Let It Go
Reading Time: 2 minutes
This essay originally appeared in Issue 20 of Tahoma Literary Review. "Let It Go" feels like the philosophical antidote to the quarantine fever that so many of us have experienced over the past year+.
On one sweltering, late-summer afternoon in Pennsylvania, the kind of day that invites a certain dreamy idleness, my grandfather taught me how to make clouds disappear. We were sprawled out in the grass of his apple orchard, staring up at some wispy clouds as they drifted by, and as each one dissolved into the blue, my grandfather convinced me that we were willing them away with our minds. I was seven years old at the time and desperate to believe in magic. So I repeated this trick again and again, wishing each new cloud out of existence, quietly thrilled to discover this magic within me.
There was no magic involved in this enterprise of course, just patience, but for weeks I told everyone about my gift. I had never felt—nor have I felt since—this kind of incontrovertible belief in my own power.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this memory lately. As children, we are resigned to a life that is entirely beyond our control. We live by the dictates of our parents and teachers and by the whims of a world that is entirely foreign to us. Even our emotions seem somehow beyond our grasp, always threatening to overwhelm us and reduce us to tears. Then, at seven or eight, magic enters the equation, offering an enticing new prospect of control.
That heady sense of power I felt as a child stemmed from the belief that I had a measure of influence over something outside of myself. But control was an illusion. I know this now. The clouds were effaced by the wind and heat, not by my will. Perhaps my grandfather knew that this illusion was a necessary one. What good would have come from knowing back then that we all live at the mercy of the wind?
The clear springtime skies and the new lull to the days have been drawing my sights upward more often, and I find myself performing this old trick whenever I need to tap into some inner resolve or to feel the power of that childhood belief, even though I’ve long since accepted that there’s nothing outside of myself that’s within my control. In this life I can only bear witness—to the clouds’ languid drift, to their slow attenuation and eventual surrender. It is only when I close my eyes that I can reclaim dominion over anything at all.
Reprinted with permission of the author
Manning had this to say about "Let It Go":
This piece was written early on during the pandemic, when I was trying to come to terms with the apparent capriciousness of life. I've been a fan of the Stoics for years, so I've often meditated on the notion that we have no control over anything outside of ourselves, but one day I was struck with a memory of my grandfather convincing me that I could make clouds disappear. It was a balm for me. There were days during the lockdown when I truly needed to remember that feeling of control. I’m so grateful to my grandfather for this memory.
Joanna Manning (she/her) is a Pennsylvania native who now calls the Pacific Northwest home. Find her—and some creative inspiration—at jlmanning.com.