Friday, November 09, 2007

a sense of place

I would like to report that I finished the last 10 pages of my thesis with gusto and then broke open a bottle of champagne to celebrate the accomplishment. This, however, is not the case. Luckily, I’ve spent the past month and a half practicing bravery, and so I am using my newly discovered courage to carry me through this last little expanse of thesis writing—the part that stretches out before me in all its unruly disarray. In 4 days I’ve written 3 pages that are worth acknowledging along with several more pages that will be used for kindling if I should ever make the effort time to actually print them out.

I’ve come to realize over the course of the last several days that this is not the sort of writing that I can simply pump out and send off. Perhaps I set myself up for failure by expecting to finish the remaining 10 pages in 3 short days. This last bit of writing that I am currently working on will act as the "introduction" to the creative portion of my project. In short, I am attempting to summarize my topic, explain its importance, and offer a brief discussion about the genre to which it belongs.

It turns out that trying to bundle up some of the most difficult years of my life into a polished little package is extremely, well…hard. And emotional. There are numerous layers of separation and letting go is possibly the hardest one of all. Letting go is, after all, the final farewell.

This entire project is centered on the notion of a sense of place. It is made up of a collection of personal essays, all of which are inspired by the thoughts and experiences that have come about within the past 3 years—spanning from the time I put my place out in the country up for sale, until now. The topic of my thesis is about leaving a place I once loved, a place of magic, a place that spoke directly to my soul. But, more than that, my thesis is about my attempt to once again find my place in the world.

Writing a simple summary—how could I know that it would open up such a flood gate of tears and old emotions? I’ve been trying to meet a page count, untangle the messiest years of my life, and lay it to rest all at once. I now realize that expecting myself to finish the last 10 pages in a certain number of days was asking too much of myself. I had no idea that all this other stuff would push itself so forcefully to the surface. In my tarot reading, Jamie said that I would cry for my old self and for the way things were (and, whoa, was she right!)--but I didn’t know that it would happen now and be about this particular part of myself. I wasn’t expecting this.

There is a quote that I recently stumbled upon by Scott Russell Sanders who writes: “There’s no need to go looking for a home, of course, unless you’re lost. I have been lost, in ways no map could remedy.”

There have been two places in the span of my life, so far, where I truly felt at home. And they are also the only two places that caused such a deep surge of tears, upon leaving. One of those places was India. The other was a wild plot of land in the middle of nowhere, northern Minnesota. Two years ago I sold that plot of land along with the house that I built with my own hands and moved to a small rented house in town and then to the middle of a big city. These past several years, it turns out, have been a profoundly transitional time.

This week I cried over the place in the country that I once loved. I miss it there intensely. I cried for my dog, Abe, who died one early gray morning just before the move. That was the day my heart truly broke. I cried because, the week following, my grandpa also died. I miss his smile in a way that words don't understand. These things, along with a horribly stressful grad school experience and the divorce of my parents after 33 years, happened in one fell swoop. I experienced a tremendous amount of loss all at once. In the process, I lost my sense of direction—the result of too much stress and conflict and upheaval all at once? I lost my footing and, in little bits and pieces, the world dropped out from under me. Even so, I've done my best to buck up and move on.

And so here I am, writing about it in order to let go of it. I’ve come to this little cafĂ© in the middle of the city with its small table pushed up close to these over-sized warehouse windows so that I might better hear the words that are doing their best to push their way to the surface. Only glass separates me from a busy sidewalk filled with the chattery vibrations of school children and, beyond them, an occasional siren that conflicts with the deeper, more constant, rumblings of downtown traffic. In a place so completely opposite from the one I left behind, I’ve come here to say goodbye.

There is an Albert Camus quote that I have tacked up on the wall next to my desk at home that says: “Live to the point of tears.” And so I have. I have loved so very deeply and I recognize that this surely is a blessing.

original oil on canvas


deirdre said...

