It starts early, this idea of a starting line, when we are children playing games or lining up for class. There is an order and it begins with a specific place, a line on the ground, a boundary designating where to start. You go to the line, but don’t step over it. Stay behind it. That is the right place to start. And then you run the race or play the game or file into the room in an orderly fashion according to the rules of that activity. As a child, you may have taken delight in the order and the certainty, knowing where to start and how to progress. Or perhaps you felt the rebellious need to defy these seemingly arbitrary constructs. Regardless of your response, chances are you were unaware of the blissful state of ignorance around a critical aspect of starting lines: the idea that they will always be there. Because sometime later, you will find yourself in a world with no clear starting line from which to begin.
You may just find yourself standing in the middle of a bunch of weeds in a strange place.
No plans and no starting line.
Perhaps some people never feel this sense of disorientation. But I doubt it. I imagine it catches up with all of us eventually although it may take longer to reach some whose lives contain more of that clear linear order than others. For myself, I believe the death of my mother around age 10 produced a permanent sense of being slightly disoriented, as though my inner compass suffered a wrenching twist that I have been painstakingly trying to repair ever since. With order swept away by this loss, I can see and feel my halting starts and turns through life, still looking for that bright line of guidance. And finding it elusive and invisible.
Without a clear line from which to start, it becomes apparent that what you need is not the right place to start, but just a place to start if you want to move forward. Any place. It doesn’t matter. Forget what you learned as a child, the starting line, the order of procession, the rules of the game. Just begin anywhere. Even if it is smack dab in the middle, the thickest part of the thick of it, the messiest or the most difficult. Or take the path of least resistance, a place where you have a little wiggle room to grow and rest. There is no place for judgement in this decision and perhaps even no long term goal. It is just a beginning…and it can happen whenever and however you want.
I started under the poor butchered pear tree in the middle. The ground around it was already mostly bear, so it would be easiest to clear. It was good I started in an easy place, because the soil is full of clay and resistant to planting. It needed a lot of tilling and mulching before it was ready for plants, so I was glad to be able to focus on this rather than just digging up the crabgrass. It is always good to have a bit of planting with all that clearing away, a little something to look forward to in the midst of a getting rid of what you don’t want.