It is I who must begin
It is I who must begin.
Once I begin, once I try
Here and now,
Right where I am,
Not excusing myself
By saying things
Would be easier elsewhere,
Without grand speeches and
But all the more persistently
. . .to live in harmony
with the “voice of Being,” as I
understand it within myself
….as soon as I begin that,
I suddenly discover,
To my surprise, that
I am neither the only one,
Nor the first,
Nor the most important one
To have set out
On that road.
Whether all is really lost
Or not depends entirely on
Whether or not I am lost.
PREFACE, ONCE AGAIN
Because we left our house, our house that is so much more than beautiful, I am writing this story.
I am writing this story because I have to, because I don’t know what else to do but tell this story to any friend or any stranger who will listen. It’s that kind of story, obsessive and Ancient Marinerish, about a place we had to leave.
Because we are no longer able, for all the reasons
divorce occurs, to be in the place we love the most.
What really happened here?
We don’t all agree on good stories and what they are. I have a friend, she is not a good friend but friend is the right word her name is Maura who told me that stories are at their best when they are about information. She likes her facts, and in some way, what the facts are about doesn’t much matter. She reads to understand.
About me, and maybe it will help for you to understand this story if you understand who I am, for me I would say that I can’t remember a time I didn’t read, don’t remember ever being anywhere without a book, even for one day. My friend Linda slept with two books under her pillow. Just to have them there. The books I choose, that sit by my bed, they are actual books with pages, they aren’t on anything that could be called a device, they are novels and stories and poems.
Every once in a while, maybe once a year, maybe less, someone I know will give me a book that is full of facts. History say, or memoir, Lyndon Johnson or Audre Lord, bio physics or medical cures, neurobiology or a big voyage somewhere like The Dismal Swamp.
Sometimes I read them. And sometimes not. I’d rather read a bad novel, although that does not speak well for the seriousness of my character.
When we decided it wasn’t so much a decision as a waning away when we had no choice but to sell our house, to recognize every single thing changes there is nothing that doesn’t although some of us are very good at pretending that it doesn’t it won’t that nothing will that we can hold on as tightly as possible, just hold on, we can hold on forever. It takes a while to realize that there is no forever. Sometimes there are big moments when life happens, and the rest of the time, we just float along.
This morning my friend Earl described the day he left the seminary. Forty years ago, he was going to become a priest and so he entered a Paulist seminary for a year, where he took a vow of silence. He thought, which he called contemplated because that’s who Earl is a man who contemplates. He walked, he did menial jobs, and he spent time, so much time, considering his own fate. After a year, he decided that priesthood was not for him. Not what he wanted. So he called his brother Eddie and asked Eddie to come and get him. A day later Eddie was there, driving an old family car. They rode away just like that.
I said to Earl, a man I like, as different from me as anyone could be, I said what did it feel like to be picked up in that car. To be taken out of a place you’ve been for a life-changing year, a year of intensity, of silence, of introspection and a year when it’s you and the place where you’re living.
I’m not the type to look back Earl said. I just didn’t. I never thought for a minute about what happened before. I just moved on. That’s what I do. I move on.
Not me. I live my life like I’m an onion, and every single layer is part of the one before. I’ve never been someone who doesn’t connect the parts of my life, who keeps all my friends separate. So many do. I know that. Know that most people, is it most people, it’s hard to say, most people like to separate all the parts of their lives.
For me work and play have always been one long song. People too. The people I love, and there are more than some, I have beenvery lucky in the love department, I want them to love one another. This doesn’t always happen.
So leaving anyone and anywhere is always a big event. We don’t want to leave. We don’t like to leave. Sometimes there’s just no choice. Even the word fissure generates a feeling of dread. I haven’t ended too many friendships. And those that ended, nearly all of them, are still a painful wound.
I stay where I am for as long as I can. So does Nick. We are always happy enough where we are, and it would be hard for us to imagine leaving Just Because. We’re not the leaving types, either one of us. We are both trees more than feathers, accustomed to staying put.
It will not be easy, driving away. Packing up our lives,.
Today we’re still right here. Sitting on our incomparable porch, doing nothing much but looking up.
But this time we know, this will not last.
We will leave this place we truly loved, not for big reasons of power politics, not because of endless tribalism that makes lands mine or yours but for the very ordinary reasons of daily life, the life we all live every one of us no matter who we are no matter what we are. This fact is so easy to forget. This fact that life, our real true life, isonly and always dailiness. Even in war. Even in sickness. Even when the inconceivable
is happening. What we have, most of all, the heart of what we have is every day.
Days are different from history or memory, from conviction or any sort of belief, and while you can look at a day from any lens at all, and we have so many peculiar classifications even gluten has become a Big Classification now but for years I never heard the word gluten used in a sentence.
It feels like every single day I’m telling this same story, over and over again. Everyday. Until I can be sure that you understand what it is I want to tell you. What I want to say.
So many voices, days to tell you about, storied days. So you will understand why this particular love happened. And why it’s so hard to leave. Whoever I meet
in this small village wants to tell me wants to tell you too what living here means. What we see depends so clearly on who we are, and in a place like this one excriating in its wild green beauty imagine the opposite of the word tended and its not untended either what a field might look like if the compulsion to tend to order to control to make decisions for that field just wasn’t there, and then there is the smell of peonies, the pink petally high pitched smell that’s only there, only right there, in this imperfect place.
It’s not just the peonies that we loved.
I’m not saying there aren’t peonies in other places. Of course there are. Still, there is something about these very peonies.
Marge, the local ex policewoman she’s in her eighties and chain smoked for most of those eighty years
I see her every summer day every single day in the post office she lives there all summer Marge says it’s just the way these peonies are pink. She’s right.
We are every single one of us even if we don’t want to be we are all tribal no matter what. Dogs run up our hill with other dogs. But sometimes we are lucky enough and luck does play a role a big role even sometimes we are lucky enough to choose our own tribe.
Someone here maybe the town supervisior his name is Jeremy Ohm but he’s never meditated certainly never took a yoga class I’m sure of that he might have been the hamlet namer. He often makes blanket statements because he made some money in a pipe fitting business and so he’s considered wise.
The post office is our living breathing center, and our post mistress Irene, our town crier, our Ancient Mariner, our own version of Chaucer and his characters Irene is the person we pay the most attention to.
When I told her we were leaving she came out from
behind the window to give me an uncharacteristic hug. Irene is not a hugger.
“You’ll never be gone from here,” she said.