Wednesday, March 28, 2012
On Craggy Island
When we first moved here, I admit to feeling a bit like Ted and his comrades, having been uprooted from a much more enjoyable place and a much more connected relationship to it, and placed in a semi-rural area ravaged by social problems similar to, but, it must be said, exponentially greater than those in the city. I was lonely; I was isolated; I couldn't drive; I couldn't find a teaching job to replace the dearly-loved one I had to leave in New York. I couldn't figure out the suchness, the quiddity, of my new environs and its denizens. And, worst of all, I felt that I was in a dull, dreary place that was a poor match for my . . . specialness, the specialness I'd long believed to be my birthright.
All of which makes me realize, three years into this adventure, how good, how necessary it was for me to be uprooted from my formerly beautiful life as a teaching artist and intellectual mom in New York City, where everything was just the way I like it. It was necessary for me to leave aside -- not that I've completely succeeded -- my idea of myself as someone special, someone deserving of a certain amount of connection, attention, and enjoyment. I used to walk the streets of my new town and admit to God that He'd really slammed me down but good this time -- all right, Uncle already -- and could He please shine a little light on my now drastically-narrowed path and, little by little, though not in any dramatic, epiphanic way, He did. Little by little, it began to dawn on me that a good life is not necessarily the life that we planned. I even began to consider that I might try sacrificing my own yearning for aesthetic fulfillment for the more pressing and immediate needs of those around me.
There are other good things about this place: the natural beauty, my son's wonderful school and his masterly violin teacher, the fact that the income-to-cost-of-living ratio made it possible to adopt our son Jude, who is coming home soon. And learning how to drive has made me feel like a normal person -- maybe not normal in the old way, the kind of normal conferred by walking for miles through neighborhood after city neighborhood, meeting friends and colleagues, performing, teaching at my inner-city urban college -- but normal in the sense of having a place somewhere, a locus from which I might possibly be able to make other, different contributions.
I will lead the blind on their journey;
by paths unknown I will guide them.
I will turn darkness into light before them,
and make crooked ways straight.
These things I do for them,
and I will not forsake them.
-- Isaiah 42:16