I am neither a spider nor a bird

Another journal entry … a few weeks into my return. Even before I came back to the U.S., I had the irrational urge to skip the plane ride home and run as far away as I could.  This desire came in intensifying waves all summer, so I decided to go on a spiritual retreat to a place called the Farmhouse; my hope was to do the same kind of preparation for re-entry that I had done for my year abroad while at Taizé.  Of course,  this preparation came several weeks into the homecoming – and would last only 5 days rather than 5 weeks – but at that point I decided to take what I could get.

August 8, 2011

Last night/evening, I arrived at the Farmhouse.  Walking in was like coming home – to all the homes I knew and loved in Grand Rapids.  Dinner was delicious and the conversation stimulating, and the next-door house with my room, while not as home-like, was comfortable.  But then I took a walk in the woods, and that’s when I realized how wrong things were.  Not with the place, but with me.

I looked through the isles of corn to the small forest with great anticipation – the moon above the trees certainly helped to give it an adventurous quality – but my entrance was less than magical.

It’s funny – all last summer, I missed the cicadas and felt that the season had an empty space without their singing, but this summer, now that I am back in North America, I’ve found the cicadas’ sounds grating and distracting and even aurally claustrophobic.  I felt that way last night, too, and when I entered the woods, the twilight darkness intensified the claustrophobia.  I realized with dismay that my sandals, while sturdy and good for walking, exposed my feet to the poison ivy that I a) hadn’t had to deal with in Europe and b) had forgotten about as a problem to guard myself against.

So I picked my way carefully.  I was beset by persistent flies and mosquitoes.  The enormous dragonflies winding around me in the corn fields had felt like guardians, but these bugs buzzed in my ears with alarming regularity and yet managed to remain uncatchable.  I ran into spider webs, the oppressive heat pressed closer the deeper I got into the trees, and I hurried out on another path short of breath and flailing my arms to ward away everything I possibly could.  I’d never felt my self so fully reject the forest, and I knew I would have to return.

But not then.  I let myself be pushed away into the cornfield paths, rejoicing in the pastel moon and marveling at how my body was rejecting my homeland and seeking to flee.  The same way a body might reject its own organ.  I had hoped that leaving my parents house would calm my urge to run away as far as possible.  But the demons were not a symptom of my location.

I did have one positive experience with the woods, and it actually had to do with the spider webs I kept running into.  I thought about how often the spiders have to rebuild their homes, how it is a part of their rhythms and necessary for their sustenance.  There is such a beauty in their home-building work.  And I thought about how even the word “nesting,” a word used so often by my generation, comes from the lives of birds, and they rebuild their houses every year.

Of course, I am neither a spider nor a bird – I am a human woman – but certainly there is a good deal of beauty to find in this season of my life.  And plenty of nesting to do.

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