Live Your Life in the Contrasts

Summer has been breathless–bounty, fatigue, gratitude, grief.

Bursts of joy fill my world when River leaps from the school bus (!) or Brad returns bleary-eyed but blissed-out after a weekend of paintball.

Sorrow overtakes me as I listen about Ukraine, touch the dying earth, sit by the river and think about my friends in this valley whose stories also live in these waters.

Temperance calms me when I tell myself things like, “It won’t always be this way,” or “Yes, but…” or “This body/earth/marriage/neighborhood/animal/insect/child deserves love and respect. I can give that no matter what.”

All of these feelings are contained in a body. That body is deeply attached to this home, these hills, the way the air tickles the sassafras leaves. This week I found an interesting definition of home while re-reading an essay I wrote a while back. The writing was solicited by a magazine I enjoy, and I revisited the piece to see if it still resonated. Here’s a paragraph from the 5K-word piece:

“For what would amount to 3 years, I failed to put down roots. I found great comfort in the home-less-ness accompanying extended road trips, yet with each parting, a line of thread unspooled. What were all my tidy hopes trying to bind together? What kept me mostly empowered, while simultaneously filling me with longing? I hadn’t yet figured out that home resided in the interplay between landscape and desire. I only knew how to throw everything I had at the world, then let practicality pull me away. Despite the beautiful places, despite the communities of people, despite the freedom to write—my insides unraveled. The experience left me ghost-like; tiny versions of myself wandering across borders. Aimless, yet determined.”

I still believe that “home” is defined as the interplay between landscape and desire, which is why I am perhaps most “at home” when living inside a question. True, the air of the Pacific Northwest feels like relief, to such an extent that without it I am never fully relaxed. True, the mixed hardwoods of Appalachia have become an expansive balm to my search for rhythms in life. But all of this is true because of the landscape and the desire–the meeting of concrete and abstract.

This summer I taught an immersive writing course at California State University with a handful of gifted, brave, devoted writers in Fresno. When I departed, I told them to study the interplay between micro and macro points of fascination in this life, then find the contrasts, and live their lives there. In the contrasts. By extension, I was advising to write from the contrasts, too. In other words–to live inside a question, and make art from that space, too.

I’ve shared what home means to me. I’ve talked about practical ways to feel at home (a certain type of air, a certain type of forest, certain values-based decisions, specific political donations) and abstract ways to feel at home (look for the mirco, look for the macro, live life in the contrasts). That’s a lot to take in!

  • What does “home” mean to you? What’s your micro and macro? Your abstract and concrete?
  • Think back to a time in your life when you were searching or lost. What did you think you were looking for? Now that you are the person you are today, what can you say about what you were really looking for? What might the difference or similarity in your answers reveal?
  • Lately, I’ve benefited from Diversity Equity & Inclusion one-on-one coaching. It’s an immersive, rewarding, provocative experience. One question my coach shared with me is: “What else might be possible?” My invitation to you is to look at your day-to-day life…especially any area where you feel fear or overwhelm…and ask yourself: What else might be possible?

As always, I’d love to hear back from you. Contact me and share your insights, updates, hoorahs, sorrows, or questions.

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