Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Land that Claims Me

Tomorrow is departure day for my first tour. Of course, I ought to be in bed, but I feel the need to stay awake and procrastinate, like a mud-hungry boy on the eve of his first camping trip (with real fire). In the preparation though, unexpected beauty has hit me like a long-forgotten embrace.

I've been reading a lot of women lately: Kathleen Norris, Madeleine L'Engle, Anne Lamott. Add to that a handful of men whose writing is not particularly masculine. I don't say this is a bad thing. Nor do I say that I can pinpoint exactly what it is in writing that evokes masculinity or womanliness. I am beginning to sense that the world behind " His own Image...male and female created He them," is wider and more mysterious than we often credit. Chesterton said that it might take a person a hundred readings for his eyes to be opened to the meaning of what he was reading. Perhaps I am on my ninety-ninth.

I have long been infatuated with the idea of going to Scotland. That is to say, permanently. It represents to me both an adventure and a homecoming to the peaty soil that claims the bones of my ancestors. Its forlorn beauty and miles of windswept moor, its wise and mighty shoulders of metamorphic rock bound in grass and furze, its lonely bird-haunted coast, they all speak to the poet in me like a liturgy. Dig deep, wrestle in the wilderness, the Spirit is like a wind coming and going. I can't deny the restlessness in me that is always looking outward, always feeling my heart sigh with the sound of every airplane, pregnant with possibility. I have friends over the Atlantic, true, and I always long to see them and kiss their faces and laugh at their jokes, but I'm not even sure if it's them I'm truly after. There are many longings, woven into a humanly inseparable tapestry of desire to pack up my girls and head across the sea.

Then tonight, I stood out on the back porch pinning laundry on the lines. Laundry - there's that womanly sensibility coming out. Kathleen Norris calls it a meditative activity. I cannot do it quickly, it makes me slow down. In slowing, feeling the vernal cold on my skin, hearing the dog tags jingle in the dark yard and the Paul Simon train horn in the distance, I felt an unearthly and wonderful peace with this place. I don't know if it has begun to exert some claim over me, to subject me to itself. I have spinach, broccoli, thyme, and lavender in the chilly Spring ground, casting hopeful shadows of family meals to come. I mow the yard and watch the blackberries leaf into wily green scimitars of vine here at Sinclair's Eve, and it feels as though this place and the people near me have some say in my heart. The individual in me longs to refuse, longs to maintain that staunch loneliness that marks me as this thing or that thing.

I feel the start of it,
A knee-jerk Reaction
in the bowel of the Well
in the middle of the Island
I used to be.

I am inescapably part of this community. A product of it? I do not know. Yes? No? After some fashion, probably. It would be arrogant to say that I live anywhere and yet eschew the constant influence of my friends, my neighbors, my enemies, be these people or principalities or the Rivers that clap their Hands. I am starting to be at peace with the idea. And now, of course, I pack my bags to drift through the Midwest for a few days. Absence, and the heart.


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