It’s loud right now at the Loose Goose Cafe in Amherst. I have a corner of refuge here, though, from the rain, and the proprietors are kind and welcoming, and there’s a table by the window, with free wifi, and coffee and a bit of soup and salad, and I truly don’t take any of these things for granted, the roof, the chair, my dry clothes, some money in my pocket (even if cafes are becoming an extravagance I must increasingly forego), the ability to write, pressing buttons that enable me to put my words before an audience in a matter of seconds. The clean bathroom with its running water. The feeling of safety in this space, this town, this region. All this gratitude flows over me like the steady spring rain, recharging my heart’s aquifer.
The gratitude is acute in the wake of a visit from what Winston Churchill called the “black dog,” although it hardly seems fair to black dogs to characterize it as such. “Black dog,” at least, animates the condition, gives it tangibility. I’m not fond of words like depression. It doesn’t capture anything. It’s a hollow word, empty, and certainly the condition can carry much emptiness, but there’s more to it, a torment often beyond description, particularly to those who are clutched in its paws. I only use words like depression because it’s a signpost for others on the trail of mutual understanding. I’ll return to my words from the other day, soldered-shut clam.
The urge to read and write is strong, and I let these tidal surges buoy me into a welcome vantage point at the crest of awareness. The clam falls open. The more I read, the more I extend tentative fingers into the sea, the more I can taste the salt and seaweed, the soup of stories, as sense unfurls its briny fronds. There are travelers, nomads, writers, women who have mapped out their histories, their sore places, their adventures, and they feed me lavishly.
I’m reading two books right now. In truth, I am always in the middle of at least half-a-dozen books; no, if I really counted accurately all the books I aspire to read, or which are strewn about, waiting, it’s far more. They all wait for me patiently, but two have insisted on special attention. One is Wild by Cheryl Strayed, a memoir of the author’s solo hike for 3 months on the Pacific Crest Trail. The other is Traveling Heavy by Ruth Behar, a memoir of her Cuban-Jewish ancestry and immigration and questions of home.
I wrote to Ruth Behar today. She’s a cultural anthropologist at the University of Michigan; I have no idea if she’ll reply. She wrote an article published yesterday in Aeon that captured my attention, particularly because at the end she offered to give away a book in her possession, Tales of a Female Nomad by Rita Golden Gelman, to one who might be willing to come to her house to get it. I told her I was willing to come get it. (And a bit more about myself, complete with links to my Scattered Sanctum project on Kickstarter and this blog, so she might know that I’m not creepy.) I also thanked her for offering inspiration. I first encountered her work in the ’90s when I was studying for my master’s degree in gender/cultural studies. She impressed me. She felt like kin. I’m sure I’m hardly alone in that.
It would be writerly of me to flesh out this blog post some more, but it would be motherly of me to retrieve Lily from her homeschool program at the Hitchcock Center for the Environment. Motherly wins out.
May we give voice to our journeys in the ways available to us, and may we not accept arbitrary limits, but rather push against them to find the limits most true to us.