Saturday, August 19, 2017

New Life

We moved into the log cabin in Orwell this week.

Last night we drove in after three days on the road from Minnesota. I took the boys for a walk in the field; our neighbor cuts a path for us with his industrial lawn mower. Along the path wild apple trees grow, some with dead limbs, others with low reaching branches I think the deer must eat from. There are places where the grass has been pressed down by the warm body of animals. I think of a mother and twin fawns as I wade through the long meadow to reach the tree and pick the mean, sour fruit the boys insist on tasting. The wet grass soaks my cotton shoes and W. whines for me to pick him up. I carry him a bit. We find wild grapes and berries, milkweed and burdock. M. asks where the bees have gone. In June hundreds swarmed the blooming locust trees and we stood beneath them and listened to the collective whir.

The house is filled with cobwebs. Though my mother-in-law came to water the plants, it looks like no one has been here in a dozen years. Spiders everywhere. We walk through the rooms and try to envision the way we might make each, what each will be. The boys will only play in the main rooms, even if we create other play spaces. They insist on remaining close. They also don't yet want to venture out alone. But today is our first day here. I arrange my desk before the window of our spare bedroom. It looks out onto a field and woods. I am grateful for the few pines that grow here; they remind me of Minnesota. Home. Though I have been in Vermont for over a decade, Minnesota remains home to me. I don't know if it's the stubborn insistence in me that keeps looking westward, longingly, or if truly the inroads of the landscape of home form a map of my heart. I long for it. Today, I long for the road where I run, for the path through the woods. The smell of thick pine, the past ripe berries along the path, the late summer blooms. But if I stayed there I would never write a thing; longing has always been my swan song, my pulse, my disease and my path. Without it, what would I be?

Quietly, ever so quietly, I have been planning my next book. This summer I finished editing (a two year process for me) my first book of essays and began the long road of sending it out to small presses and independent publishers. For three years I have thought of returning to fiction and writing a novel. It feels overwhelming and well, terrifying if I'm really honest with myself. It has something to do with the length and my desire for a sense of constant ending, a sense of completion. But as we move into what is undoubtably going to be a rather different phase of our life, no longer in a neighborhood, living in a rural community on hundreds of acres of my husband's family's land, I feel the pull towards these stories again. I long for the deep inward solace of imaged worlds. More then ever I long for other worlds, the places where I can make peace with the tunneling ache of the world and its stunning beauty.

What do I fear? I fear working for years on a novel that amounts to nothing. That never meets the mark. With essays or even short stories, you might write a few bad ones, but you can easily let them go and move on to the next one. As I write this, listening to the fly stuck in the window, and the birds outside, I see clearly it is really only a challenge of the mind. And now the fly is free of the window and takes another path and now its back on the window. I worry too that I should not speak of the work I'm doing as it sometimes destroys the mystery and the mystery is like the engine of the writing, the longing, the seeking. One longs and then seeks.

J. takes the boys to the park at the school in town and then grocery shopping. I find my boots and walk out into the field. It's warm. The whir of the bees surrounds me. I realize they are feasting on the golden rod. I stand and listen and the sound vibrates. I catch a Monarch, just hatched, drying its wings. Up down, up down. The wind blows and I cannot tell you what an open field does for the soul. Like the lakes I love in Minnesota, the space of distance sets us loose, mends us.

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