Today, in the middle of a very bad moment, I looked up at the sky and asked for something I couldn't put into words. What I saw looked very much like your painting. What I need is a way to let go of the broken pieces of my heart. Thank your for reminding me that loving deeply can be a blessing. It doesn't always feel that way.

Loralee Choate said...

I love you, Sweet Jessie.

Endment said...

How much you are learning about yourself! You are gaining so much personal insight - thank you for sharing- your courage so often sparks courage in us, in me.

Olivia said...


Good for you for being brave and for trusting what you've learned---the important process you're going through---instead of your imposed goal. Your thesis sounds very profound. This obviously is a special time, and I am sending good thoughts and healing energies your way.

My thesis was fact-based, sterile, boring. I'm sure I'll never look at it again. I was glad to be rid of it. Yours sounds like something truly meaningful, not just in the end product, but in the process of writing it, and in the work you did to get to this point.

Wouldn't it be amazing if BE BRAVE helped you to be able to get through this time? I wonder if it is so daunting that you'd be stalled if you hadn't been through BE BRAVE?

At any rate, thank you for sharing this. Prayers for healing, rest, and for being able to convey what you need to,



Anonymous said...

I just love visiting your blog.
It's such an inspiring place and I always think...I MUST make time to read Jessie's blog.
Luv ya, you fascinating woman of paint and words.

Jamie said...

What a powerful time, Jessie. What a powerful woman. Reading this I realized that you are on a hero's journey. You will feel at home again.

Maddie said...

Jess ~ I cried when I read this ~
it just struck all the nerves of
loss and love and letting go and
longing ~ you are so gifted at
painting a picture with a brush
(i love that painting ) and your
words ~ quite a beautiful thing:)

YOU are the butterfly Jess ~
you are fluttering around everywhere ~
and inspiring all of us ~ and
warmest hugs for you and
Abe ~ do you have a picture of
this house Jess and of Abe?

Maddie said...

YAY!!!! on your thesis!!!



Kikipotamus said...

It is a blessing.

Anonymous said...

I love your raw, courageous truth.
It's a good thing to be able to feel so much, so deeply.

Fiona said...

"Faith is the bird that sings when dawn is still dark." Tagore

Keep breathing Jessie. x

Sacred Suzie said...

As writers, the tendency to see the potential for writing different facets can be overwhelming and instead of following one path of breadcrumbs to a conclusion, we go off in all directions seeing how different paths weave in and out of each crumb. Adding an emotional layer to this process swirls the world around until we just have too many stories to tell. I can really relate to this too and hope that with your words your heart mends dear one. You are brave. It is the brave ones who forfeit home, who seek out adventures and challenges. But heroes can also come home.

Amber said...

Gah! I am so happy to know you. ;)


The Dream said...

You are one of my absolute favorite people on this planet - no joke. First off, congratulations on the last 10 pages of your thesis being done!!!!! You're amazing!!!
Next, it's bizarre how grief comes knocking on the door - sometimes it's a singular loss, other times it's the huge combo pack. Good for you on having the good cry. It helps. Keep feeling your feelings, my friend. Thank you for being REAL with your thoughts and feelings.
Lastly, this painting is gorgeous!!!

bee said...

i love you, sweetie.

i'm sendin out a bit of love for abe, and your heart (which must be a bit sore and overflowing), and a lot of love for you.

i am here a lot more often than i comment, these days, but know that i think about you every single one.

laundrygirl said...

I've had this bookmarked for what feels like ages. I have read it over and over looking at that painting and getting lost in it. The biggest thing that resonates with me is your longing for "home" as I too long for home and wonder/question where it is.

Isabel said...

Okay, you hooked me with this blog entry and that Albert Camus quote.
I compare blog surfing to nature walks. There are days you just "walk" and let the surroundings inspire you, but there are others that lead you to places of light and life,places that emanate such an energy that you feel yourself part of them and understood.That is how I felt reading your blog.
I especially laughed in agreement when in one of your videos you tell: "I have a tendency to get overwhelmed" :)
I hear you. I am there most of the time.
I will be back to read more. Thank you for allowing us to be part of your HOME.