Santa Fe Post #5, Moving to NM   2 comments

Going away to a war and returning to life in the average town or city on Oak or Elm or Washington Street must be the oddest and most difficult re-adjustment to the old “normalcy.” The times in our lives when we leave one known life for another, changes us. Experience alters our perspective, or should, if we allow.  Just moving out of the country is like seeing the photos of earth the first time, seeing your home from a distance and its vulnerability floating out in space. Its precious greens and blues and all the plant and animal life it supports. Seeing it this way encourages a need to care for it. It also opens a path for questions about the way you have always accepted your old world, your life, your family, your home, and street and neighbors. You see other ways of doing and living and how those others’ view you as an American, as a person, as citizen of this earth. To be confronted with another perspective, not only from other people but your own new view and understanding, excites. It is beyond the old cliché of eye-opening, but creates a place of wonder when something is discovered, learned. A place in this country we call life, in your own life where the landscape cannot return to what it once was but in this case, that is good.

I have lived in another country. England was not seriously different from America, but I learned to see America from not only  English viewpoints but from other foreigners living in England. There are a few other places where I have spent only five days to a week,  but knew I was exiting an experience and returning to my regular life with my personal landscape altered while those around me continued unaware of my change. Responsibility for reshaping our landscapes is all our own. Time does some of it for us. Time, that funny thing we judge by clocks and calendars but it cannot really be gauged that way. When I consider that my married life was 27 years long, I cannot wrap that seemingly long time around my head or my life today. Or how small children disappear into adults, but I know how many mornings we rose together and curled up on the bed, how many meals we ate, how many shoes we fitted and tied onto their feet.

When I heard that some butterflies live only three days, I remembered an injured butterfly that was in a 3rd grade class where I was working with the students. It was just before my mother was scheduled for surgery to remove a mass from her lung. I tried to help the butterfly lift the wing that wouldn’t rise as it should. This brightly colored little yellow and black creature seemed too connected to my gentle-as-a-butterfly mother and I felt such sadness, for myself most likely, because I could not bear the thought of my mother dying. When I heard a reference to the three day life of a butterfly, I researched them and found that depending on the type of butterfly they live a week to nine months. I wondered should I feel less sad if the butterfly with the hurt wing died only a day or two before she would have anyway, or greater sadness because her short life was cut shorter still and those two days were 1/3 of a life.  Questioning the degree of mourning over a butterfly’s demise may seem an inconsequential waste of time, but it’s not.

Twice I have spent a week in the Colorado Mountains with 1000 people gathered for a Buddhist retreat of silence, friendship, meditation, listening and learning. Driving down from the mountains after the retreat ended, the roadside fruit stands standing cheerful and expectant.  Their signs enticed us to stop for cider and jams.  Just being in a car with its shape, smell, and sounds felt odd. Other cars sped around us.  All before had moved slowly. We were coming back as if through a tunnel from quiet to noise, from natural colors to gray cement and stainless steel. The radio informed us. We shut it off and talked about the retreat. It helped with the debriefing, the re-entry to noise and expectations after a week of nowhere to go and nothing to do, but also a week where the mind considers much, works through some things, experiences intense, not always comfortable feelings, and allows questions to rise with no answers.

The next summer, I spent a week on the Yampa River. My call to this trip was as one of several artists invited to experience and then create from what emerged after being on this last free-flowing river in Colorado. We rafted the river in early May. The cold pushed past my neoprene socks and shoes, cracked the skin on my fingertips, and taught me quickly how many layers I needed to stay warm at night. The most impressive landscape I’ve ever seen surrounded me for days. The canyon walls rose bigger and bigger, from light to dark imposing colors, shapes, and markings. We worked hard loading and unloading our gear each night, and setting up camp. Then I just rode on the raft while my captain rowed and watched the river to guide us safely past rocks and through rapids. I trusted a stranger. We give ourselves to doctors we don’t know, to the driver at the intersection whom we trust will stop at the red light, but we don’t trust a man on the street asking for a dollar. Their motives are much the same. Money, safety, both?  I left the river with the same odd sense of re-entry into my “normal” life but with grateful memories and work created by those amazing days.

One fall a few years ago, I spent four or five days in New Jersey at the Dodge Poetry Festival in the historic Waterloo Village, a huge park with great old trees. Thousands of people wandered between tents where poets read or panels of poets discussed poetry and their work and lives. The listening was intense, and shared by so many at the same time in a different way of being with others. Billy Collins spoke in the largest tent with hundreds of people listening. The unusual quiet with words spoken in images, and this continued throughout the four days that my partner and I were there. We left “feeling” just “feeling.” And again it was with a sense of re-entry, a leaving of one space where strangers linked in an unusual, experiential way.

This month I move from Nebraska to Santa Fe open to ways of seeing, sensing, feeling.


Posted May 11, 2011 by strongjacksonpoet54 in Essays

2 responses to “Santa Fe Post #5, Moving to NM

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  1. everybody should be a foreigner for a time.


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