My new flock of seven-month-old hens eating chickweed from my backyard and scratch grains. Photo by John Ewing, Jan 22, 2013.
JOURNAL EXCERPTS FROM CHANGE OF LIFE (9/1990)
Note: In the summer of 1990 I went to Kostroma, Russia, with my son Tim, for the first time to begin a series of writer exchanges with the Writers’ Organization there. I was also in process of turning my small publishing company, Carolina Wren Press, over to others. I spent time in France, Finland, a week in Russia, then Wales, and finally, in Devon. JH
September 5 (Chagford, Devon): The older I get, the more mysterious life is to me. And the less I need to understand the mysteries. I just need to know what to believe and what to do. Deeper than that and simpler, I need only to know who to be. It’s clear to me that I am being who I am supposed to be (“willing to be myself” as Kierkegaard puts it), and though I wrestle with the beliefs as these seize hold of my consciousness, I have learned that any deeply planted, compelling urgency had better be obeyed. This tends to land me on the boundary of conventional behavior or on the other side of that boundary...
From that summer, when I was twenty-one, I have been fascinated by the falling of light through leaves. When light illumines them, how different they are! When a breeze moves the leaves slightly, a given leaf will move from shade into sun and back again. Most of the time our lives are in shade. But who we are only comes close to our consciousness when light hits us, illumines and, in effect, feeds us. Feeds us and claims us. We belong to the light. We are most ourselves in moments when we are in a heightened state of awareness, when ordinary reality (life in the shade) is at a little distance. We always return to ordinary reality, but we’re changed. Multiply that by hundreds of experiences of illumination–thousands probably–when I have felt whole, healed, ecstatic, clear, at my best, everything of a piece, everything making sense inside me and outside me, and you get a feeling for what has led me to my current state of outrageous conviction.
On one level, this love for M. doesn’t imply any acts. It’s simply an awareness that I’ve been in a light that has fed me, valued me, changed me. I’m in shade now–my days are quietly ordinary. But a powerful memory is now at work inside me in the same way that sun continues to have its effect even on a plant in the shade, once photosynthesis has begun. The memory, even when I’m not directly thinking about it, continues to work...
M. and I were completely at ease with each other. I trusted him. He trusted me. If I disagreed with him–about, say, worshiping women, it was easy to say so. I realized quickly and early–in the first hours together–that he had grasped quickly who I was, what I was like, my inner reality or substance, my dependability. Yes, he knew he could trust me. He knew I was like he was. All of a piece inside. Having conflicts, yes, but having inner sources of strength to draw on. Not staying in despair. Yes, two Kierkegaardian souls, willing to be ourselves. ..
I wonder if all the communication difficulties–language, distance, telephoning not reliable, the context of suspicion and fear and distrust that had, until recently, been so strong between our two countries–perhaps enhanced our forming such a deep bond so quickly...
I’m glad I don’t have to explain the rejoicing of our souls in each other’s presence. What happened was like a happy honeysuckle vine thrusting its pink and yellow trumpets forward. It was good. Every question had an answer. Whatever he said, it was easy for me to reply, and he wove garlands with my words. We were happy in each other’s presence as if we had always been there. We have. As surely as these green hills have always been here. It was like when the clouds are blown away and you can see even the fields on the farthest hills glow green, and sun inhabits and exults in the whole visible, created world. It was like that. That serene. Clear. Easy. Right. Beautiful. It doesn’t have to be anything else either, and yet its conscious existence now in our souls engenders more. It’s that more which I embrace confidently and without knowledge. I recognize necessity when It answers my knocks at last.
This is part of a short selection of diary excerpts from September, 1990. Part II next week! Judy Hogan