Beautiful Unknown

There are things that I want to say, but I haven’t yet learned how. There are things I want to talk about, write about, think about, that are still somehow strange to me, but that are important, so important, and I don’t know how to approach that. I want to tell you what I am doing. I want to figure that out, so I can tell you. I want to discover how to make this life I am living one I am proud of–one that I can look at, today, tomorrow, ten years from now, thirty, fifty, and know without a doubt that it is good. How does one make a life like this?

I find myself thinking often about legacy, and slowly, carefully moving closer to that word again. Because it is something I have pushed back from these past years, and now I wonder. I wonder about how it feels, to be a part of a thing that has carried on for years before me, and that will carry on after me still. Part of a thing that says I do not exactly matter on my own; rather, it is how I decide to join with those before and connect them to those after, how I do or do not break this chain, that matters, deeply. I wonder about the goodness of hard work outdoors, and the difference between this and the work I have been doing the past four years, away at school. Because there is such a difference–but I can no longer point to one and say it is better than the other, as I have before. I wonder about the legacy my family is making together, and I wonder how I will be a part of it if I am not here, in Vermont, in these mountains that have helped to raise me. I wonder how I can help but be a part of it, no matter where I am or how far I go. I wonder if I have the courage to go. I wonder if I have the courage not to. I don’t know which is best, and maybe that is best.

I find myself thinking about friendship, thinking in a pattern that circles, circles, circles in a question that doesn’t have an answer yet. What is it, really? The moment I think I know, the moment I think I have it in my hand, the thing jumps and swoops and dives again, and it is off, flying, circling, and it is beautiful in the sun and glorious in the rain and I can’t catch it in my two palms. If it touches my fingertips, it is because the thing itself has come to me, and not because I have reached out and grasped it. I think of the ways that friendship creates a hole that can never be filled by anyone or anything save that which formed it, and I wonder if that is real. I wonder if there is a way for old friends gone silent to ever find their way forward again to speech, and I hope and pray and beg that this be possible. I wonder why ‘hole’ and ‘whole’ are somehow, miraculously, not mutually exclusive. I wait to find my whole among the holes, and I pray daily for the healing of them, because to heal a hole is to fill it, and I long for the return of those who have left me empty. I long for my return to heal their emptiness, as well. The interstate is long and wind-rocked, and I drive for hours a week, and there is plenty of time for praying. I cycle through the same words, the same pleas, the same faces, every time, because I love you, and I want you to be safe, and I want you to be happy, and I want your holes to be filled too.

I find myself thinking about joy again, and wondering how it fits into my life. It is a thing that seems to be constantly changing. I made my first friend through joy, and I lost my first friend through the same. I wonder if it is good to be sad about good things, or if through the sadness, we are belying the goodness. I honestly don’t know. I think maybe we are blind in the sadness. I know that if I do not take joy in the good that is past, I will only ever be discontented with the good that is now. The color of the wheat fields may make me cry–but isn’t the best line of a poem only beautiful in its right context? To return to the wheat fields, to return to the line, is to wreck that beauty, to render it cheap. And there is so much beauty! To destroy it all would be a horror and a terror, and a disloyalty. Is joy always accompanied by optimism? Can optimism weep? I don’t know.

I begin to hunger after the legacy that is handed down to me, after my place in this great chain. I see the work, the life, the earth, unfolding around me, and I know beyond a shadow of doubt that this is what I want my life to look like–this slow unfolding, this diving deeper into a place, this building of home and growing of roots in the same small patch of soil. I want my roots deep, not broad. Broad roots are thrilling and not quite safe, and that is wild and wondrous beauty. But deep roots are firm, unshakable, everlasting. Deep roots are untouched by frost or fire. Deep roots will not wither or pull free from the soil they stand in, no matter how strong the gale.

I wonder if it is possible to form roots like this in more places than one without killing them. I do not think I want roots in several places–then none of them could grow deep, because they would share my life between them, and I do not have enough to give to so many growing things. I would wear myself out, and these many roots would become stifled and stifling, and I may as well be left with none at all. I wonder if it is possible to form roots like this in something that is not Place. If it is possible to form deep roots in another human soul. Ties to Place, ties to a community, a fellowship, even–these I understand. But I don’t know how to plant roots in another single soul. I do not want my home to be everywhere and nowhere both at once. I do not want to be able to pick up my roots and carry them with me, because then they would no longer be roots, would they? They would connect me to nothing, and there would be no stability, and no home. I want to have a home.

I am dancing again. I am living in my parents’ house, I am sleeping in my old bedroom, I am searching for work that is some kind of permanent. I fall asleep every night with one of my cats beside me, and wake up in the morning to the other one staring me down, purring. I am afraid of the debt I have, left over from my four years at college, every cent of it worth it. I am thrilled to be at home all day, here again to witness the seasons as I grew up with them, from a position that is closer to the earth, closer to the wind, closer to growing things. I am happier than I have been. I am confused about life and how very big this country is. I take a walk in the relative warmth and laugh because the roads are muddy and my boots stick and I have missed this so much, I have missed the way that spring tastes, I have missed the sound of running water, I have missed these huge snowflakes that fall fat and fast because it is warm and the sun is shining through the snowfall and turning it to gold and that is something miraculous, and I have missed that miracle, I have missed the way that everything is different here, and I have missed the way that everything is somehow undeniably right and whole and the smell of the barn trickles into the living room and that is good and a spring bubbles up in the middle of our driveway and that is good and cars get stuck in knee-deep ruts and that is good and I have time to breathe and think and be and that is good.

I wonder if I will ever grow roots this deep again. I look ahead and see the years and the miles, and they go on beyond my sight, and there is plenty of time for growing and dying and leaping forward and pruning back and learning how to make new roots and returning to the old ones. I wonder if I will know that I have sunk new roots into another place, another soul, until I stop to look back and see that I have, long ago, and they are good, and they are strong, and they are deep. I hope that they will be deep.

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