Sometimes I wonder how close I have come to saying what I have it in me to say about growing up in the 1950s, coming of age in the '60s, wandering in the '70s, getting married and having Evan in the '80s, moving to Vermont, working in Special Ed through the '90s, and vision questing, delving into shamanism during the transition to the new century, remarrying, learning to pray to the ancestors, partnering with the land that became my home, metabolizing two extraordinary mushroom journeys in the second decade of the 21st century, and throughout the last forty years, working tirelessly to understand the language of dreams, my own and others'. I remember how right it felt to spend hours journaling during my thirties, and again (even more diligently) in my forties. I have written poetry all my adult life, exploring several distinct styles of voice and writing those books that I mentioned, but, again, I ask myself, how close have I come to saying what I have it in me to say?
I would sit at the dining-room table in a cushioned captain's chair in the little A-frame in Wallingford where Evan and I lived between 1995 and 2004. There was an extension off the 'A' that was the living room with no partition between the dining area, where I wrote, and the living room, so I bought a bead curtain made of strands of dark seeds that defined my writing space. The floor of the living room was insulated, but the dining room wasn't. To keep my feet warm when the temperature dropped I bought a small space heater that blew hot air at my double-socked feet under the table. When I wrote, I was out of time. I made myself two cups of black coffee with a Folgers perk pot. Hours would pass without my realizing it. During the school year I would get up at 5 AM to give myself 2 hours of writing time on the weekdays, but on the weekend I would typically write for 5 to 6 hours. Sometimes half a day would go by. If I had nothing to write I would read until something triggered a thought and off I would go. I was not prolific but plodding and respectful of the language I was using, whether the tone was sardonic or formal. Sometimes I could easily spend 45 minutes on part of a sentence. I couldn't stand using the wrong word. The story I was writing was my life! By writing about it, it became my life. Whatever it was, I had to write about it. If I didn't, I felt like a fraud or incomplete. I can't explain it. Writing about my life was my affirmation and between the lines there was a kind of mystical glue of unconditional self-love or at least self-acceptance. I didn't need anyone else to believe in me. Me, myself and I and Evan and Shindy, our female Nova Scotia duck-tolling retriever, were enough.
When I moved out of that house to move in with Shirley I made seven piles: One of Evan's stuff, one of important stuff, including heirlooms, one of semi-important stuff that remains in labeled boxes, including 2/3rds of my library, one for stuff to give away, one for recycling, and one for the landfill. It was all very easy to sort and deconstruct because really everything was in the journals. The material stuff was just the props. When I joined my life to Shirley's I tried to keep writing about my life but I was too busy living it to write about it but I was happy for the change. Both ways bear fruit.
What remains to be lived? What remains to be said? What have I left unsaid? These are very different questions.
I am going to use the labyrinth to try to illustrate what I am facing with these questions. And I am going to use the labyrinth to try to explain how, by writing this memoir, I am walking inward and outward simultaneously.
The first two questions imply that there is a pattern to my life, or a gestalt, that I have been following, like the path of a labyrinth. So the task is to complete my circuitous walk to the center of the labyrinth, which sometimes seems like just a few more steps. The second presumes that I might have thought I was done, that the pattern was more or less complete, but now I see that the path back out has changed. But has it? Labyrinths are supposed to be unicursal--one path in, the same path out. They aren't puzzles, like mazes, they are like static life-size brain-maps that we agree to follow in order to let our own overwrought brains slip into neutral, so that we can explore alternate or inner spaces. Even though the path out seems to have changed behind me, the template hasn't changed. Labyrinths are strange places. Sure, they are unicursal, so you can't get lost (unless some of the path is missing, as it might very well be in the oldest ones), but they aren't trying to get us lost, they are trying to help us go deep; they are conceived for deep meditation. But they are also not what they appear to be; they are, as I say, mysterious. One does well to approach a labyrinth respectfully. Obviously the same goes for our lives, our Earthwalk.