A year ago, I wrote on the about page of this blog that I felt caught Between Horizons. I felt I needed to choose between what was safe and small and familiar–this farm held encircled in the hollow palm of the Green Mountains, writing and dance, the enchantment of books–and what was distant and unknown and outside my comfort zone, what seemed somehow bigger, more important–academia, the power of words, a place where I could contribute to something greater, where the things my education has given me are not too big.
I wrote that I struggled to feel truly at home anywhere, because now, after all I had learned, I knew too much for this tiny, land-locked haven of simplicity, with its snow and its tourists and its cute covered bridges, where the conversation at the dinner table centers on the quality of last year’s hay, new breeding stock, that darned ram. I knew too much to belong here anymore, because here was small and I was grown large with all I had learned and this was no bad thing–just frightening, because it meant I had to leave.
I determined to slip off to the far horizon and find my home in study and research and the pages of a thousand beloved books. To find answers. There was a mad, last-minute scramble to write my personal statement, put together something like the baffling CV, submit my application to the Medieval Institute one hour before it was due in early January. I’m proud of that work–the writing, the determination, the way my professors were eager to send references and wish me all the best.
I finished my last year of college, sat out on hot AstroTurf under a blazing sun–the first and only time I ever set eyes on the football field–next to a row of slap-happy sorority girls who smuggled a water bottle full of vodka all the way across Hope’s dry campus for the occasion. Nine hundred and fifty one students made their way one by one to the end zone and walked across the stage to shake the president’s hand. My Dance professors shouted as I took my diploma, and the love and support I felt in their gaze when I turned to look out over the sea of blue gowns and velvet caps was overwhelming.
I went home. I woke up at 5:00 every morning, all summer, to work until noon at a farm down the road, in the dirt and the mist and the free air.
Our own farm hosted a string of visitors, too. My college room mate came, and we ate bagels in the grass in downtown Barre. A famous artist stayed with us for three days and found a new home in the town where my Father works. Another dear friend from Hope stopped by–we made jam and pricked our arms on the cucumber plants in the greenhouse.
We had another visitor, too, who showed up on our doorstep at midnight one Friday in July, with mussed hair and a suitcase full of coffee, eager to work. On my afternoons off, he and I painted the house, moved miles of fencing, mowed fields, and sang. I took him to my favorite places–the long lawn outside the state capitol, Strafford village, Old City Falls. We went dancing his last evening in Vermont, after a
storm had felled trees and killed the power all the way down Route 113. The hall was lit by car headlights and gas lanterns, the caller using a microphone run on power siphoned off a truck battery. We re-wrote poetry together and drove ten miles under the speed limit the whole way home.
I went on with the plan I had made. I entered graduate school. I stood on the brink of the far horizon, and I stared out into the wider unknown. Yet without Art, without the chance to work with my hands, without dance or wonder or sub-creation, I was stifled. Without space to create, I lost my voice. I turned back.
And so I am returning, for now, to this land of my childhood, but I am not choosing the easy, familiar way. What I am choosing is hard, and it is not a safe step back into my comfort zone. My home is not small, nor even entirely familiar. There is more than I could ever hope to learn, here. What I am choosing, in coming back, is unlike anything I have ever done, and though it will not last forever, it is a season I embrace eagerly.
It is thanks to the wide-eyed and wondering perspective of the many visitors to my home last summer that I have learned to say this, see this–these strangers to my land. Thanks to the ceaseless love and support of my parents, to the wisdom of old friends from long away, to the encouragement even of those still standing on that far horizon, passing beyond. It is thanks to the humility, the ready enthusiasm, the deep and catching gratitude of the young man with the coffee-filled suitcase, who let me see this way of life through his own warm and eager eyes, who found lasting value in all we do here, who came back again for Christmas.