Thursday, October 25, 2012
[I have been sitting on this piece for awhile. Perhaps it's not perfect, or finished, but here it is in its present form.]
You know what I have dreams about? Bookshelves. Yeah, bookshelves. And a tea collection, sharpie pens on canning jars; a big garden. Admittedly, mostly I would like to stand around holding a pitchfork and just do the fun stuff like clipping herbs and digging for potatoes (everyone should dig for potatoes at least once in their lives). But I have dreams of a farm, simple and true, living on the land. I want to fill bookshelves with cookbooks and beloved children's stories. I will lend them to neighbors and read them to kids; they’ll be paged by many hands. But you know what the catch is? I kind of need a house. And some of these lives, the kind that require houses, inspire a whole other kind of dream: the nightmare.
Lately I come out of sleep itchy and sweating through my sheets, or I spend my waking hours in hives, just from living in society. And who am I kidding, I rarely leave the ranch and step (or drive) into the people-world. They aren’t my people anyway, or so I tell myself.
Is this a tired theme? It seems I am always writing about how to survive in the world, how to live in the world. "Listen, are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?" Mary Oliver posed the question and I want so badly to tell her "No!" but sometimes I'm not so sure. Sometimes I don’t get enough air, just timid little sips, a polite girl out of place at the tea party. Other times, it’s sharp, shallow, fast; I get so much I choke on it. I don't want that to be what I call a life either.
Breathing aside, the conundrum is that while I crave bookshelves and everything that goes in them, and a home and everything that goes in it, I also crave the antithesis of that life. I want the other one too, which is wild and free, which can (and should) be lived in many places. It's a floaty, feathery life, but even birds began in nests.
So it’s not as simple as “having the travel bug” or “wanting to settle down.” I get asked about my potential diagnosis of The Travel Bug all the time, and with it comes the sister diagnosis, Not Wanting to Settle Down, which is okay, for now, because I am young (relatively) so I am free (relatively) to be Bright-Eyed and Bushy-Tailed and idealistic for (according to my calculations) 1 year and 3 more months. But everyone is waiting for my other Teva to drop, including me, sometimes.
I don’t think it has to be this way. Tell me that it doesn’t have to be this way.
For a long time, humans did both, right? We travelled in packs and lived on the land, until the land could no longer support our tribe -- and then we moved on. This is in our blood! It’s our ancestry.
In one sense, I suppose this is what I am doing, too, although society has other (less kind) names for it. Lost, drifting, indecisive, irresponsible . . . But is it really my fault that the water's run dry, metaphorically speaking? As my (and your) ancestors did, I'm just following the sun, the stars, my true north. I am looking for any signs of life, trembling new greens, beads and pools of water.
It's hard out here in the wild, because I'm not sure where I'm going or what I'll find when (if?) I get there, but I need to keep moving. Stay where the earth is parched, and I'll dry up too.
The trick is in knowing when to move and when to stay still. I am 99.9% sure that being still should be the precursor to movement. I don’t want to move out of desperation, I don’t want to sit in fear.
Back when we were nomadic, living in tribes, our home was wherever we were, until we weren’t, and then we journeyed to a new one. It occurred to me the other day, while I was simultaneously dreaming and grinding my teeth about What I Want for My Life and My Future Plans, that in every thing I have done (which includes, but is not limited to: going to college, living in South America for 9 months, volunteering on farms, moving to Hungary, loving a boyfriend), I have always been looking for a home. No, that's not right. I am not looking for a home, but for something that feels like my home. Or maybe, yeah, this is it: our home.
But who are we? And who am I? And where is this home, this place that transcends geographical place? Where am I going to find this source of water? Something that will sustain me, that starts from a deep underground place and blossoms to my every surface?
Tonight, the ranch is quiet. No coyotes, yet, just the buzz and croak of frogs. Sleep waits for me. The air is cool and laced with lemon. I wonder what kind of dreams I'll have tonight.
Wednesday, October 24, 2012
I spent quiet week with family in Pretty Marsh, Maine. No internet, just walks through the woods, books in front of the fire, and mornings by the shore, throwing rocks with Charlie.
Charlie finds a spot to sit and then points for me to sit beside him. We throw tiny pebbles and the sounds out of his mouth are equally pebbly - small and cute. He starts reaching for larger rocks, big hunks that sit firm on the shore. He grunts, pulling, and gestures for me to unearth a large chunk of granite, but we leave it. They are perfect seats.
|"Jessica, will you please put the camera down so we can throw some rocks already?"|
"Plop!" we say as rocks sink into shallow waters. The light makes lace of the water, smooth goldenrod seaweed and crusty barnacles illuminated.
I skip shards of shale, and sing "Hop, hop, hop" or usually just "hop, hop" because they don't skip very far. He echoes my sound effects, and adds his own commentary, "Oh wow!"
Mussel shells are sailboats, and we push them off into the salty drink. "Row, row," he sings. It is is favorite song this trip. He begs for it desperately, and sometimes to the point of tears.
Sitting by the shore with this little guy, one of my favorite tiny (for now) humans, was just what I needed. Kids are natural meditators, all senses engaged in the present moment. The gentle laps of water, freckled stones, and squishy seaweed kept us where we were -- sitting very still, at the shore, throwing stones.
I chase the light down the dock and see what my camera will capture.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning says that earth is crammed with heaven.
And here, in Pretty Marsh . . .
For more information about our family vacation spot, visit www.prettymarshrental.com and www.facebook.com/PrettyMarshPartnership.