I fell head over heels in love sitting on a stone wall on a dark night, passing the time by waiting for a nearly-full-moon to rise. It was a night made for love. Inside my new home, the two students who’d helped me move to Plainfield had found each other. In the field below me millions of fireflies were taking advantage of an early balmy night. Their love did not last, but mine did – and we’re coming up on our silver anniversary.
Seeking a quiet place to write my dissertation, I’d inadvertently wandered into a magic kingdom. Fireflies circled the sparkling field like silent helicopters blinking their come-hither message to the city below, sending waves of light washing through the whole for a low-lying aurora borealis. Suddenly, I was no longer in exile: not from the students cavorting behind me, not from my house, not from my home country, and not from myself. I’d come home.
It sounds pretty overblown, a moment of becoming one that changes a life. But that night started an adventure in discovery that is going on still. An exploration of something like self-in-nature, of finding connection in being here and at this moment; perhaps more precisely a rearranging of priorities, bringing experience forward and the rest closer. Very Thoreauvian, that, to once again recognize the philosopher reduced to a sentimental fool in the popular imagination.
I don’t seem to be learning about nature in the usual sense of the word. “I wish you were more of a naturalist,” a new friend sighed recently. But living on and with this land, living so it isn’t hidden, teaches me hour to hour what it takes to survive, how to grow food and create warmth, how interwoven the whole is including disease and death, and how much labor is needed for reproduction. And that sometimes you need to take the time to sit still let your eyes adapt and get bitten left and right if you want to be part of something real. All of which we humans tend to gloss over once we’re free of the immediate struggle to make it past the sod hut-and-gruel stage of human economic development. And we need our collective consciousnesses raised as to what it takes to allow us to blithely live on.
And it teaches me to take time to smell the roses …. I guess you can’t win ‘em all. Working on that one, still.
The carpenter and I are both new to this country and at the moment we struggle with how much our dismay about the national clashes with our allegiance to the local. We strongly wish to remain part of the fabric of this place (nature and humans), while at the same time we feel very disaffected with the disdain that seems to be gaining ground, the careless dismissal of humans, nature, and of the whole idea that we might have to work it all together to make a good future, or perhaps any future. We’re working on that, too, and I don’t know what the outcome will be. Not sure any more it is so different elsewhere. Our very own struggle with modernity.
After that magical night lo those many years ago I had to head back to Cambridge to return the students whence they came and attend graduation. Despite my long term affair, I have never again experienced the world-in-lights quite that way. But this past week the nights have been full of magic. As we take the hound for his final evening walk through the wet field in this dry summer, the water-loving fireflies dance low, just above the grasses. One evening they even danced the Aurora.
If you click on an image the album will pop up.