Thursday, November 27, 2014

an essay. and a plan.

a new thing: essays-not-written-by-me thursdays. first installment. 

A tree says: A kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought, I am life from eternal life. The attempt and the risk that the eternal mother took with me is unique, unique the form and veins of my skin, unique the smallest play of leaves in my branches and the smallest scar on my bark. I was made to form and reveal the eternal in my smallest special detail.

A tree says: My strength is trust. I know nothing about my fathers, I know nothing about the thousand children that every year spring out of me. I live out the secret of my seed to the very end, and I care for nothing else. I trust that God is in me. I trust that my labor is holy. Out of this trust I live.

When we are stricken and cannot bear our lives any longer, then a tree has something to say to us: Be still! Be still! Look at me! Life is not easy, life is not difficult. Those are childish thoughts. Let God speak within you, and your thoughts will grow silent. You are anxious because your path leads away from mother and home. But every step and every day lead you back again to the mother. Home is neither here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all.

A longing to wander tears my heart when I hear trees rustling in the wind at evening. If one listens to them silently for a long time, this longing reveals its kernel, its meaning. It is not so much a matter of escaping from one's suffering, though it may seem to be so. It is a longing for home, for a memory of the mother, for new metaphors for life. It leads home. Every path leads homeward, every step is birth, every step is death, every grave is mother.

So the tree rustles in the evening, when we stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts: Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.” 

― Hermann HesseBäume. Betrachtungen und Gedichte

Monday, November 24, 2014

there's no place like home...

Good morning!

With three days to Thanksgiving, I am sharing something I worked on my second to last semester of college, in an upper level art class for my minor. this was one of two of my major projects for my minor, which I think really helped shape the whole reason I decided to do an art minor with my writing degree. I've written a bit about this before  - more on inspiration and where it comes from, and the idea behind collecting and how we "collect" things that have no significance to us and assign meaning to them based on the way we interpret and experience the world. I could talk a long time about this, BUT I wanted to share this part as this Thanksgiving week many people (myself included!) are going home. to childhood houses, to houses that are labeled as home but aren't really any more, to siblings, to dinner tables and laughter that lingers around them.

Home is such a fluid concept, isn't it? to be cute, "home is wherever I am with you" - but isn't that profoundly literal in light of the strange experience of adulthood? (with some exceptions.) I can only write what I actually know, so there it is: I grew up and moved away. the experience of "growing up" is that I am always part of where and who I came from - I am more my past than I've ever been but I'm also more independently myself than I have ever been. Where I live isn't really home. but my house in the country, the one with the antebellum charm and the windchimes on the porch, my own bedroom tucked away with a soft lamp always on waiting for me in the window seat - it isn't really home either. I don't live there any more. But when I return, it is home because of the way my dad pops his head in to ask if I am too sleepy for a chapter of James Herriot (never) and then always, always, leaves his coffee cup behind. It is home because of the familiar chime of the grandfather clock downstairs and the dripping of the coffeemaker I learned to make coffee with close to 20 years ago. It is home because of the welcoming arms and wagging tail that greet me when I gently push open the door "just like I live there." I don't live there, but then, you don't have to knock when you come home, right?

Next week we are going to Beaumont, to the house my dad grew up in. I have never lived there, and yet, it is so familiar. It is full of the memories of waking up in the quiet and still dark hours of the morning to the sound of the clink of coffee cups and the murmur of voices behind the kitchen door that swings back and forth. the hum of the gas heater in the bathroom and the creak of that one floorboard in the hallway.

(when I get homesick, it isn't for a place or for the absence of space between places. it is for these things. for faces and tails and laughter. for the familiar grooves of life and love I still fit perfectly in. Rilke says “We need, in love, to practice only this: letting each other go. For holding on comes easily; we do not need to learn it.”

so anyways, part of my final thesis for my art project:

“the past itself, as historical change continues to accelerate, has become the most surreal of subjects– making it possible as Walter Benjamin said, to see a new beauty in what is vanishing. From the start, photographers not only set themselves the task of recording a disappearing world, but were so employed by those hastening it’s disappearance. “To renew the old world,” Benjamin wrote, “that is the collector’s deepest desire when he is driven to acquire new things.” (Susan Sontag, from the chapter "Melancholy Objects" from On Photography) 

I am captivated by this – that by adopting images I am preserving a part of their original character while making them my own at the same time. By delving into the history recorded by those before me, especially in a place that has significance to me, it becomes part of the meaning of the place, and I consequently see more beauty in the place than I did before. Part of the reason (in large part, a primary reason) I chose to attend Sam Houston State University is because of my family – I love that when I call home, my parents can close their eyes and imagine exactly where I am sitting on campus or what professor I might have because they were in my shoes, thirty years earlier. And I think if I had gotten to sit with my great grandpa on the porch, we might have talked about the campus and what has changed about it and what will never change as long as it exists. That is the essence, the core, the heart of this project – figuring out how history - old, reimagined, new, alike - forms an indelible, vital connection between me and the world.

The connection I'm making between the idea behind collecting and my perspectives about home here is that home is not a place - it is a collection of experiences, of people and life. In the country or in the city, I have a little home in me wherever I am. I was thinking about this this week, as Thanksgiving comes upon us and I am returning to familiarity, albeit looking a bit different, but always the same. I think maybe my definition of home will change with time and experience and life - it is an inchoate (not yet fully formed) perspective. and yet, the beauty of it is that because of who defines it, it's character of familiarity won't ever change.

 "Welcome home!" a calling voice from somewhere in the house says. the scenery may be different but it feels like a place I know. "Welcome back."