Sunday Morning ~ Walking Gently
Kwa eni uyenda umaweteka. ~ At someone else’s place you walk gently and humbly.
~ Chewa proverb
April 10, 2022
I feel like I have been leaving home for a long time. Not having traveled abroad for more than two years it all feels a bit strange. Organizing seems more difficult than it used to, especially when straddling seasons. I’m at the point where the house seems to be saying, “Go already!”
Leaving home has always taken some work. It’s a project to go away, leaving all the daily tasks to dangle. Attending chores to be done before leaving makes me look at this life I’ve filled with endless tasks: plants to water, bills to pay, unfinished projects to stash, mail to arrange for. I stop to imagine when our main form of communication relied on written correspondence stretching over days or weeks. Letters, actual hand written letters, arrived from a long lost someone, delivered by a nice man pushing a cart. This was in my lifetime, though it seems like some strange ritual I should be reading about in a history book or novel. Letters would be answered with a thoughtful process of writing, sealing, stamping, sending–– tasks that seem more like exciting adventures than chores. I wonder how such delay in communicating would change the course of events. I think about this as I place an empty box in the hall, ready to collect requests for donations, advertisements, and magazines I ordered from the girl scouts. It feels hollow.
Utilities attended to, I think of all that pumps into a home keeping it alive. A last trip out to the compost and I see daffodils poking though and remember I planted hundreds of them to brighten my mood at this time of year. I’d forgotten about them.
Being stationary for such a spell has created a co-dependency between my home and me. We love each other. I’m possessive. I feel no one else could love it like I do. It’s like my child; I’m the one who raised it. I cleared the trees. I chose the person to dig the foundation. I watched carefully as they did so. I watched the walls be lifted. I prayed for the guys on the roof, sheathing and protecting us. I made this house into a home. I bore the children who lived here while the walls absorbed their voices and spirits. I patched the holes in those walls. I chose the colors, protected the floors, hung the collected pieces that make it whole. I’m like a mother leaving her baby. I leave instructions for all the little idiosyncrasies: the front door, the drain, the furnace. Then think of the cat’s habits and, wow, trying to explain all that makes it sound so complex, these tasks I do automatically, thoughtlessly. Writing it onto a list seems cumbersome and archaic. When did this happen?
I no longer consider the land where the house rests as a possession. I’ll be it’s steward and tend it with love, sculpted into a living portrait portraying my life. It’s all temporary; it will morph as the world goes on. I planted more fruit trees this week, wondering if I’d be here to pick the fruit. I imagine the shade they’ll give, picturing fruit dangling down and wonder if I’d be able to climb a ladder then? I look at the card hanging from the tiny branch: fifteen to thirty feet. I look up and wonder how high is thirty feet?
What ifs are not emotionally useful to me and I try not to go down their roads too often. Over the last month, however, many what ifs crept into my thoughts. I’d shake my head as if I could dump them out of my brain. What if I only had ten minutes to leave? What if I couldn’t find my family? What if bombs were falling around here? If I had to leave in ten minutes because it’s the safest option, where would I go? What if the place I built and loved was destroyed? Could I do it all again?
Since this war started many have told me their ancestors were from Ukraine. They fled during this war or that one. Generations down the line they made new lives, good lives. They’ve never visited the land their ancestors fled in search of safety, food, or love. Do they like their lives here? Are they grateful for this land and this home?
How do we walk humbly and with gratitude in a new strange place? How do those who welcome us provide air and water, shelter and safety, with dignity? If we had few choices about when and where to go, how would we incorporate the richness of the lives we were forced to flee into the strangeness, fear, sorrow, and hope of the new ones facing us?
I’ve spent weeks sorting, cleaning, organizing, preparing to leave, so I can do so comfortably with clear head, clear mind, knowing plans might change and my stay extended. Does this house really need me? Of course not. The doors will open and shut. The crocuses will bloom and die. The peepers will serenade until it warms sufficiently for them to move on to their next life with grace. I recognize all this. I acknowledge the times we are in with frustration and sadness, wanting to do my part with as much hope as I can muster, because the what ifs can go either way.
Love to all,