I’m on the train to NYC from Boston and we’ve paused somewhere in a forest. Except for some radio chatter about whatever is wrong with the train it’s quiet here and I feel like- we’re supposed to be here. Why shouldn’t the train stop in places that are random and beautiful?
I’m making my way back from my cousin’s wedding at the “Castle in the Clouds”- a fairy tale location for weddings sitting high in the hills above the Lakes Region of New Hampshire. Here we seem to have found ourselves in an entire kingdom of clouds. God rays are raining down like it’s going out of style, generously gilding brick industrial vestiges and abandoned railway trash along with the white birch, beech and angelica of the forest. All this rust and torn plastic looks noble in this light. We’re all freaking rich.
Traveling to this part of the country and visiting with second and third cousins puts a lot in perspective. MC’s Grandmother and my Grandfather were siblings- they grew up on the same farm in Georgia. Fast forward 80+ years their grandchildren are basically strangers from across the continent from each other. MC’s Grandma Caroline and my Grandpa Bill had lifetimes in different states, married, lived infinite moments in other places, their lives became further and further and further apart by the day. MC and my children will be even further apart in relation and at some point won’t really consider themselves family anymore. Where does the seed of knowing between Grandma Caroline and Grandpa Bill go? Into the soil I suppose and how those seeds grow and in relation to what can’t really be known by them or us.
This is how family transforms from shared life into people who eventually could pass each other on the street unknowing of their relation. This is also how the world unfolds and makes itself new again. What was close spreads, changes, passes and reforms differently. Because of my grandfather’s move to California my family wasn’t raised in the South and culturally the gulf between my mother and her cousins is much wider than it is between me and my cousins who were raised nearby. Strange to think that my grandchildren and my brother’s grandchildren could be strangers to each other too though. The world is so wide.
Historically it seems the space of a train ride, a flight, a certain career, a certain partner, etc., makes room for greater freedom and choice in becoming who we want to be. From that same freedom and choice estrangement emerges some years down the line. It’s like these relationships have been out in the wilderness for years and we just came into some town to touch them again, to remember that original seed. But we’ve already headed back out into woods again.
Through this all I’m having the lived experience of life starting to feel short. Choices feeling bigger and more important than they have. I’ve always understood that choosing one thing means not choosing another, or infinite others, but right now in the midst of experiencing what those personal choices look like lifetimes down the line, a different scale has come into focus. It’s not a good or bad thing, it’s like the open eyed gaze of a friend who doesn’t pull punches with me. “This is how it is- so what do you want to do?”
The answer isn’t a fixed answer, or a plan, or a commitment, I don’t think. At least not for me. It’s more like stop planning- go- risk failure- say what I mean- be as weird as I am- disappoint my family- make my choices- eat it with my bare hands- stop giving second chances to those who don’t ask- other things that start to sound like bumper stickers typed here but are real enough for me to say to myself and hear it deeply.
The place I’m in right now kind of makes me think I understand graffiti a little better- this need to feel myself reflected tangibly in the world. For me the desire to defy mores, to rebel through how I live, is about needing to take deeper ownership of even little choices. I need to say out loud to myself through my words and actions both- “I am free.” I feel how much my life depends on enacting my freedom moment to moment right now.
The last weeks in New York have been amazing for this. I used to fear New York City- now letting go into it’s electricity I feel sustained by it- sleeping little, floating through the heat, middle of the night subway rides, moments of exaltation in the rain/sun/parks/subways/fountains/arms of friends/eyes of strangers/conversations with loved ones/street corner opera singer’s songs/the city’s wild throaty unpracticed howl… Whatever pushes the leaves out the ends of the branches on trees so that they are so green and full in summer is at work in me. My body feels in bloom with life here.