I find myself at seven o’clock on a Friday evening, sitting in the breezy haven of my bright living room, alone with myself (and, of course, the kittens). It doesn’t dawn on me that it is Friday, and thus an evening of freedom, until I have done a bit of cleaning, have eaten my dinner, and am two hours into BBC’s Pride and Prejudice in an attempt to quell all my misgivings before shuffling off to an early bed. I celebrate with a mug of store-bought iced tea (luxury), and by leaving the washing up for the morning.
I like living alone, and I like being in town, though both these things still hold a fair bit of fear for me. On Saturday mornings I walk to the farmers’ market and admire all the lovely goods which I cannot afford, and hope desperately that I do not see anyone I know. I try to laugh and say how silly of me, and I don’t know what I am afraid of, but I do, don’t I?
All my life has been lived in the country–all the best parts of it. I’ve spent months and seasons in other places, but I have always come back home to my aspens and fireflies and dark, starry skies afterwards. But not this time. This time, this city is home to me. This city is where I return to, this city is where I rest, and where I adventure, and where I dream alone in the evenings with my windows thrown wide to catch the cool. I hope to hide from anyone familiar to me, because I am afraid of someone finding this out.
It feels a bit like a betrayal. As though I am turning my back on so many of the things I love and value by moving away from them for convenience’s sake. Leaving my family’s farm, getting a job at a desk in an office, living in an apartment off Main Street. I have always loved this city, have always thought I should like to live in it, and I do, and yet it is not, in the end, what I want for myself. It is not the sort of life I love best.
I have often thought of this. Thought about the kind of life I say I want, the kind of life I say I value above all others. It is an old way of life, and it is, too, a dying way of life. It is not one that is easily practicable anymore in most places–it is not practicable at all, I think, for someone who was not born into it, or born into a very great sum of money with which to buy it. I have, in a limited fashion, a bit of the birthright. But I certainly do not have the money, and I have directed my life thus far in a manner that renders it unlikely that I ever shall have any more of either than I already do.
All my aspirations tend backwards and downwards, from a socially current perspective. I would like to be a farmer and a dancer. I would like to have as an adult everything I had as a young child, and nothing more–nor nothing less, either. I am not sure if I wish for too much or too little.
I am equally unsure if this is a good wish to have. I find myself clinging so desperately, so stubbornly, to things that I can no longer tell if I value because they are valuable, or because I have built myself an image out of them that is pleasing to me, but nothing more than an idyll, or an idol. I have made so much of my desire to stay in Vermont, of my desire to farm the way my parents do, of my desire to never have more than I need and never devote my life to work I do not love, no matter what the pay, or the cost. I have said that this hard, physical work is good in a way that nothing else is, that it contains a joy that does not exist outside it, that it draws me closer to God than anything else ever could. I have said that I never want to leave it, that I never want to do more with my life than this.
How much of this is real, and how much of this is pride and a silly girl’s fancy that she knows what is best and that the books she reads are more right than the life she sees lived out by those around her? How much of this is me, and how much of this is my image?
For I am quite aware that I have one–an image. This blog itself is a shouting testament to that. I told someone once that in loving me, one is loving also Vermont–that one cannot have the one without the other. How silly, and how prideful! This place is deep in the very center of my heart, but there is so much else in this world, and there is potential for so much else in me. And there is, too, so much else in my beloved state that does not touch me at all, that is greater than I can imagine and certainly far too much to be contained in one soul.
I am very afraid of things changing. I am very afraid of the ways things already have. I am bound by that fear. I feel caught, held, even held back. I am captured by the high, poetic, beautiful image I have created of What My Life Should Be, and I am unable to move around it, past it, or, it seems, into it. The perfect future I have dreamed and dreamed for myself is like a painting–lovely to look upon, intricate in depth and detail and beauty, but still only bright canvas, still bound by a frame. I can stand in this in-between to gaze on it, but I cannot go into it, and I cannot turn away. What of this is real?
It seems I have not yet found the next horizon, and I have a long journey still to make.
Photos taken along the Marginal Way, Ogunquit, Maine.