in the mountains, with a clue, if not a camera cord
So here we are, and there is a lot more to the story than just what I plan to write today. My mom is here with me. She drove up from Florida to meet me. She comes here often enough so I suspected that if I merely suggested she come join me, she likely would, and my suspicion was correct. Spontaneity is a quality which can be relied upon in my mother, although there is an inherent irony there, I realize, since it is also what can make a person very unpredictable.
While driving to North Carolina, I could not help but note the cyclical nature of growing older and repeating patterns that I received from her. I think that it is the integrity of a place– one place that I keep coming back to with the same people– that allows this to come into relief, into the light of revelation. So I am grateful for the stability of this place in my life. Because my grandfather made the fortunate decision to build this old cabin in the woods of the Blue Ridge mountains, I get to experience it as a locus of my life and my family, a sort of old timey hearth not so common in our uprooted culture these days, where memories and patterns are given the long stretches of stable space, and, as John O’Donohue describes, the memory of place, that they require in order to emerge and make themselves visible. But it feels almost like dumb luck that this happened for me, almost accidental. My mother used to toss us kids into the car and bring us here year after year during my childhood, and now I am highly conscious of the fact that I have turned into the mother, tossing my children into the car and repeating the pattern. It is admittedly so nice and such a blessing and privilege to have this place to come to, but it is not all one big rosy picture, because there is this onion analogy that I cannot escape from. That is, family–that sweet, crazy thing called family–keeps getting de-layered before me on the cutting board, making my eyes water. Perhaps all of this writing I do is to try to get all of those pungent layers of raw onion into a pan with some healing oil, to caramelize into something mild, mellow and ultimately palatable.
There is still so much to resolve, and my mother carries all of this irresolution with her into the hearth and serenity of a mountain retreat like a palm tree bending and fraying in a Florida hurricane. But however crazy this can make me feel, I can still thank God for the fact of it, because without it, and without that continual returning and turning to one’s family, one’s origins, what could I know about myself? Instead, I am given little clues to hold and decipher. And if I thought I had all the clues in my possession, I was wrong. They are yet forthcoming, and this seemingly innocent little road trip has proven that without any doubt. But the good, dawning news is that God is my true parent. Ever so slowly I transfer all my trust and expectation to a higher place.
I forgot to bring my camera cord, so Photo Friday is going to be delayed. I did the assignment, “looking up,” but I cannot get the photos onto my computer. The cabin has no internet, naturally, so I am in a coffee shop in downtown Black Mountain just checking my email, as it were. My fingers feel cold and slow at the keyboard after only a few days of being unplugged– they almost had to warm up, along with my brain, before I could even think of how to write anything. Every now and then the mountains let a text message through and my phone makes a little noise. But for the most part, I have to throw some shoes on and walk a few paces out of the front door to get a signal. It is good for me to spend time in such a place.