Monthly Archives: May 2011


For KJ

Your eyes hold a thousand different layers, a thousand sea states.  Looking into them is like looking into the feeling of abstract thought, that state of deep processing when my brain is working rapidly but so incomprehensibly that it feels blank, a swift current beneath a calm surface.  Reading them is like mapping a roiling sea, constantly changing and fathomlessly deep.  Unknowable, unreachable by concrete things like instruments or words, but I can gaze into the depths and gain some knowledge that could never be recorded on a depth chart or CTD profile or IR spectrometer, some understanding that could never be put to words or even music or art.  A reflection of some unutterable thought within my own eyes, the sea reflecting the sky, some deep mystery that is for me alone to hold in my heart and know its meaning, knowing with that same unknowable part of myself.  An entire universe is born in your eyes, planetary nebulae formed, gravity swirling gassy orbs into oceans, millions of years of evolution.  And plumbing in the depths I withdraw some fragile expression, like a deep-sea coral preserved only for mystery, which crumbles on the stage of a microscope.


Perhaps this would be a good place to mention that soon I will be moving to a new city for two reasons: going to grad school to begin my research career in oceanography, and living with the man I love.  I could not be more excited about both of these things.


Belonging (unfinished)

I have always wanted to belong.  I’ve given different words to the desire– home, rootedness, community– but they all describe the same thing: a desire to feel on the inside of something, connected to something close-knit, loved and accepted into a common circle.

I fail at belonging.

I have experienced belonging in many different contexts and communities, but only flashes of it– I have failed at true belonging, which requires one to “be long” in a given community.  And yet I still want to belong, probably more than anything else.

I tell myself that, but it is not really true.  The truth is that it is not hard to belong.  If I really wanted to belong somewhere, anywhere, I would.  Any one of the collection of places where I have glimpsed flashes of belonging, I could have stayed and truly belonged, if only I would take it fully upon myself.  All it takes to belong, I have realized, is to subscribe fully to all the details of a given community, to take on a community/ place/ culture/ group as one’s own, to be more fully present there than anywhere else.  The reason I have not belonged anywhere is because I am not really searching for belonging.  I am searching for belonging and truth.

The primitive part of me, which evolved over millions of years from ancestors that lived in complex social groups and created ritual and religion to make sense of the world and their place in it, that part cries out to belong in a well-defined community, in which truth is not so important as the meaning we make of it.  The other part of me, the part which evolved over the past 25 years into a rational INTP, thinks that belonging is not even a meaningful goal for me.  That my station is not in the places of belonging themselves but in the spaces between them.  That I’m destined to be without a home, peripatetic, wandering not with my feet but with my allegiances and attentions, always searching.  That perhaps my real goal is not to find the place where I belong, but to know all the places where I don’t belong, and to love all of them, gathering up all the strands of beauty along the way.

Always, I have been searching for truth.  When I was a Christian, and even afterwards, I thought that there would be one big Truth, and when I found it, there would be a gathering place, and there I would belong.  This is why I have not belonged anywhere– because I have not been willing to take the truth of any one place and hold it above all other truths, leaving the rest behind or rendering them less important.

There is not one big Truth but lots of little truths, and they are scattered across the landscape of belonging.  Each place of belonging has its truth, and each has its falsehood, and some truths skitter like tumbleweed in the places where none gather, where there is nothing to belong to.  And that is where I belong.


(October 2010)

Belonging has always been a major theme for me.  I never quite got around to finishing this piece, and now I never will, because I no longer have the same perspective about belonging that I did at the time.


Two years ago I spent 3 months on a wilderness expedition.  One day after hiking for 10 hours, bushwhacking through dense brush and carrying a 40-pound pack on an injured shoulder, I crawled to the top of a tundra hill and collapsed in tears.

The physical pain I felt was only a catalyst for releasing the tears; I was crying about a wealth of pain that I had carried within me, years of pain that had never been released to the light.  I cried so hard I almost passed out.  I started hyperventilating and had carpopedal spasms: my face, chest, and extremities grew numb and froze into grotesque configurations from lack of carbon dioxide.  My clothes were wet through with rain, and as I shivered my way to hypothermia, two of my friends undressed me and put my arms into a dry fleece.  They coached my breathing to unlock my muscles so I could stand and walk.  My hand was taken and I was led through the blur of tears and tundra to a waiting dinner; my bowl was filled with food, even though our rations were scarce.

That night was one of the major turning points of my life.  As I dug deep within me to excise every painful thing that held me back, my tears became half pain, half rejoicing.  It was the end of wounding and the beginning of healing.  I wept so hard that I seemed to dissolve into the universe; the pieces of myself fell like stars from the sky, and were caught by my friends, the tundra, the mountains and river.   I didn’t know what would follow, who or what I would be when the tears ran dry and had carried away all the fragments of me.

The next morning my backpack felt a hundred pounds lighter, and I found my answer in the eyes of a friend who had endured his own twisted trials.  He beamed at me in a brilliant smile, and I recognized for the first time what had always been in the shining of his eyes: a kindness that comes as the legacy of pain.


(June 2010)