Reflection on the subject of "homesickness" after Monday's post got me thinking about loss and change and all the things we leave behind us as we journey through our years -- which are never truly lost, in an artist's life, for all of those places are "alchemized" into our writing, our paintings, our music...and into the most vital creation of all: ourselves. I carry all the places I've loved within me, for my bones and breath are formed of them. It seems to me that I've been a slightly different self in every town, state, or country I've lived in -- but each of them lives within me now, a chorus growing larger, louder every year. My task, as an artist, is to find harmony and not cacophony in the music they make together.
When I lived in my last house, Weaver's Cottage, I had a wise, lovely neighbor who was in her mid-90s. It was she who first pointed out to me that a good life doesn't diminish but thickens with age. She didn't mind growing old, she explained, for she carried each one of her younger selves with her -- all the lives that she'd lived, all the people she'd known. And that gave her twilight years a richness that youth could not possibly match.
For me, I think, those past selves are firmly attached to places I have loved -- to houses and towns and mountains and cafes -- more than to chronological age, for the various stages of my life have been marked by my intense engagement with the land below and the view outside the window and the walls around me. Now here I am this morning in my "Bumblehill stage," my Bumblehill self, sweet Tilly nestled up against my feet, looking out the studio doorway at the sun-lit Devon hills...while all the other selves inside me are looking out too, and enjoying this fine morning along with us.
Sitting here with my morning cup of coffee, I've been thinking about my life-long habit of tumbling out of bed at an early, early hour, eager to start the day. During this period of convalescence, however, getting up has been (unusually for me) more of a struggle, and too often right now it's only the promise of a good cup of coffee that gets me up and out. I'm suddenly reminded of a line from a Jonathan Carroll novel that I associate with my "Weaver's Cottage stage" of life, for I painted it over a kitchen window there:
"Sometimes it is the smallest thing that saves us: the weather growing cold, a child's smile, and a cup of excellent coffee."
And sometimes it's the weather growing warm...a dog's goofy grin...and a cup of excellent coffee.