I took a photography class once when I was in college. It was something that I had wanted to do since my sister gave me my first 35mm camera many years prior. There were several interesting circumstances surrounding that class, but the reason I bring it up at the moment is because of the direction I took in producing my final project. Reflections. Images that, to this day intrigue me, whether I choose, or am able, to capture them or not. Clouds reflected in puddles was always one of my favorites. Looking at the sky, while looking at the ground.
Looking Both Ways.
Funny thing is, I have never really been that big of a fan of mirrors. But that is a different topic altogether.
I have written here before about struggling with depression. It is no real secret to those that know me… or to those that have spent much time reading this blogthing. I have tried in different ways to manage it, including trying to ignore it. I am not actually convinced that there is much that works any better than accepting it, acknowledging it, and ultimately experiencing it. I say this mainly because I never really seem to know what sets it off, nor what sets it free. I do know that it is always made worse when I allow myself to get sucked into it. When I indulge it. That said, it would seem that sometimes, not always mind you, but sometimes, it is best to let it run the course.
But, I really did not mean to talk about depression here. Not really. More than anything I guess it is a backdrop. Setting the stage, as it were. Building a bit of back ground from which to look forward.
Looking Both Ways.
There is a museum in Alaska, on the island of Kodiak. Home to the Alutiiq people. The island in truth, the museum in reverence. I was once fortunate enough to visit that place and that is where I first heard this phrase, in the light with which I have since seen it. Yet, it is more complicated than that. I never really did get a clear sense of what the relation to the Alutiiq culture that phrase had, but somehow presumed that it referred to time… and place, and truth, and the persistence of culture. Of history and family, of tradition and roots and hope. Of the necessity of looking at one’s past in order to make any sense of one’s present, never mind a possible future. But more than that. It is not just about the looking, but more so the seeing. The experiencing the continuum of one’s existence.
Without intending to be too esoteric, I feel that to truly acknowledge and embrace life, however we may choose to define it, we must Look Both Ways. We must see our past in our futures and our futures in our pasts. Ourselves in our children and our parents in ourselves. Our hopes and dreams and aspirations in our memories and tribulations, our doubts and fears. I believe that life, our life, all life, our connection to it, is a web of experience, not a linear arc of time. If we do not see behind us, acknowledge where we have been, when we look ahead to wherever it is that we might be going, we cannot see with clear eyes. But more importantly, I think, we must make sure to look around us. We must embrace the good and bad, the whole spectrum of our experience to inform how we are to proceed.
Or, conversely, we can just take it easy man, and surrender to the flow. I rather think it is all the same thing though.
I was asked by a friend yesterday, (and I think I will say friend, even though we barely know each other, as there is some sense of connection, if for no other reason than an important familial association), if I might have some insight or wisdom to share. Not so sure about that, but I did promise to attempt to wrangle some thoughts together and proceed to ramble a bit… and so here we are.
The subject under consideration was the difficulty of leaving. Though in truth that is a bit oversimplified. One cold, hard truth in regards to that, is that, in my life, I have been pretty good at leaving. It was, in point of fact, somewhat of a standard operating procedure for some time. It was something that I had learned how to do from past experience. It had become a sort of default in a sense. One with a sense of scale built in.
Let me unpack that a bit.
There was a time, a particular moment, that serves as somewhat of an exemplar here. My sister happened upon me idle at one point and inquired what I was doing. “Sitting”, I said. More than likely however, I was in a state of removal; physically there, mentally, elsewhere. For the next few years, I moved a lot. Travel, on the one hand, escape, perhaps, on the other. I was often uncomfortable with where (read Who) I was and so it seemed sensible to go elsewhere.
And here we should probably consider the backdrop presented above. Previously I did not consider, or maybe recognize, the influence depression had on my behavior. I would find myself uncomfortable, or unsatisfied as it may have been, with a certain existence; whether that be a time, or a place, or a job, or a person, or what have you. And so I would leave. Often first in mind, but almost certainly thereafter in body. I was essentially trying to escape, but what I did not realize, or acknowledge, was that I was trying to escape myself. Which, you know, never really works of course.
