Going Home

Home is an illusive changing thing.  As a child, “home” needed no definition: it was a reality and a rhythm and an unquestioned state of being.  As a fresh college student returning for a break, home seemed like a shadow, still connected but I stood somehow separate and above – casting a past and projecting a future.  After traveling the world and returning home, the sense of familiar remained but seemed strangely floating and undefinable –  I interpreted this as a change in myself.  I had this unsettled feeling deep within that I no longer belonged in the place where I had become.  I remember a sense of fear at this discovery.

Many years have gone by, and at various times this creeping fear has surprised me by its reappearance in my life.  Sometimes it has been grippingly present as I wake in the morning, only fading slightly by the time my head hits the pillow at night.  My mind has groped for reasons, ways to understand this unwelcome feeling within, attempting to find coping mechanisms for existing in the present.

Recently have I realized that a longing for “home” has little to do with place and everything to do with self.   There is, within humanity, a desire to have a mummified self held safe and sound in a known location.  As long as we have that, we can travel the world, fall in love, change social groups, bring new humans in the world, change and be changed in nearly every way.  Then at Christmastime, when that bite of great-grandma’s pie hits your tongue *BAM* mummified self sighs with relief.  Home nostalgia floods the senses.  All is right in the world.

I’m in my thirties and after a long absence from the place where I grew up, I am moving my family across the country back to my mountains.  Only, there is no going back.  Our language reflects this idea that we can “go back” to places, but we can’t.  Nothing is static, not us, not home, not place, not people.  Nothing.  The mummified self doesn’t exist.  For the first time in my life, I am so very thankful for this.  I find it freeing.  I can embrace the change in my self and the change in the place and the change in others that is the reality of the present.

So, Home, I am coming.  But I am not coming back.  I am coming to discover you again, delight in the sense of familiar, resolve the awkwardness we will have when we find where we have both changed, introduce you to the small human selves that run around outside of me, and invite you to discover the love of my life who is inextricable to my self.  This family that I bring is more my home than any place will ever be, but I am so excited to watch you captivate and enchant each other.

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Fear-Frosted Veins

The cold wraps around me.  Like an unwelcome guest, it breaks through my skin and hits my bones.  Iowa excels, once it hits freezing it decides to keep falling, skydiving and hoping that the rope catches before zero.  I sky-dove once and was sore for days.  I didn’t feel immortal.  Gravity pulls, always pulls, towards solid ground as though it wants to consume everything into itself whole and entire.  The dirt stops it.  We don’t fall into the earth’s core because of dirt and earthworms.

I have hairs in my nose.  I forget about them most of the time.  The only time I remember them is when my breath turns to steam and comes rushing out of my lungs to gleefully greet the atmosphere only to be shocked motionless at my nose hairs. Mini icicles form in my nostrils, reminding me of their existence.  FEAR, like gravity, pulls insatiably towards the depths.  But earthworms don’t stop it.  It’s a sinkhole for the soul.  It will encompass you like the cold and seep into your pores, leaking by osmosis into your bloodstream.  It doesn’t belong there, but given the right permeability, it will let itself in without knocking.

Window frost occurs when glass is not properly insulated.  Most of the time the inside air and outside air know their places, neighbors that have conversations only in the warm Spring or Summer months, maybe even when the first chill of Autumn heralds and the novelty of it causes windows to fling open.  Frost breeches civil niceties.  It senses the warmth and moisture inside and in the cold of winter, creeps up the window under the pseudonym of Jack and makes pictures on the glass.  Most of them are pretty.

Fear is not pretty, but it does creep.  It doesn’t belong inside us.  It craves our peace – not to abide in it but to devour it.  It feeds on peace like hoarfrost, it makes our green souls aged and grey before their time.  Caring not for dermal layers, it dives deep into our veins with its icy breath and spreads like frost in the night.  Only it doesn’t leave pretty pictures.  It etches into the heart like a Blackhorned Pine Borer.  The borer rarely chooses healthy trees.  It chooses stressed ones, the kind that have low defenses to creeping things.  It injects larvae and they do their work, eating away at life.

Souls are trees.  Sunshine, water, roots in healthy dirt – these provide the nutrients needed for survival.  If the pine borer has taken a limb, it must be cut off.  Cut off the old man. Embrace the incensive power of the soul.  Find the rot and be rid of it.  Be thankful, always thankful.  Where you are not, you will find discontent and hungry larvae winding their way under your bark.  Cling to joy and in its warmth, the frost will melt.  Grasp to truth and the deadly pestilence will flee.  Angels will guard you, they will protect your toes.  That’s what the psalmist says.  Gravity will always pull and fear will always creep but the souls of the redeemed will soar.  In the moments of clarity, insulate your windows.

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We’re All Terminal

I wake.  I write, I write it all, I write it now because now is all I have.  The moment to come may bring a waking child, a mosquito vibrating around my ear, or a jack-hammer trying to break through the concrete and my reverie.  But now, now is silent.  Now is mine.  In the recent past (recent is, of course, relative to your sense of time; for here I will say recent is few years), I have not written for fear.  Fear of being too full to write.  Fear of starting in the wrong place and not having time (when did time become so precious?) to end where I wanted.  These are surface things.

