Snow falls gently outside my window. It is the first day of something new.
When I was nineteen, I loaded up my little red pick-up truck and my old dog Japhy and, together, we hit the road. We traveled south through the Ozarks all the way down to to New Orleans, then west through vast amounts of nothingness. We made our "home" down old logging roads, on the tops of mountains, on the edges of lakes and river and, eventually, the ocean. For nearly a year we traveled this way, with no destination in mind. But, every night, upon arriving at a comfortable place to sleep, whatever strange or wonderful place it might be, I would announce to Japhy: "We're home!" And with those words, both of our bodies would relax into our new environment, wherever it was.
Before buying land and building a house, I lived the life of a traveler--and I loved every second of it. Sometimes I traveled alone and sometimes I had companions. I got good at traveling with the contents of my universe strapped to my back. I never felt lonely. And I never felt out of place. How could I know that one day I would buy a piece of land made up of field, woods and swamp? How could I know that I would plant roots so deeply that, upon leaving, I would feel more lost than I ever before? I've been a traveler much of my adult life, but losing my sense of home--my place, my center--was something new to me. Writing this collection of essays is an act of moving forward. It is an act of letting go. And what has become most apparent to me is that it is a process.
A dear friend recently shared these words of Mother Teresa with me: "I have found the paradox that if I love until it hurts, then there is no hurt, only more love." Writing these essays has helped me to realize the importance of this time in my life. I have never hurt so deeply. And I have never loved so much. All of this--the pain, the struggle, the loss of direction--has brought me to here. I don't know where, exactly, my future will lead me. But I do know that I am grateful for ever single step that has led me from then to Now.
Starlings in Winter
Chunky and noisy,
but with stars in their black feathers,
they spring from the telephone wire
they are acrobats
in the freezing wind.
And now, in the theater of air,
they swing over buildings,
dipping and rising;
they float like one stippled star,
becomes for a moment fragmented,
then closes again;
and you watch
and you try
but simply can't imagine
how they do it
with no articulated instruction, no pause,
only the silent confirmation
that they are this notable thing,
this wheel of many parts, that can rise and spin
over and over again
full of gorgeous life.
Ah, world, what lessons you prepare for us,
even in the leafless winter,
even in the ashy city.
I am thinking now
of grief, and of getting past it;
I feel my boots
trying to leave the ground,
I feel my heart
pumping hard. I want
to think again of dangerous and noble things.
I want to be light and frolicsome.
I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings.
~Mary Oliver (from Owls and Other Fantasies: Poems and Essays).