Goodbye to the North Country

Tomorrow morning I’ll be saying goodbye to the North Country as I drive South on Route 12 towards my new home in downstate New York (I have mixed feelings about that “downstate” part). It won’t be the first time I’ve parted from the North Country for a long-ish term, and it may not be for forever (because who knows? home has a way of calling a person back sometimes, even after years of being away). But it’s still a biggish life transition; it’s the first time I’ll be living away from my family in the States other than for college and camp (which together does make up quite a significant chunk of time), and it’ll be the first time I’ll be living on my own at all. (I have mixed feelings about that one, too – mostly positive ones at the moment).

I’ve made the rounds of Lewis County saying goodbyes. I’ve packed up the essentials. My attic room is looking a little desolate now (though I have left most of the postcards and hand-copied bits of poetry up on the walls and rafter beams). Many of my books are in bins. These bins and two small wooden bookshelves (and not a few other things) are crammed into my trusty Subaru, Jenny. She’s pretty loaded, actually. I think I own too much stuff (some minimalist and Thoreau-devotee I am; “Simplify, simplify!”), though I try to justify myself a bit by reasoning that a lot of what’s in my vehicle includes typical “household” items to help make my new apartment into a home. This line of thinking helps — a little.

I really do need to downsize.

from Common Prayer: Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals, an apt prayer for major life transitions:

Lord, help me now to unclutter my life, to organize myself in the direction of simplicity. Lord, teach me to listen to my heart; teach me to welcome change, instead of fearing it. Lord, I give you the stirrings inside me. I give you my discontent. I give you my restlessness. I give you my doubt. I give you my despair. I give you all the longings I hold inside. Help me to listen to these signs of change, of growth; help me to listen seriously and follow where they lead through the breathtaking empty space of an open door.

So be it.

And I’ve just now gotten around to showing my family pictures from my solo (8,000 mile, six-week-to-the-day long) road trip this past fall, and from the 10 1/2 months I spent as a service worker with MCC in South Korea last year. Here’s one of my favorites from out in the Southwest of the US in October:

painted desert make cover photo

I think this was somewhereabouts the Painted Desert in Arizona. Something like that.

And this from War & Peace as Prince Andre is packing up to leave  his father’s house for war, which I came across while reading the novel in bed the other night:

When starting on a journey or changing their mode of life, men capable of reflection are generally in a serious frame of mind. At such moments one reviews the past and plans for the future.

I’m feeling only semi-serious right now, although fairly subdued. I’m excited for a change. I know I’m going to miss my family, while also eagerly looking forward to having a place of my own.

A few reviews of the recent past: Korea, camp, and road-tripping. All definite highlights. Some plans and hopes for the near future: Getting out of debt ASAP, getting into better physical shape, saving up for further educational endeavors and gyspy-esque adventures so I can carry on with my nomadic ways and pilgrim wanderings as soon as possible; and (as always) reading, reading, reading, writing, reflecting, and continuing to strive for personal development and growth and a better understanding of my individual place in this beautiful, one world of which we are all a part. And having some more fun along the way. Coming more and more to see “journey” as one of the best metaphors for life; I hope to travel well.

And finally (for now), this from “East Coker” in T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets, which work has become and been a fairly important one to me over the past 2 years or so:

In my beginning is my end. …

So here I am, in the middle way, having had twenty [-four] years
Twenty years largely wasted, the years of l’entre deux guerres
Trying to learn to use words, and every attempt
Is a wholly new start, and a different kind of failure
Because one has only learnt to get the better of words
For the thing one no longer has to say, or the way in which
One is no longer disposed to say it. And so each venture
Is a new beginning, a raid on the inarticulate
With shabby equipment always deteriorating
In the general mess of imprecision of feeling,
Undisciplined squads of emotion. And what there is to conquer
By strength and submission, has already been discovered
Once or twice, or several times, by men whom one cannot hope
To emulate—but there is no competition
There is only the fight to recover what has been lost
And found and lost again and again: and now, under conditions
That seem unpropitious. But perhaps neither gain nor loss.
For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.

Home is where one starts from. As we grow older
The world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated
Of dead and living. Not the intense moment
Isolated, with no before and after,
But a lifetime burning in every moment
And not the lifetime of one man only
But of old stones that cannot be deciphered.
There is a time for the evening under starlight,
A time for the evening under lamplight
(The evening with the photograph album).
Love is most nearly itself
When here and now cease to matter.

Old men ought to be explorers
Here and there does not matter
We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
For a further union, a deeper communion
Through the dark cold and empty desolation,
The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters
Of the petrel and the porpoise. In my end is my beginning.



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