We arrive each morning in a new place. For good reason, place is third character in any piece of writing. Second only to the protagonist, and concurrent with character of time.
I write about places I need to return to. “They” tell me to write to details. All my memories are vague; composed of visceral sentiments. “They” tell me to put place into peripheral vision. Instead place is my full frontal panoply.
Everything exists in place. It helps to settle my mind into some kind of tangible form.
I don’t know if I can settle the readers’ mind, as my success in settling my own is distinctively limited. I like the idea of including peripheral vision. Especially when writing. It makes me reflect that I should more often decide to write in a place where that vision is expanded; expansive.
There are so many places I need to return to, can’t even begin to address the topic. But I love the the contemplation, the opportunity.
Starting with lists as we sometimes do in writing, I’ll give a few hints: Flat Top, in the California Sierras, the Willamette Valley in Oregon, sailing into Seattle, that young night with the full moon framing the experience as if from a post card, but certainly not. 3D, not two. Maybe more than 3. The inside passage of Southeast Alaska; Southeast Alaska itself at the armpit of the state. Haines. Skagway. Ketchikan in fog. Northwestern Canada, Lake Kluane cupped in the Rockies, as if a landscape in a dream. Anchorage, West Chester Lagoon, the train tracks, bookended by lagoon and Inlet. Mount Susitna, the sleeping lady, 50 miles past the Inlet, but taking up the better part of the mind’s horizon as all extant mythical beings do. The winding road from Anchorage, north. Talkeetna, Gold Creek, on to Fairbanks and the Air Base where I spent 2 and a half glorious years.
Then there is the desert, the Mohave, just west of Death Valley where I performed my duties both at 122 degrees above, and at wind chills of 15 below. Devils Dunes on the horizon like a mirage forming landscapes best left to be filled in by the imagination. There, before me, as if I was a tourist, had a quarter, and a sight seers’ telescope, there are the exclusive and high price (Price of admission? A uniform, an oath, and the ability to follow directions) vantages of the Avawatz mountains
Included are places I never went and still need to return to: Passing 50 miles of the Grand Canyon at 70 mph: four times while driving back and forth from Oklahoma, for example. Sometimes I feel like I missed the point of those drives, and yet, missing a place is almost as good as seeing it, if you can feel the missing inside you.
Vermont, Boston, Europe, come close to completing this list. But there are other lists, yes?
The list of all places I need to never return to, having been there, is one such list. Even so, some part of the spiritual quest that has been foisted upon me makes a request close to a demand that I return to these places, too.
The house of my youth is one of them, haunted as it is with the suffering of my mother’s struggles with roles and realities. Add my own suffering of railing against her demonic, yet inspired, need for a controlling righteousness.
It is a place I need to return to, as I continue to live in this place. She is here alive in my veins. And as I become as tallow and the dross melts off of me, I see that it is both privilege and obligation to have her here inside me. Besides her husband, my father, and her own mother, I alone now understand part of what she was trying to do and what obstacles she blindly wrestled with. I was her first. For the first three years of my life we were together in ways that none of my other siblings fortunately, and unfortunately, got to see. My understanding of my mother is instinctual, somatic, borne and to be borne. As the human community is ever in my peripheral vision, there is my mother, standing tall among us all. A proud ground of shining light, when put in the perspective first the words of Victor Frankl: “That which is to give light must first endure burning.”
Each morning, in a new way, I awaken to lights and fires: to tend, to shepherd, to lay a day into homage. With this in mind, there is little need for Hope to try imagine anything else.