Yearning for place

“And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul”
― John Muir

“Going to the woods is going home.”
― John Muir

“What’s the hurry to move in?” my friend asked when I declined an invitation for an outing the evening after I was to take possession of my new house?

Indeed. There was no real, or should I say logical, hurry to move in or be moving at night. I could go out for a few hours, surely. I wrestled with my heart and relented. However, the reason I so badly wanted to be in my empty house was that I have been experiencing a pain at being unattached to place.  I don’t mean to a dwelling, I mean to a patch of land, to a place I feel called to be.

When looking for a new home my number one criterion was that it be near the forest.  You see, I was drawn to stay close to that forest. A forest I have come to love and feel at home in.  It’s a place I find magical, where animals dare approach, where I meditate and escape the world.  When nothing became available I considered other suburbs with forests. I planned to inspect a number of homes for sale in those areas but, when I felt into it, those other forests were not my forest. Not my place. I didn’t feel drawn to be there. It’s not logical, you’re right. A forest is a forest, right? Well, no. This is not about logic it’s about feeling and about intuition and about what I can only call magic.

I am drawn to nature. I love to wander on the beach, in forested areas and the wild places, away from civilisation. I feel an intricate link with the natural world and connected to a power greater than myself when in nature. I feel at home in nature,so much more than I do when in cites and around people.  I have a real sense of the energy of “my forest”.  It’s like I can read the history of that place and I feel welcome there. It restores me to connect with the trees and the rocks and the bush. My new backyard feels like an extension of that forest. I can see the tree tops of it from my back deck.

So, when my friend asked me out and I really had no rational reason to be sitting in an empty house or moving boxes out of a storage shed into an empty house at night, this was the real reason. I was longing to be home. Longing to connect with my own sacred space and to set down roots.  You can’t reason with emotion, with the sacred and mystical.

I know I can live anywhere but to thrive anywhere? Perhaps not. I feel a fundamental pull to this particular spot. At first, I thought it was habit. In fact, the very same friend who asked me out had me consider if I was just in my comfort zone there.  That question took me by surprise and my hackles raised slightly at first.  However, living in temporary accommodation, before settlement, I examined that question closely.   Staying for a time by the river, a place I used to live, I wondered if I’d made the right decision to stay near the forest.  The river was so lovely, the sunsets stunning, the silky texture of the water, alluring. In my gut though, I knew that while I could appreciate the river and its beauty, I really didn’t feel connected there.  Then, living in a funky and vibrant inner-city suburb for a month, I began to question myself again.  I was enjoying the hubbub and the eclectic crowd but the throb of disconnection and being unattached returned.

I can’t explain the draw to the place I’ve chosen as home; except to say, that since I was a child I have felt the energy of places. From a very young age I’ve felt strongly uncomfortable or completely at ease in some buildings and environments.  When travelling I have been reduced to tears when stepping onto battlefields and I’ve vomited as a result of heavy and overwhelming energies of some places. This connection to “my forest” is instinctual and I am so looking forward to seeing what transpires when, in a few days, I set down roots and return home.

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The Road Between Us –– my return to fiction

“I have claimed that escape is one of the main functions of fairy-stories, and since I do not disapprove of them, it is plain that I do not accept the tone of scorn or pity with which ‘escape’ is now so often used. Why should a man be scorned if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls?”
― J.R.R. Tolkien

Every now and then I read a book I just have to share. The Road Between Us is one of them.

Now, I have to admit, I haven’t read fiction for some time and part of my enamourement could be due to the feeling of returning home after a long absence and sinking, delightedly back into the embrace of a long-lost love.  But I believe it is more than that.

Nigel Farndale’s book is exquisite. I finished it today in a quite coffee shop in a normally popular South Brisbane alley. Having escaped the office to read the last 17 pages I found my heart aching and tears brimming.

Explaining to a friend how two parallel storylines, of different eras, were woven together her nose wrinkled, exclaiming that device often didn’t work for her.  I admit, at first, there seemed to be no apparent connection between the contemporary 2012 timeline and the one beginning in the late 1930’s but it soon became clear. The reader is not left wanting.

Initially, I was more invested in one plot line than the other then, miraculously, it would switch until I was hungry simply to keep reading, regardless of the narrative. Farndale skilfully keeps the reader on track, devoted to each storyline as well as provoking the intellect with some not insignificant moral and social questions.  As in life, relationships are paramount. I feel the tentacles of the rich, elegant and complex relationships of the novel wrapping around my thoughts and I expect they will for some time.

I acknowledge my inexperience, awkwardness and lack of sophistication as a book reviewer but, in this instance, I also do not want to give too much away.

I discovered The Road Between Us in a plastic box in a friend’s linen cupboard. A box of holiday reading options for friends.  My copy was scarred by afternoons by the pool and the merriment of holiday makers.  Nonetheless, it was a significant find for me and a glorious return to the world of fiction.  It is poignant, stunning, electrically charged, heart-wrenching and heart-warming with some skilfully refined and unexpected twists to enrich it even further.

I’m flagging this as a must read novel.  Have you read it? I would love to know what you thought. Can you recommend a book I should read next?

What happens when you find yourself in the Bardo?

Honor the space between no longer and not yet. — Nancy Levin

Loosely speaking, “Bardo” is the state of existence between two lives on earth, after death and before one’s next birth. It is a state between death and rebirth but not a purgatory as a Christian perspective might suggest.

This Tibetan word, with its provocative connotation, means a transition or a gap between the completion of one situation and the onset of another. Barmeans “in between,” and domeans “suspended” or “thrown.”

On listening to an interview by Richard Fidler with George Saunders, author of Lincoln in the Bardo, I realised I was in the Bardo.  I feel like I’m in suspended animation, in a period of time between my usual or known way of life and what is to come.  Don’t get me wrong, my life isn’t on hold.  It’s not like I’m waiting for the perfect conditions to continue but a lot has happened recently, and I find myself in an in-between place — a place without solid roots, a place of itinerancy and it’s a curious place to be.  At first, being adrift rocked me. There were moments of shock, panic and grief. After several weeks, I find I like this place of not belonging, of having no ties or roots. I belong in no place and yet every place.  I have the chance to see life from a different perspective, with fresh eyes and a respect I have not exercised before.

If the Bardo describes a state between reincarnation on earth, after death, it’s a stunning analogy for my life. After 22 years of a certain way of life having spectacularly ended and being without a home, and working toward finding a new one, I find I have the opportunity for a reincarnation of sorts. There is much to learn about who I am. So much of who we are is a response to our circumstances, relationships and the situations we experience.  Strip all that away and who are we?  On a number of occasions in recent months I’ve been asked questions that begin —  “How do you behave when faced with…”.  I can only respond with —  “I used to react like…. but now, given all the reasons I behaved that way no longer exist, I don’t know.”

Rather than face this obscurity and lack of certainty with stark terror, it’s a wonderful time of contemplation and inner reflection*, of spiritual and personal growth as well as transformation.

Being in the Bardo isn’t as dire as might be expected. It’s liberating, consolidating and a unique opportunity that I am, now that I can articulate it, grateful to be experiencing. There is part of me that longs to linger and I need to remind myself it’s a transitional time and place and that a rebirth must ultimately follow. With that vision in mind, I approach with excitement and anticipation.

 

*Interestingly my computer auto corrected reflection and it read perfection. We might never reach inner perfection but gee, it’s a gorgeous concept and a beautiful perspective to contemplate. Thanks autocorrect, for once I’m impressed.