Tuesday, October 15, 2013

place III

if i am ever in a position to buy my own home, i hope for an old home. 

i have spent too many years of my life with real wooden doors and hardwood floors and cabinet doors that won't stay closed to be able to settle for wall-to-wall carpeting and cardboard-thin doors. 

i'm a big fan of storytelling, and i have long cleaved to the notion that houses can be the best at it. imagine the ease of settling into a home that already knows how to be one. or the comfort of little feet running up and down your hallway after so many others have. or the stains in the oven of meals-gone-wrong relieving you of feeling like the only one who makes mistakes in the kitchen. homes retain pieces of our souls, and i can think of nothing more comforting than for the good spirits that existed there before us to continue bringing that peace. 

when my grandmother passed away, my family began a yearlong process of cleaning out her home. in this large, 80+ year old farm house were sixty years of my grandparents' lives together. books, photographs, souvenirs, homemade toys, clothes, trunks, dishes, papers, linens, and probably enough furniture - that had traveled from germany to ohio to seattle to mississippi - to fill a small antique shop.

every inch of the place was searched and torn down. pieces that had the most value, in terms of sentiment, were given to those who asked for it. i got some dishes, books, table linens, bed spreads, old pots, jewelry. but the most prized piece of all, was my grandmother's wedding rings. fused together, long ago, and melted and molded and bent through repairs all through these past several decades. it doesn't even make a perfect circle anymore. not symmetrical, beat up. but a perfect fit for my hands. a piece of her story to keep with me every day. 

in the ashes of the remains of this house, there were several pieces of beautiful antique silverware that God only knows was hidden in the cracks. stories were explored, logic was settled upon, but one can't help but wonder what else was hidden that is never to be recovered. notes. letters. gaps to be filled.

houses can tell stories, but sadly, they can't speak.

now my own family has rebuilt on the same space, and traces still exist of what was. traces from our own old home and this one. but the smells are gone. 

i remember the crisp smell of starched sheets when we would stay the night. making blackberry jelly from our pickings in the heat and the thorns. a thousand homemade breakfast spreads always on the kitchen table. thanksgiving and a dining room table longer than the equator. corners and creaks. history. always. ice cream. in. the. freezer.

i remember my father's, aunt's, and uncles' stories of childhood in that home and imagining them in the same places and rooms i would find myself.

i remember the poems i wrote in lament for the impending loss of the deteriorating place. personification, they call it.

the house would represent a life gone. but like all losses, somewhere in those burials and cremations, somewhere in the feeling that, i too, am sinking beneath the earth in mourning, i manage to look up one more time. an act of courage. courage to keep breathing. courage to refuse the past a hold on me beyond memory. courage to believe that there is something else for me. maybe something better.

i was not just saying good bye to a home. i was saying good bye to a storyteller. i was fearful of the pressure to be faced of having to carry on what the house could no longer accomplish. would i be that faithful storyteller? will my own home tell tales of joy and laughter? will its walls be protectors of peace and secrets? will its windows absorb imagination and thirst for adventure? will its table offer meals that are sacred and comforting? will its beds be strong fortresses for safety and sweet dreams? only if we are all of these. only if we are worth such a reflection by a home.

but past the goodbyes of what once was, of a lost home, i was grateful. i felt peace for the love i was sure the house received, peace that its soul could still live on. and i was grateful for the love the house provided in being a home to more people than i will probably ever know. 

i think of all the trends in architecture, furniture, appearance, and location. where and what makes a house a good house. and i always come back to the fact that people are not impressed by how much the piece over the mantle cost or where you ordered your coffee table. people are impressed when they get to take their shoes off and be. people are impressed when you paid attention to the details of their stay and made them family. people will remember you not because of what you cooked, but because you made a meal for them.

every being yearns for a full life. for exotic narratives to make up their days. we dream of the Great Wall and foreign sands and these are good. the world is abundant and capacious, and begs for new eyes to see it. but to believe that such extravagance exists out there and not in our own coves is a lie. home is always a place we want to be and to where we all will return. while perhaps not always literally, we will find our bodies remaking what we knew and loved and wishing for it all back again. when we learn to be in the present and love the little things, we will have a full life. pay attention. our shared meals and communal experiences make our enjoyment. the place doesn't have to be specific. but may i always remember that just as it is the people that make the place, so the place makes the people. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

On plans, academia, seasons, and homelessness

I don't know what it is about the fall air that makes me think of school. It's in the heavy, sun-drenched days that a new year for such begins, so when the coolness moves down and swirls with the leaves, I've already made my home. Perhaps it is because when days become shorter, the real work begins. The important things for your grades are due. For most of this time, we've just been dilly-dallying, but now we must reach back to those dillies and dallies and show something from it. We read and wrote and memorized and philosophized and bound our brains to the books over coffee and wrapped in blankets. We walked to the computer labs and the libraries and the cafes and her house and your house bundling up and burrowing our chins and noses into our scarves for protection. This is why autumn and university for me are perfect partners. Autumn was when things began to matter. It was in the change when things began to matter.

