I am no stranger to leaving. I’ve been doing it most of my life. My family was military and we were always leaving somewhere, someone. When we finally settled in a small New England town after my dad retired from the Navy, we moved into the little house my great grandfather built. There were people there I loved, but I wanted to leave, and as soon as I was able I joined the Navy myself and left. I never really looked back. I don’t regret that decision in the least.
Peregrinatio: A leaving of one’s homeland.
I have been good at leaving. Even settled in one place, I’ve been restless. I have traveled thousands of miles to see things, to visit friends and strangers, to share what knowledge I have. I have been from New England to Hawaii, from Canada to Mexico, from Ireland to Italy. I have been across the great, wide seas and driven mountain passes in white-out blizzards. I have been a traveler, following a traveling god.
In my poem Sugaring I wrote:
I do not miss the cold, or the work of the woodpile.
I do not miss
Childhood is gone. I have gone from my Berkshires
to a different life.
I have shed my down and grown flight feathers.
My heart has found a new home, in boughs of cedar and the salt-washed Sound.
I am glad of the rain, of mica skies over grey-green isles.
I welcome the distance between myself and that hill time,
that child’s place.
But this I remember — this I cherish:
the black moonless sky was sharp and clear and the stars
of themselves lit the snow.
This region, this forest on the Salish Sea, has been my home for over thirty years. I’ve grown roots and community. I have friends and loves and chosen family. I have a support network, and I speak the language of this place. Its green is in my bones.
I will carry it with me.
Peregrinatio: An exile for the sake of god.
The Cambrai Homily, an early Irish religious text, speaks of three types of “martyrdom”: red (death), glas (asceticism), and white (exile). This “exile” was not looked upon with dread, but joyfully embraced. Those who undertook the white martyrdom left Ireland to teach, to found monasteries, or to go into isolation as did the early Christian desert hermits. They left knowing that they did not intend to return home again. They carried home with them, in their hearts and in their writing.
I am leaving my home here, but I am embracing that leaving with joy as well as trepidation. I don’t know if I will return here again for more than visits. The future is unseen and unknowable, at least by me.
Each thing in my life is a spiritual act. Moving to a new place will mean learning to know a new land, a new culture, a new language, a new people. It will mean folding all this into the fabric of my life, and weaving myself into a new pattern.
I wonder what it will look like.