Monday, December 31, 2007

Sunday Scribbings: "Now and Then" {an Epilogue}

Today is December 31st, 2007. It is still morning and I have just now finished writing my thesis. I don't even know if it is any good, but right now that doesn't matter. What matters is that I got my story down on paper as best I could. What's important is that I print this thing out and send copies to my adviser, then my committee members. After that I will do any necessary editing and formatting. I won't be truly done until the day I pass my defense (assuming I pass it). Still, the hard part is done. I feel like crying...because I feel so wonderfully quiet inside my heart.

Snow falls gently outside my window. It is the first day of something new.

* * * * * * * * * *

Roots and wings--they are such mysterious things.

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
and instantly

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,
that opens,
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).


laundrygirl said...

YAHOO! YIPPEE! YAY! You did it!!!!
I am SO proud of you and just in such awe of you. Talk about inspiration! You are my hero!

Leah said...

oh darlin, i'm so proud of you and happy for you. congratulations!!! now go celebrate, woman! ;-)

love you!

martha said...

O happy day! WTG!

deirdre said...

I'm so happy for you, and so proud of what you've accomplished. You did it! Congratulations. xoxo

Loralee Choate said...


I am so freaking proud of you, sweetie. SO proud.

I'm buying you a virtual lunch and cup of awesome coffee!

Kate said...

Congrats on such an amazing accomplishment!


Olivia said...

Late to chip in here, but...

Jess-ie finished her theee-sis!
Jess-ie finished her theee-sis!
Jess-ie finished her theee-sis!

What exciting, exciting news! And just in time, too!! Yes, you have to defend it, but you'll do that and the worst is over, and you can MOVE ON!!

Freed up space and energy for whatever is next!!




Fiona said...

that made my heart quiet too! You've done it!



bella said...

I'm breathing a big sigh of relief for you! How amazing. A couple of days ago, you wrote that you don't give up. I am so proud of you sweet friend. xo

Laura B. said...

Wow - Incredible, Jessie. Congratulations a million times on finishing your thesis. I do understand how difficult it is. :)

Maddie said...

I raise my glass of chai to
you and your thesis




massive hugs for everyone!

happy new year Jessie girl
filled with magic
for a very very magical girl:)

Kikipotamus said...

Congratulations! This feels like nothing short of a rite of passage.

The vision now in my head of you and your red pickup and your dog sleeping in a different place each night is hauntingly powerful.

Anonymous said...

oh jessie, i am so happy for you!! i know what a HUGE deal this is and am so excited for the "freedom" involved in completing your thesis! i'll be there to help you celebrate soon; yippee!!!

megg said...

YAY to YOU!!!!


Wow. I know how BIG - HUGE - this is for you! You rocked it! You really really did!!

Wow. GOOD FOR YOU!!!!!


(Being someone rather obsessed with the concept of home, I would love to read it someday!)

And that poem - you KNOW I love that poem. The last few lines are my mantra for this year - I say them out loud every day!! RooOOAAaarrRRRRRRRRR to you my friend!!!!


Tammy said...

WaaHoo! What a perfect way to begin 2008 Jessie. I'm so PROUD of you.

Much love

forgetfulone said...

Yea for you! What a huge accomplishment. Of course you'll pass your defense. Woot woot!

The Dream said...


Great quote from Mother Teresa - thanks.

Amber said...

Whooohooo!! You DID It!! I am so happy for you. And so inspired by you, friend.

Happy New Year!


tumblewords said...

Success is a wonderful start for a new year! Your post is so well done, I'm beginning to dream of wings and travel...