Friday, December 10, 2010

"I'll send you a postcard when I get there...

...I don't want anything more than to see your face when you open the door." Chinese by Lily Allen

Again, as I've been reading GK Chesterton, I'm struck by the poetry of things in life--the beauty of things we consider mundane, and the deep meaning in the ordinary. Yet we try to make things sound "poetical," but at the loss of any meaning--the example Chesterton uses is about names. We think of the name "Smith" as a singularly unromantic and meaningless name. It is the name of anonymity. Yet what is a smith? It changes the outcome of wars, it shows the art and progress of nations, it is an art and a science, a beauty and a strength...and it comes in as many varieties as there are elements. But we think a name like "Aylmer Valence," (Or perhaps a better modern example would be "Lady Gaga"?) as more artistic and poetic.

The so-called scientific approach to living life--the pseudo-efficiency--may provide some benefits to society, though I have my doubts. Beneficial or not, it has brought the world to a place where people no longer value ideals or imagination, and discovery is left to the "professionals," because the every-day man thinks he knows it all--or enough, anyway. We are inundated with pointless information that takes so long to sift through, that we do not know how to find anything meaningful or beautiful, and we know so many broad facts that we forget to even consider the details.

"It is inspiriting without doubt to whizz in a motor-car round the earth, to feel Arabia as a whirl of sand or China as a flash of rice-fields. But Arabia is not a whirl of sand and China is not a flash of rice-fields. They are ancient civilizations with strange virtues buried like treasures. If we wish to understand them it must not be as tourists or inquirers, it must be with the loyalty of children and the great patience of poets."

This quote spoke volumes to me. When I visited Morocco and we took the train and bus across the country from the north all the way to the southern tip where we got to spend a night in the Sahara, I was overcome with the beauty of the country, yes, but I was frustrated at the lack of intimacy my trip felt. Indeed, an entire summer spent primarily in one city didn't come near to unlocking that city's secrets to me--it felt somewhat familiar, yes, but there were secrets and magic and personalities that I never even dreamt existed, much less met while I was there. A friend who went the summer after I did and spent the same time in the same place came back with a totally different side of Fez--different stories and experiences and things I did not have any idea were there.

Even in my own, familiar culture, in a place that doesn't speak a foreign language--Lexington, Kentucky--a summer is not long enough to really know a place. Broadly acquaint, perhaps, but certainly not know or love. One can fall in love with a place at first sight in the same sense one can fall in love with a person at first sight--there is interest, there is attraction, and there is an impression, be it physical or emotional or spiritual, that all the pieces will fit together and any disagreements will be worth the heart-break. I spent almost every day of the summer exploring and discovering various things in Lexington, and I grew quite fond of it, but ever since leaving, I have done nothing but hear of places I never discovered.

Have you ever seen a movie and wondered how the characters knew to get involved with that group in that place at that time? I'll admit it--I think of James Bond, and I envy his ability to always find the best restaurants, the best bars, the best dances and events and all the right people to connect him with all the right places. Of course it isn't real, but that is not the point. I also realize that he already has connections leading him to these places--but for goodness sake, he had to start sometime. Did he never go to a country he'd never been to before and have to just cold-turkey pick a hotel? Surely at some point he was inexperienced.

That was a bit of a detour. Back to my original train of thought:

"The man standing in his own kitchen-garden, with fairyland opening at the gate, is the man with large ideas. His mind creates distance; the motor-car stupidly destroys it."

I'm trying to incorporate this into my life now, as we're living in a charming small town. I have my little house with my garden (undeveloped at present, since it is winter) and I am already discovering how engrossed in the intimate details of locality everyone is here--and while some may see the smallness of ideas here (which, I'll admit, scared me at first) I am coming to realize that the hills hiding the horizon do us a favor, in a small way. We can focus on real, homey, good things, rather than ethereal untouchables that benefit no one and mean nothing. I can perfect my pies and cream puffs and make our little space pretty, and work hard and earn money to give to people and things that need it. I can take time to understand the things that confuse me, and I can actually enjoy the beauty I see, not barely notice it as I run from one appointment to another.

I don't know if I will ever be "from" here. I don't know if I want to be. I know my heart is here with Ryan, but it longs still for the deserts and vistas in New Mexico. But "home" has moved, that's for sure--home is with my husband and my cat and where I do the dishes and laundry and shop for groceries. And even though the newness and strangeness is wearing off, though nowhere near as familiar as New Mexico was, or even Virginia, the fact that we are married, and we moved here together, and as long as he is here, I want to be here, because our life is together, and if together means here, then it's good.

"Posting a letter and getting married are among the few things left that are entirely romantic; for to be entirely romantic a thing must be irrevocable. We think a pillar-box prosaic, because there is no rhyme to it. We think a pillar-box unpoetical, because we have never seen it in a poem. But the bold fact is entirely on the side of poetry...A pillar-box is only called a pillar box; it is a sanctuary of human words."

So those are my thoughts, courtesy Heretics / Orthodoxy, by G. K. Chesterton. I apologize for the somewhat scattered presentation.


1 comment:

The Minnesotan with the German-Irish Name said...

This was lovely to read! One of the things I both love and hate about growing up and getting married is that "home" seems to have multiplied. I go "home" to New Mexico and my growing-up home and my parents' farm, and then I go back "home" again to our little condo.