October 25, 2012
Portland has shown me her best this morning, warm sun and crisp autumn air, the turning leaves, the placid river, the sparkling light. I am perched atop a felled tree trunk on the sand, watching the dogs plunge into the dense riverside vegetation and reemerge minutes later, smiling.
I got in last night after a twenty hour flight. When I arrived home, the house was warm and bright, there were fresh pumpkin cookies in the oven, my fridge shelf was stocked with groceries, and my roommates jumped out and yelled surprise. The dogs bounded and bounced and ran to bring me their toys, and the air smelled like autumn and cookies and the heat from the furnace.
When I climbed in bed with the dogs, I lay for a time on my back, eyes open, bemused and confused and happy and melancholy and rooted and drifting and relieved and tired and wondering, all at once. It gives me such cognitive dissonance to be in a place that is so familiar after having been away from it for a time.
Don asked me last night semi-jokingly if I had “found myself” on my trip. I laughed, as this is a subject that had crossed my mind several times on the plane to Portland. Because, honestly, upon leaving Athens, I did feel a need to present some kind of final revelation, a moral to the story, an ending of sorts. After having spent some time thinking on it, however, I decided that experiences are rarely so neat and tidy. Life is messy. I didn’t find myself. I didn’t learn the answers, I didn’t discover my place on this earth. But I’m really OK with this… because, again, life rarely offers up a neat dramaturgical arc. And, you know, the journey is the destination and all that. So, in the end, maybe that is my final answer… that there are no final answers. Or maybe, though there may be Answers, the best thing we can hope for is movement in the right direction.
And I do feel like I am moving in the right direction. I feel more in touch with my psyche. I feel much more inwardly calm. I certainly still feel like I am Searching, but it is not that desperate heart-squeezing Searching of two months ago. I feel that things have shifted a little bit more into focus, into perspective.
My friend Sarah wrote something recently that resonated with me: “Things begin all the time. And then most things, as soon as they begin, start continuing. And even though beginnings and endings are generally more memorable, at any given moment there are probably far more continuations happening than beginnings or endings. If we’re lucky, we spend a relatively small amount of time being born and dying compared to the amount of time we spend in various ways continuing.”
So that, then, is how I will chose to perceive my homecoming. It was not an ending, and what follows will not be an epilogue. Instead, I am continuing on, certainly with a fuller heart and a fuller mind, but certainly not with an Answer.
I look forward to more travel. I know that in a few months time, that familiar stirring will start up again. I will forget to look at what is in front of me and begin to gaze into that middle distance. I don’t mean to romanticize this too much, as this is certainly not my preference; I would much rather continue to appreciate what is in front of me while simultaneously wondering about the rest of the world. As I think I wrote in my first letter to you, however, my life seems to be a series of forgetting and remembering all of the things I knew intrinsically as a child, and then all of the things I have relearned as an adult. Perhaps one day the time and space between forgetting and remembering will decrease. I hope it does. But for now, in this space of Remembering, I’m feeling pretty good.