Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Certain Uncertainty

Over the last six months I've been feeling an overwhelming pressure on my bones, muscle, and blood. I think I've felt this before--in periods of my life of stagnation and fear. I've let it go too far this time and it's hell getting back. Usually, the way to overcome such invisible weight is to do something, but I feel like I don't know what to do. But I also feel like I do, and that's what scares me the most. The older we get, the higher the stakes it seems, the more we have to risk, the more we have to lose and we forget what it is we can gain by risking everything. And I'm talking in vague abstractions, something I tell my students to never do. This was an introduction to upheaval.

Yesterday my last grandparent, my grandmother, was moved into assisted living. The only idea I have of what this place looks like is the one my other grandmother died in nearly 6 years ago in Oklahoma, a woman who would be 90 tomorrow (2/22/22). The physical distance I've had from both events, both places--nursing homes in Oklahoma and now Minnesota--are reliefs and forms of torture. There is nothing any of us can do about tomorrow, it's true, and I've been a poor example of carpe diem. But to me, in the face of such changes in my family, and at 35 and unsecure in employment or even place, the only real answer to living in the present seems like a giving up and cashing in. That is, thinking seriously about risking everything--home, car, everything we are taught we need to be happy, and that, of course, do bring real joy and necessity. I do like having air conditioning and reliable transportation. I am blessed and fortunate.

See, I'm rambling. I feel like I've been in a coma for a year, maybe years. In that time I've surfaced for gulps of air--write a poem or essay, finish a book, host a garden tour. But these events are like the aftertaste of good chocolate in your mouth, and you want more. I want more. More than whatever this is. Purgatory? No man's land? I need a kick in the butt.

I'm nearing the realization that, at least in this point of my life, I won't be a college teacher. And this is maybe an essential step to my evolution as a person, that might, someday, make me an even better college teacher--or simply lead to something else just as or more rewarding. Maybe I've dumped too much energy into a machine I can't be a part of. See, I don't know. I wish I could do this on television (bad joke at the wrong time?) and make some money off of it, get myself that acreage and prairie. But maybe that's too much. I'm not ready for that kind happiness if I can't find it in my 1,500 foot paradise.

I look at my grandmother who was so happy, seemingly, with so little. A small apartment, but near family. She walked and lived (walks and lives, why the past tense) with rose-colored glasses both to be admired and concerned with. But as Alzheimers slips over her I feel with great urgency, a great restlessness pushing against my skin from somewhere deep inside, the need for a massive change. A change I might not be prepared for. I don't want to forget who I am, and I think over the last year or so I have begun to forget, lost some wonder, lost some carpe diem. I am a mirage to myself.

I don't know what such rambling posts mean to this blog. Both I and the blog seem to be in some pre mid life crisis. I can see it in the sedum and bluestem, too, in the garden. We need dividing.

Today I notice the snow receding from the garden through the window. It is very much like a bed sheet, exposing warmth to cold. The cloud line has moved east, the sun is out, I feel entombed and fenced in by the nearby stand of trees. This is why I could never live anywhere but on the plains--if I lived in the mountains or forest I'd feel breathless and afraid. Hunted. Stalked. Our species' primal memory is of emerging from the jungle into a savanna where we could see danger coming and escape.

There are two incredibly important tasks at hand for me: writing a book on the Plains and Oklahoma and family, and whatever this thing is behind the fog that lays over me. I can sense it. Hear its breath. Feel its eyes centered on me. Is it predator or prey? Strange, but I believe that until I write a memoir I won't know. How can writing a book set you free? Physically free, not just emotionally or spiritually. And how afraid I am of it--this big experiment, this leap of faith which in the end will be only a small step, yet one that will deplete me. The real leap is beyond and unimaginable. We tend to call it faith.

We leave memories. Moments. Feelings in walls some people pick up on and call ghosts. We are echos the moment we speak or move, even before we are physically gone. We trail off in our thinking and passions, our love is a conditional uncertainty that is certain. I love the prairie that is now only an echo in our landscapes. I love my family in the remnants of barns and stories, memories of warm 7up in plastic cups and sweet juniper after a rainfall. I think that if I leave only one thing behind, my marker, my echo, I want it to be a piece of writing. And yet writing is in everything--a garden, a child, a wife. Not just a book. Writing is that red-winged blackbird perched on the fence eying the feeder, the flash of its body, the ricochet sound of its warning call and its wings in the air like a pebble in a pond. Slowly, our rippled presence blends into the world around us if we remain still enough to settle our spirits into one moment that can be forever. I think, right now, it is a prayer.

6 comments:

Mary said...

Benjamin: What you wrote is what so many are feeling and thinking but don't know how to express it...do you realize how many you may be helping today once they read what you have provided for them. God is so close to you that he may even have his arm around your shoulder. What a gift you are to the world. Pray the world will have eyes to see and ears to hear what you have to say.

Donna@Gardens Eye View said...

I have learned that we all go through this uncertain time in our lives...mine was after a good career but one that was killing me and my true calling...I finally was faced with learning what that was and my blog was born...it has been a year but I continue to move ahead slowly and with uncertainty still...they say when you feel as you do that a big change is coming and you are on the path of your true purpose and passion. Just keep moving forward with that memoir...it seems to be your path of greatness and until it is published will you see fully that path...although I bet you may know that path already!!

Lucy said...

Maddening. Absolutely maddening and frustrating - that feeling of being stuck and wanting more and for life to hold more adventure and it's all so ... just so . . . And being caught between valuing movement and valuing calm.

And landscape. My comfort zone is the opposite of yours. I hate flat lands. They frighten me. I feel exposed, watched, vulnerable. I like hills - and narrow lanes with high hedges. And I would be frightened if I lived too far from the sea. At the very least, I have to have a fast moving river nearby.

Hope things sort themselves soon.

Now I'll try to tackle the peculiar words below. Maybe it's this new WV system that's getting you down.

Deep breath . . .

Benjamin Vogt said...

Mary--I didn't think I'd be helping anyone, I even felt a bit whiny. It's hard to think God might be close, that something may be near--esp because I know I have to take the leap. It's not like when you're 18 and have nothing to lose, or is it? Thanks for your comments.
Donna--I like to hear that! You go girl (you know what I mean). I'll post excerpts to the book as I move along and feel ok about them.
Lucy--Yes, between valuing movement and calms. Exactly! I know we all go through this, but I know it's important to literally spell it out, too--if only to hope the next time won't have to be as laborious. Now go back to your shrubbery. Ni.

Kathryn/plantwhateverbringsyoujoy.com said...

You are fine. You are fine. You are fine. Really. You are in touch with your heart, so how unfine could you be? Stay in the moment. It will shift. Trust the process. Read my daughter's blog. www.soulatwork.com I'll send you my book, even. :) xoxo

Benjamin Vogt said...

Kathryn--well, you make a good point. I'm just young an impatient, though I feel old(er). I agree, it's important to stay in the moment, no matter what it is, because you're being taught something important; that's been my experience. And if you send me a book, I'll read it. :) We could swap?