I’m heading out tomorrow, and since the place I grew up is only six miles from the consultant’s house, I think I want to stop by and look around again, reminisce about those good old times when all I did was dream and be happy… I want to come in by exactly the route my mom drove out with me after Dad died and she left that dear cozy place to go immure herself in the Big City. Adieu, Will — I’ll keep you posted on my roamings.
I went into this visit home like a pilgrim, devout, contemplative… and a lot of big, unexpected feelings hit me there. When my taxi reached the big linden tree about fifteen minutes from Main Street, I had the driver stop and let me out so I could keep going on foot and savor every memory as vividly as possible. And then, there I was, standing under the linden, the exact tree I always walked out to as a kid, that was as far as I was allowed to go from home. What a change! I was so innocent back then…so eager to head out into the unknown world, so sure I’d find all this sustenance and delight out there for my heart, to satisfy the cravings in my soul…and now here I am coming back from that wide world — oh, Will, with so many failed hopes and ruined plans! — I looked out at those hills I used to always dream of climbing. I could sit here for hours and float myself over them, send my soul wandering through the forests and valleys sitting right in front of me, all dappled and beautiful; and then when time was up, it was like pulling teeth to drag me home from that dear place! — I walked farther into town, waving hello to all the little old houses I recognized, feeling grumpy at the new ones and all the other construction going up. But then I turned a corner onto Main Street, and — I was back. I won’t get into details, Will — it would be just as boring on paper as it was powerful in person. I’d decided to stay in a hotel off the green, right by our old house. On my way over, I saw that my old school building, the place I spent so much of my childhood penned up in, had been converted into condos! I remembered all the restlessness, the crying, the brain-dulling/soul-crushing I went through in there… — Every step I took, there was something affecting. It was like a personal Stations of the Cross, moment after moment of religious remembrance and sacred soul-filling emotion… Here’s one more, out of a thousand. I went walking down the river towards this one particular park (this was also a path I used to take all the time) to the spot where we used to get together as kids and skip stones. And I had such a vivid flashback of how I used to stand there and watch the water and send all these strange fantasies chasing after it and try to imagine all the amazing places it was flowing off to, and pretty soon I’d come up against the limits of my imagination, but it just kept going, on and on, until I lost myself completely staring into the invisible distance. — See, Will, that’s how limited and happy people were in ancient times! that’s how childlike their feelings and their poetry were! When Odysseus talks about the measureless sea and the endless earth, it’s so true, human, deep, close, and mystical. Sure, I can say it’s round, and good for me, A+, but what good does that do me? You only need a few handfuls of earth to be happy on, and even less to rest beneath.
I’m at the consultant’s summer house now. It’s nice, he’s really easy to live with — just an honest, straightforward guy. The weirdest people keep coming over whom I can’t really wrap my head around. They don’t…seem like con men? but they don’t exactly feel like honest people, either. Sometimes they do come off honest, but even then I don’t quite trust them. The other thing that bugs me is that he has a tendency to go on and on about things he’s only vaguely heard or read about, and (even worse) to just parrot back whatever angle people have tried to spin for him.
Plus, he values my intellect and my skills more than my heart, which is the one thing I’m actually proud of, the one source of all my strength and bliss and misery. Eh, the stuff I know, anyone can know — but my heart? That’s mine.
I had something in mind I didn’t want to tell you about until I’d made it happen…but now since it’s not going anywhere I guess there’s no harm. I wanted to join the army; it’s something I’ve been seriously considering for a long time. Honestly, that’s the main reason I followed the consultant out here, because he’s a vet with a lot of connections. While we were out walking, I shared my plan with him, he shot it down, and I would’ve had to be stubborn to the point of stupid not to listen to his advice.