I am not secretive. My thoughts are scarce my own before they’re shared. This is how I live, how I’ve always lived.  Open.  Flowers stay open under the right circumstances: water, sun, earth, chlorophyll and photosynthesis.  They take droplets of light and turn them into life.  During the span of time which I’ve called the recent past, there is a deeper reason I have not written.  It has something to do with nyctinasty, that mysterious lot of flowers that close at night.  The nyctinastics elude scientific explanation.  Some think that the petals grow at different rates of speed, so the top petals are forced to shut.  Maybe. Others say that the flower is protecting its powers of reproduction by closing at night, when the dew is the heaviest.  No one knows why they close, but scientists keep making up answers.  We will never know because flowers are not emotive nor, under most circumstances, talkative.

A butterfly cannot always be beautifully fluttering about.  We grew butterflies in our living room.  They started as specks and grew into caterpillars at an alarming rate.  Then, magic happened.  The greatest change occurred out of sight.  Somehow a speck grabbed a blanket, wrapped it close around itself with hot cocoa and came out a butterfly, fully equipped with the latest flying paraphernalia.  Magic.  I, too, closed up for the night.  Special blanket in tow, I plopped a marshmallow into my cocoa and cocooned myself for an indefinite length of minutes.  Or years.  Grace abounded. I’ve changed and been changed. Marriage changed me, changes me.  Motherhood transformed me, transforms me.  My wings may not have hardened yet, but they will soon.  I feel it coming and I will fly.

The first butterfly we released into the great outdoors burst out strongly.  She almost made it to the sidewalk when a mockingbird dove and tackled it, quite brutally, to the ground in front of my two-year-old daughter.  Life is bloody. Death is inevitable.  What would I write if it were my last day?  What would I write to you if it were yours?  We are all terminal.  I write again because now is all I have.

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Gravity (and a Southern rainstorm)

The clouds roll in like Poseidon on his chariot of waves, across the expanse above. The voice of thunderclaps shatter the silence as what was dark becomes light as day for a brief moment. The moon washes out, or perhaps hides her face while none can see her, as lightning illumines the earth – well, at least the part I can see. No drops of water serve as messengers, no precursors given.

Then all torrents break loose.

Someone turned on the cosmic showerhead to drown and drench me. Why does it smell so fresh when I know it is bringing with each little drop the “impurities” of the air – smog, dust, pollen, and all of China’s pollution? But I don’t smell chow mein – not even as the drops get bigger. I smell freshness, and it is lovely.

Over my face and down my neck the streams descend – apparently gravity can even bully these storms around. Pulling, always pulling everything to that place called “ground”. Ground may not be the prettiest thing ever, dull, brown and rocky, but it has gravity on its side. Perhaps gravity knows something I don’t. I know that it keeps me here on the ground, and right now pulls all the elements down to it. I have become merely a bridge from sky to ground, with water walking (sometimes running) over me.

I seek power, not for myself, but in anything which man cannot contain. This rain has power, this gravity has power, this wind (oh, this wind!) has power – and NOTHING man can do could contain it or stop it, govern, harness, or rule it. So I love it. And so does my hair. It likes to break out of its bun and be free and wild, surrendered to the forces. Powerless, alone, free; if it stormed like this everyday I might just start a revolution. I don’t know against who or what, but I know gravity would be on my side.

Nostalgic Starry Moment

I would never disrespect the moon in all her beauty – but in her absence such glories fill the heavens! Like small woodland animals who only appear in my absence, or when they think I do not see – so do these stars and planets come forth while Luna’s back is turned. Three skies I will always remember, they are imprinted on the dome of my mind: the first because it was the first time I wondered at the expanse, the second because of with whom it was shared, the third because I was alone and my thoughts were free to roam without any inhibition from star to galaxy to constellations I have no name for, nor need for one.

Curious to me that these lights appear best when the Ruler of the night is away from home. I wonder if they feel the short-lived liberation of a people right after the victory of a revolution: all in revelry until in sobriety they stop their dances as the fear of unbridled liberty creeps over them – in the darkness anything can happen.

Tonight they truly do dance, the scholars call this a “meteor shower, but I know that the little starts have gotten tired of wearing shoes and staying put, and want to jump into a river yet unbeknownst to them – a planetary pool of delight. The larger ones, they leave a longer tail behind as they are pushed out of their nesting places by the older ones. “Time to fly” their parents say. My very favorite, though, are the ones which linger a moment to make sure I am watching – these are the wise sages of the bunch, and as they move slowly across the years of timelessness, they impart wisdom to all they pass. It is the echoes of these voices which pierce the imaginary divide between them and me, and I am wiser for their words unspoken yet comprehended.

I sadden knowing the starry host will soon be hid from me, not by light of moon, but by light of man as I move to a “city”. I can only hope some of those which I have come to know so well will peek out from time to time to tell me the stories I am missing, the tales told while I’m away. And perhaps they’ll fall in my direction. I can always hope.

18 August 2009

When I awoke this morning, all was going to be well.

Then I had lunch with some lovely people, and enjoyed the wife’s dessert immensely. Five minutes later, when my mouth felt like fire ants were fighting a war in there, I calmly asked if there had been walnuts in the dessert. “Why yes,” the kind woman responded, “finely ground for the best flavor.” Benadryl. Home. Bed. 2 Hours of induced sleep. Check.

Feeling I had timed it all spectacularly, I went to work feeling quite well, though my mouth was perhaps a little itchy still. Minor offense indeed. I should here suffice it to say that my Lymphatic System is working spectacularly these days. The walnut bit went off alright, so why not add a little something to the pot and see if the ol’ body held up?

How about…..oh yes, a scorpion sting……..make that a triple shot.

The little bugger had crawled up inside my pantleg while I was working, because, really, I need more excitement in my life.