I’ve heard before that more things change, the more they stay the same. It didn’t ring true to me, though, for a long time. Throughout high school, college, the early married years with Scott and then the whiz-bang zippy years of infant and toddler raising, it seemed to me that nothing ever stayed the same. I filled my dorm room and then the bedrooms in rental houses with roommates and eventually Scott’s and my own homes with Victorian laces, flea-market antique furniture, African violets like my grandmother’s and quilts pieced by my great-grandmother and Scott’s grandmother, in an effort to capture, I suppose, some of the hominess and security that seemed to be so rapidly slipping away as my independence increased. Lately, having been settled in this old farmhouse for eight-plus years, our daughters attending school in town and old enough to not require second-by-second monitoring when they’re home, I find myself with the time to consider the things in my life that are irrevocably changed and the things that have, against all likelihood, remained unshaken despite years of neglect and in some cases even outright denial, the things that have, indeed, become more solidly and inexplicably a part of me than ever.
Some of these things are small details whose unchanging high rank in my affections is not much more than, perhaps, coincidence, or they’re things that really aren’t surprising at all. That I would continue to love walks through fields and woods after spending ten years away from the country isn’t particularly shocking.
One discovery that did cause me to sit back on my heels and blink, however, was made when I picked up an old blank book in which, somewhere around the age of fifteen, I began copying down poems I especially liked. I had no intentions whatsoever of writing poetry then. In fact, the one poetry class I took in high school I despised and swore to never make the mistake of voluntarily taking another, let alone ever trying to write the dreadful stuff. Still, here in this blue velvet bound volume with its embossed silver cover, I find carefully copied works by Emily Dickinson, Richard Wilbur, Mary Oliver, Edna St. Vincent Millay and W. S. Merwin, all unfamiliar names to me at the time the poems were copied. Twenty-some years later, having completely forgotten about this little book in the interim, books by most of these poets line my shelves. Obviously, something has not changed at all, has instead grown stronger and steadier for the time passed.
I’ve been trying lately to slow down on the inside, to take needed time to consider what always has been and what has legitimately become truly important to me, and what is simply extra window-dressing I’ve accumulated through various stages of my life thus far. It’s not an easy process, nor always a comfortable one. I’m being forced to make some painful admissions about my own motivations and the despicable practice of people-pleasing, for one thing. For another, I often find myself in the very lonely position of caring especially deeply about things most other people seem to disregard, at best. Whoever would have thought that living an authentic life would be so difficult?
Scott is going in and out of the back door, and through the opening, I can hear the spring peepers calling down by the creek. Sitting on the back step in the dusk and listening seems especially important tonight. A must.