traveling on

this is my last day in santa barbara.
all my worldly possessions are packed up in my car, ready and waiting for the four hour trip north.

the sun is shining. the sky is radiant deep perfect blue.
aka perfect walk weather.

I have two and a half wide-open hours before I leave.
and I am sitting here writing instead of taking one last look at my dear friends or campus or the ocean or any of the other places I have loved so deeply for so long.


I am not very sad at all about leaving.
it is time.

yes. very strange.

a week ago I was thinking about sight and the leaving and the living and then the coming back. how your sight changes each time. how no matter how often you revisit a scene and linger there, looking long, breathing deep, committing the curves and angles and colors and faces and laughs to memory, there is always something hidden that emerges from the woodwork and reminds you of how little you actually know of this place and people.

I haven't even left yet but what I miss is not this place or these people but the way we lived, all the promise and the hope. the time when all things were new, before the tired repetition and reenactments of the old things. what fills me with sadness is not the leaving but this feeling I can't shake that I am not leaving much behind.

good thing, at least, that I am traveling to a far distant land where no one knows my name and where I can start all this over.

and yet a friend of mine told me some things: to stop running away before I run out of places to run to, and even though the grass may seem greener on the other side, it's only greener where you water it.
but the grass really is greener is England.

"Nothing Gold..."
Marilyn McEntyre

The road not taken is taken. Beyond the bend
it stretches on in the mind, well-traveled
as the one on which we set our feet.

An untold, imagined story
mingles with memory; actual
and possible paths cross and at each crossing
we pause, not to regret, but to remember
that to choose is to keep choosing.

The after-image of a face beyond a half-open door,
the felt warmth of a room beyond an uncrossed threshold,
the lingering sounds of a conversation that never happened,
leave their record, too, on the heart and in the bones:
fourth dimension of the life we choose and live.

You can lose what you never had--
mourn the unborn child,
the unspoken confession,
the friendship foreshadowed
that drifted away on the next tide.

You can lose what you only imagined having:
evening hours sipping wine over an open book;
walks that wind beyond the routes of responsibility,
the luxury of dailiness: "Oh, it's you again--
I wondered when you'd come."

The good-bye hard upon hello,
the embrace that renounces even as it receives,
the same breath caught in anticipation released
in resignation, confuse the opening heart.

By a strange mercy we are allowed
to practice the final paradox--to love and let go,
learning in each release to listen to the voice
that asks, "Do you see yet?" Do you see
how to love the wave already breaking
because it is a wave?
because it breaks?


The Song of No Coming and No Going

Thich Nhat Hanh

When I left home, I was a child.
Now I return an old man.
Villagers still speak with the same accent,
but my hair and beard are completely white.
The village children see me but don't recognize me.
They look at each other and giggle,
"Where have you come from, old sir?"

Where have you come from, old sir?
"I have come from the same place you have,
yet you don't know there is a link between us."
I stroke my snow-white beard this morning.
The young leaves on the trees are new and green.
They see no link between themselves and the seed
that took root so many years ago on this very land.
Villagers still speak with the same accent,
but after so many years, the village has become your village.
To your puzzled eyes, I am only a strange, old visitor
arriving from some unknown world.
To come or to go, to depart or return--
who among us is not a wanderer?

Where have you come from, old sir?
You don't see. How could you?
Even if I sing to you the old songs I learned in the village,
I would still be a stranger in your eyes.
When I tell you, "This is my village,"
your eyes dance and you laugh.
And I laugh too, when you say I am just telling a story.

The bamboo trees, the riverbank, the village hall--
everything is still here.
They have changed, yet they haven't.
A new bamboo shoot, a new red-tiled roof,
a new small lane,
a new child--
What is the purpose of my return?
I don't know.

There is a haunting image of the past.
The traveler has no real point of departure
and no point of arrival.
Who is he, this explorer of the triple worlds?

As if to a former life--
the sweet potatoes and turnips, the hay, the cottage--
I come back to my village.
But those with whom I worked and sang
are strangers to those I find today.
Everywhere are the children,
the red-tiled roofs,
the narrow lanes--
The past and the future look at each other,
and the two shores suddenly become one.
The path of return continues the journey.


today I am a quintessential old woman

sitting on the porch with aching muscles, a blanket spread across my knees, and needlework in my hands