But then, somehow, I found a place. It was pretty big place mind you, and one that I continued to move around within, but there was something about it that I held onto. Something that I built into my identity. I guess you could say I made it “home”. And then, years later I was faced with a choice, and complex as it was, I left. Again. This time though, under rather different circumstances.
It has been nearly a year and a half since I/we left, and truth be told, a great big part of me is still there. Example; I still have those moments of “sitting” and often will find myself driving a familiar stretch of road, one that I travelled countless times, or standing on a certain stretch of river, staring at a certain patch of sky… looking at clouds in familiar puddles. Living in the present I still see the past. I often catch myself saying things like, “it is still ski season back home.” Or, “At home, I used to do this that or the other thing.” And even though, at this time, I have no particular intention of going back there to live any time soon… if ever, it will always now be a particular frame of reference. It is part of me, part of what defines me, part of what guides me. It will always be where I have been and will always influence where I go, not necessarily in the choice to go, but in the experience of going.
When I first truly settled there all those years ago, I fell in love with a river, (well, three rivers to be precise…). It was unexpected and it would take some time for me to realize the effect that had on me. The summer before we left, I had the chance/privilege to fall in love with another river, which in truth gave me the opportunity to consider that first relationship. There is a river here, and while I certainly enjoy it, it is a very different river, but I will get to that in a moment. With that first river, I often viewed it in light of the mountains from which it formed. With the second, it was more about the land through which it flowed. Either way, I had cultivated this sense of appreciation though the river, (and here read the idea of river, not any one in particular) that it was at once the place from which it had come, the place where it was going to, and all the while the place through which it flowed. It fed the land, but was fed by the land, both forming it and constrained by it. To consider its destination, one had to consider its source, and in doing either one must of course consider it in present, in one’s present relation to it.
One day recently, I had taken the dogs to one of our favorite haunts, that being one of the various “forks” of the river. Being “spring” the water was up, fed as it is from the mountain runoff. I stood watching it for some time and could not help but compare the experience to watching those other rivers, the latter in particular. It struck me that this little river is rambunctious, feisty in its flow. It races through the land, bound for wherever it is going. Living where we do, I am learning about the source of this river, the various mountains and springs that feed it. I know a bit about the land through which it flows, but only here near the source. I do not really know much about where it is bound, other than that it feeds directly into a much larger version of itself. But I am starting to really ramble here. What I was trying to express is that, this river does not seem to give me the same sense of comfort, of place. It is too energetic and frequently makes me think about other places rather than contemplate where I am. It does not feed within me any sense of home, it is just too energetic.
I guess my point with this river stuff is that I keep trying to make some connection with, or comparison between, this place and that other place. And here is where (finally?) I will try to address the initial concern. While there is a part of me that is always wondering what else it out there, over time I have learned to settle and try to appreciate where, and in truth who, I am. Leaving Alaska was hard, still is in many ways. But in many other ways, I was ready to not be there anymore, I was ready to move on even though I really did not want, this time, to “leave”. It seems to me, in light of all of this, while we may have a particular connection to one place or another, we are always bound for another place, or at least another version of a place, because through time and experience we change. We grow and learn and so does our connection to where we are, where have been, and ideally I suppose to where we go.
Leaving a place we love is hard. To many it is unfathomable, for that is what Home is. The place is viewed as an anchor, as a defining influence. Home is where the heart is, but it is also where we hang our hat. If we Look at it in a certain way, Home is in our relationship to a place, not necessarily in the place itself. Home is made up of familiarity and comfort, of family and friends, of memory and experience. All that can be hard to leave, I get that. And for that I do not know what really to say. In my experience, while I actually do miss the last house we lived in in Alaska, and that place that we called home, more than that I miss the idea of the place, the influence it had on me.
But I am here now. We are here, and now there is one more of us. In this new place I have learned a whole new meaning of family. And while I still feel somewhat unsettled in this place, it is this new sense of home that gives me comfort. What I find I really need to focus on here is seeing through the Boy’s eyes. Allowing myself the opportunity to explore and experience life through him. Of course that by necessity will be influenced by my experience, but isn’t that the whole point? He is a part of me and I am a part of him. In family thee is home, and just as there are many different parts to family, there are many different parts to home. Like life, or the river, it is in the connections. But life, like the river, keeps on moving and so too must we.
And that is all I have to say about that.