Thursday, August 27, 2015

Returning in Stages

A couple of days after I got back from California, last week, someone asked me if I felt like I was back in Madison yet. I'd been in Europe, then Texas, then California, gone for over a month of the summer, which is not unusual for me.

Feeling a bit spaced out, not quite landed anywhere, I replied, quite spontaneously: "I am working on just arriving in my house. Can't arrive in Madison yet."

Yesterday, I recounted this to someone else, who then asked in what order did I return?

I replied that the United States was first (but not my state: Texas and California; then home, meaning my house; then Wisconsin (because I taught a writing retreat out in the countryside last weekend, which really brought me back to the green verdance of Wisconsin August); then finally Madison, yesterday, partially because I went downtown, in the middle of new student melee, to meet her for lunch.

Now I wonder if this is always the case - the order in which I feel I have arrived or returned, especially after a long time away or arriving somewhere else for a long time, is not always what you would expect in terms of size.

This summer I arrived in Paris first, then in the neighborhood I was staying in, then I arrived in France.

I arrived in England first, then my godparents' home, then London.

In Austin, I arrived in Austin first, then Texas, then my friends' home.
In California, I arrived in California first, then the Bay Area.

This changes each time, based on the seasons, my mind, then. It's not a particular order, and strongly depends on the combination of factors - my needs, hospitality, characteristics of arrival (train, plane, car). And, increasingly, the sense of feeling the natural environment (the dryness of Northern California, the greenness of Southern Wisconsin) leads me to feel like I have arrived somewhere - a place on this earth with the name of a state - but not in a city or nameable in any more specific way.

This I love - getting in touch with the non-cities more, with the elements. I am incorporating them more into all of my teaching, and in my life. The elements are ever-present, even in man-made environments, but as I like to say about nature, it does not lie about impermanence. So whenever I can land in nature first, it helps me to really land. Feel the air, earth, fire, water, space.

That way I can find my place.

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