And as I reach yet another in-between in my life, once I get over my strong dislike for in-betweens, I realize that change is coming soon and the things I wanted, the things I missed, take their leading roles in my every day.

And I knew this day would come, though I couldn't imagine it two years ago.

I walked out of Painter Hall one Thursday evening in late late fall having completed my last undergraduate final, and I waited for some overwhelming twitter or some dampening cognizance of loss to spring up inside of me and found only two words in my head: surreal and anticlimactic. I was ready to be done. I hadn't accepted until classes began in January while I lazed and lounged about that I really did complete all I set out to complete.

It has been nearly 22 months since the date my degree was completed, and with every day that travels by, I yearn for the rooms, the teachers, the talks, the essays, the environment of university. I miss the safety of the commitment to learn, the paradox of the structure, syllabus, this is what we will learn this year and the portal to dreams, ideas, surprises beyond what your soul could have envisaged a mere four years before. The promise that when you offer yourself to academia, the world is offered to you. 

I miss being able to pour myself into literature and language and education. I have many wishes and many longings, but that world is my home. Though it won't be next year, I feel confidant about what I want. Soon, I will have my graduate degree. 

But right now, he and I make the most of what we have, imbibing all the local culture we can with what little we have. Absorbing the theatre and vibrant offerings of the town for all the pleasure there is before it's soon good bye. We will be wanderers for a short while, searching for our place. Praying that, for me, that place is a university. Though we won't be homeless in the sense of dire need for shelter, we will have our time of searching for something to call our own. 

I am winding down once more another temporary appointment. Though this one will not grant me a degree, it has been full of learning. I cannot imagine many opportunities that provide one with such a wide array of experiences. The general workplace, nonprofits (which are entirely unique in the general workplace), resource development, grant writing, marketing, advertising, partnerships, collaborations, management, volunteerism, conflict resolution, special events and planning, supervision, training others, policy writing, recruitment strategies and planning, orientation facilitation, board interactions and roles, child development, program planning and evaluation, community relations, and I'm out of things to list. But perhaps of equal value has been the learning experiences of my own self. I have realized capabilities and shortcomings that have been surprising as well as expected. And as all seasons so faithfully provide an education to self, autumn of this year has been no exception. As I walk daily to this end date, reflection's inevitable appearance reminds me I am as much a mystery to myself as to anyone.

I always think of Shrek trying to describe to Donkey what an ogre is like. Layers. Onions. And sometimes with myself, I feel the layers to be endless, a constant curious search for that core. Who am I? I hope and pray each passing dawn gathers me together to understand it all one day. And I hope that day doesn't come too soon.

I hope for our bodies to grasp the tune of a cyclical life. Moving and swaying with the seasons as our bodies twirl with the earth, dancing through birth, life, rest, death, and rebirth.

I hope for our souls to swell with anticipation for the newness of each quarter, though only a year gone, still seeming to be such a distant past life. 

And with such anticipation for fresh and new things, I hope for the world to once again remind us of the constant that we look for without fail to tether our mangled and unpredictable days - the constant that the land will be there. The spider lilies will sprout whether they are wanted or not. The ground will harden beneath your step. The leaves will crowd your walks. The cold will seep through your hair, and the chill will slither through your hunched posture shaking and flailing your body until your chin is pushed out and your head pushed up high pulling your lungs out of your chest to inhale the crisp and clarifying air. Air, we missed you in the dampness swelter of summer. 

Without a porch to place my own flowers, a room to smell my own sheets, a kitchen to store my own goods, the season will be my home. For a short while, as we forgo inhabiting four walls on which to place our own names, I will take comfort in the land. The land that was there through each first and final day of an education's seasons. The land that reminded me it was time move. The land that guided me through my learning and will still be there for the next phase.