now what?”
The truth is that when we embark on a new journey, filled with excitement at the novelty of it all, we eventually find ourselves lost, without grounding. That’s when we begin to question ourselves, to dig deep searching for purpose, for direction, for guidance,… anything.
It was in my moment of desperation that he whispered to me, insisting I lean into him. Abandoning my normal reserve, my instinctual hesitation and fear, was a journey in itself. And it was when I finally released the need to determine my path—when I learned that the wind is meant to bend, meant to twist and twirl, and circle back around—that I was able to flow, allowing the stone to send me in unexpected directions.
I leaned in, resting more of my weight on his chest. And slowly, I worked myself into spaces, into crevices and pockets that seemed created just for me. Then, like a warm breeze on a sticky summer night, I wrapped myself around him, my limbs relaxing. Wordless. I was in him. Wordless. I reached for the stars beyond my ceiling. Wordless. I found the universe within.