Tuesday, December 06, 2005Sense Of Space
So I wake up this morning, and the whole left side of my body seems to be slightly out of whack. I've got a funny hitch in my shoulder that I just can't get rid of, and my left knee is bothering me for no readily apparent reason.
Is this how it's going to be now?
I've begun organizing my stuff and collecting boxes for the big pack-up coming early next week. I'm finally out of this joint once and for all, with no hard feelings but also no great attachments. I love Vermont, and I think at some point I'd like to explore the northern half of the state -- "real Vermont" as the Vermonters call it; "Brattleboro is part of Massachusetts," they insist. I think that's the kind of cultural distinction only a native or deeply-entrenched transplant can perceive, a bit like my argument that Memphis is rightly a part of Mississippi, not Tennessee. Which I can prove with pencil and paper and a copy of Faulkner.
It occured to me a couple of days ago, while driving the college van through town, that one thing that has always eluded me up here is any meaningful sense of the scale of human life as it's lived in New England. For example: the houses. Vermont houses only come in two sizes -- teeny-weeny (in the 1,000 sq. ft. range) and ungodly huge (I wouldn't hazard a guess as to their square footage, but most of them are big enough to have been sectioned off into two- three- and four-unit apartment houses.) But their dimensions don't seem to have much relation to their capacities. You step into a tiny house and discover that it has four bedrooms; you step into a huge old farmhouse and it feels cramped (albeit labyrinthine.) What the hell is going on here? New England space makes no sense.
Anyway, I guess I'm trading it all in for southern life again. I spent a good amount of time up here investigating my options, and I think any of them would have been ultimately possible. I could've gone to Boston or New York or Montreal -- but, and this is the point, I don't think I'd have been able to do any of the stuff I personally want to do in those places. I'd have been spending all my energy and creativity on squeaking out a living and getting myself established, finding new friends and associates, starting my life over again, again. I feel like I've spent most of my life so far starting it over -- it's fair to say that I'm getting a bit exhausted with it. And so I'm leaving for Memphis once more, to join with a life already in progress.
It's strange, y'know, the first time I left Vermont to go to Memphis, I struggled for a time with the maddening sensation that I'd left my whole life behind. And now my situation is exactly reversed.
I'm certain that at some point in the first couple of months, I'll be needing my Memphis people to talk me in off the metaphorical ledge -- "I've ruined my life!" "No you haven't, remember all the reasons you had for coming back?" "I want to move to Spain!" "Okay, you can work on that, but first come back in here finish your fries before Derrick eats them all." I've been trying to find a way to describe my feelings about this return, but none of the usual adjectives -- ambivalent, reluctant, hesitant -- capture my state of mind. So I have come to think of it as "eager dread." As a phrase, it nicely sums up my entire life at this moment: I can't believe it's come down to this, which I was trying so hard to avoid, and I especially can't believe I'm doing it voluntarily; and in fact I very much fear that I'm betraying something fundamental in doing it and that ultimately I will be able to trace all my future failures back to this point. But I can't wait to get started, it's going to be great!
Yep, eager dread. It's actually pretty fun.
And all told, I'm in a very agreeable headspace right now. I believe that I'm coming away from my academic adventure not only having found, more or less, what I came to find, but also having been intellectually re-invigorated in the process. A year of study is just about right -- any longer and it would've become drudgery, but any less and I wouldn't have accomplished much worthwhile. I have a dozen projects in the planning, my creativity is burning along at a very productive pace, and my intellectual curiosity is both heightened and more focused than it's been in years (I've been reading about physics lately. Physics!) So I can't really complain -- whatever happens next, whatever becomes of me back Down There, at least I get to start from an advantageous spot.
So in a month or so, when I've remembered why I wanted to get out of Memphis so badly and I'm crying into my soda, somebody remember that I said all this and remind me of it. Although I'll still probably want to move to Spain. Who wouldn't? |