I don't really think that much about what I blog after I blog it. I just write it so its enough of me to feel truly out of me, yet far-flung enough from myself. You know, I've learned that if everything is too close to my own home, everything I write feels a little lonely and self-indulgent. If I look out when I write, my between the lines have an easier time reading, "Well come on! Tell me what you think!" And I try to remember that that's the point.
Anyways, all this to say, that the idea of place I gathered myself in last week has stuck with me post exhalation-- just like it shouldn't. I'm still taking it in; in deep breaths that is, place and all. Here's what I 'm thinking: Place leaves us, and still, we live in its loss. It's morbid, but like most morbid things it's quite a big part of being alive. Still, who wants to say: "This was my home, my corner of the world, but now, may it rest in peace." Not me.
Pardon me while I go against my grain and make a concrete analogy: this weekend I house-hunted. I looked at a beautiful home with all kinds of personality, which are, of course the best kind. It was flipped several times. You've seen one like it before, I'm sure. Three decades ago, the owners made her over. Two decades ago, they gave her another little face-lift, tucked some things away, clipped some things to their liking. Now, she still retains much of her original 1947 charm, but she had been re-constructed, essentially demolished so she might be canoodled and attended to in ways that her original self would not even have beget. And now in 2010, she looked perfect for her owners, who actually said to me: "We wish we could pick it up and take it with us."
To find, no, I think I might mean soak up place, we must re-fashion ourselves without losing ourselves. Quite like my dream flip-house I saw this weekend: Post-war sturdily built American dream home? Yes. 2010 whimsical garden bungalow for Sarah to be inspired? Yes. Both at once! And she didn't lose herself. I wish I could BE the flip-house, let alone BUY the flip- house. (And for the record, this house was completely out of my price range. I already cried about it)
But quite unlike flipped homes which we can comfortably manipulate: "I like the dining space, the dining space has worked well for us, it's the kitchen that we really need to change," when the seasons shift and we leave the harbor for the horizon, sometimes we must. just. let. go. We cannot pick up all things even the close things, and take them with us to new places, lest we become the anxious hoarder type. Perhaps the spirit stays with us, but let's face it when we start saying things like spirit, we're talking about dead things in kind of a pretty way. Beautiful maybe. But still, dead.
So it haunts us, these places we knew, the people in them that we knew even better and the way they fit together to make, might I say, a beloved Community. I thought about this looking at homes today; the great and bittersweet tragedy of leaving a place where so much beauty has dwelled. Call me lame, but my brow furrows and my eyes fill, and I think, "Will good things happen again? Will the next place be as good?" Now, I try to remember really I do, that God has come, is coming, and will always come after me. How then, I ask myself, could joy be fleeting? Surely Goodness and Love and Kindness will follow me all the days of my life, like the Pslamist says.
Surely! Surely. surely...
There's that ellipsis again. Here is me, God, down on my knees again, praying the sweetest prayer that I know: Please, God, might I know deep in my bones that you are good?
So I cry a little partly because I am sentimental and used to cry when my family traded in our old car for new, or when we took down the Christmas tree or when the blizzard of 1996 uprooted the blue spruce trees. But I also cry because it is tragic for beautiful things to fade away. Isn't it? Especially a home.
Anyone know Emily Webb from Thornton Wilder's Our Town? One of the best plays ever written. It's set in Grover's Corners, New Hampshire in 1901. I like it because the beautiful things in the play are the simple things- like the soda fountain and moonrises and heliotrope. I wish I knew Emily, but I guess even if literature world shattered real-life world I wouldn't get to meet her. She dies in the play, and then her spirit comes back. It was the most terrifying and painful thing even as I was reading it. Dead Emily Webb watching over her beloved place. It is (was?) her home, but the timing is all wrong now. They have mourned her yet she is lingering. She is not supposed to be there, and mostly, we know this because no one can see her. Here, I think we can glean great insight: our home is a place we must be seen. And if we are not? It is, all too naturally, time to go.
"Goodbye, Good-bye world. Good-bye Grover’s Corners…Mama and Papa. Good-by to clocks ticking…and Mama’s sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new-ironed dresses and hot baths…and sleeping and waking up. Oh, earth, you’re too wonderful for anybody to realize you..."
The simple things are the homey things. And they will come again. And if they are already here? May we soak them up before we have to say goodbye.