Monday, November 01, 2010

Shadows on the Heart

We all have them. Shadows on the heart. Those spots that when you run across them much like your tongue running along to find the wobbly baby tooth, you give a little sigh or shed a tear or shrug your shoulders against a sudden chill. As adults we like to think that children are immune, but with children each disjunction in their young lives is loaded with existential angst. The world is new and fragile and any misalignment is fraught with the terror of the unexpected.

As we get older we get a perspective. Missteps and misalignments need not mean the end of our lives. We can move through and around the shadows usually, but we can never avoid them or ignore them. Their peculiar geography means that the more circuitous path to avoiding them, the more likely they are to be with us.

These peculiar shadows also have a unique physics--light dispels the chill if not the shadow. The best antidote is a conversation around a kitchen table.

Shadows come in a variety of shades depending on their source. Some fade with time; some disappear altogether. Shadows from a sense of loss get different--not necessarily better in some real world version of Cartesian grid lines or Pangloss hyperoptimism--but comfortable in their familiarity.

Homesickness is an incurable disease. Not because it is the emanation of a manipulative virus or a legion of bacteria not yet subject to the restraints of science but because it is a yearning for something that does not exist. It is not one of the many syndromes to be given a code for insurance purposes in the big red book in the psychiatrist's office, although I suppose it could grow into such a thing. Homesickness is nostalgia for the same kind of life we thought we had as a child--in recalling we omit all those shadows on the heart that are as much a part of that time and place as the halcyon days we think we recall. Not even time travel or ruby slippers could get us to the spot we think we have lost.

I have spoken of my homesickness usually only in private whispers because it hurt to talk about it, there was nothing that could be done about it, and because I did not want to hurt the people here in my new home. I have friends and family and jobs and ideas and all the things that make me the person that I am--curiosity, distractedness, love of cats, and an only slightly moderated with age tendency to tilt at windmills.

So having put it down in words, I have broken the spell. There is no place like home.


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