by

(may the bridges I burn light the way)




I've wanted to write about this last year for awhile now and I never really found the right way to string it all together. I find myself wondering here if part of the reason why I feel like I can now is because March is almost over--and truthfully March was kind of my January for the past year. It was where it all started, the alpha and the omega. March second of two thousand and twelve is when my husband graduated from his basic training. It was the month I found myself traveling up the east coast through strange and cozy back roads to see him for the first time in what had been months. March ninth was when I officially moved out of the state where my parents live. March 18th was when I got my first new job after working the same one for too many years to count now. March twenty first is when I started living in the first home I've shared with my husband. It is the afternoon that me and the dude laid on the floor of our empty bedroom waiting for our furniture, how we were propped up on pillows laughing at our own terrible jokes. Drunk off a spring like no other we had ever shared together.

For this March we decided to go back to where "home" first started for us--south Mississippi, at my parents house. Which is often what I consider the house I grew up in--though truthfully there are many places where I grew. Starting with New Orleans, trailing back to swamps and bridges that my great grandfathers helped build. South Texas and the sorghum fields I ran through once just for the hell of it, thinking how great it was to eliminate any kind of distance with that sort of certainty. Winters in upstate New York and how the snowfall was both delicate and clumsy all at once--the way I sat next to great big windows listening to the wind just pulling its self apart in the nothingness of night. Every road I spent lost on once somewhere up and down the west coast. The hill in Laguna where I watched the headlights of cars blinking themselves out into the evening. I'm made up of all of these things--and yet, Mississippi is the place I feel the softest for. Maybe it's just that it's where my parents live, the great house with the creaking floor boards. The old wooden swing on the back porch where I spent so much time as a teenager, grappling with both my dreams and courage. The azaleas in the side yard, the flowers from my wedding strung up on the boards that separate the screens of the porch. Or maybe it's the traditions, like crawfish every year around the time of my birthday or beignets and hot chocolate at morning call even in the depth of a sweltering summer. Then again, maybe it's useless to try and pin point what exactly makes a place matter.

You know, I want to say that it's been a long year. its moments still pouring over the edge unevenly and into this one. But the truth is it just kept sneaking up on me. It pushed me to what I once would have thought my limits. They were not. They weren’t even close. I also think the great moments have that remarkable way of forcing the not-so-great to pale in comparison. The first thing I wrote in my journal about this year (as you can see in the previous post) was that it would be full of fiascoes—and this has held true. I also wrote about the triumphs that would come along side them. And how no matter how slight, I would find them. I would dig them up with all I’ve got, damn it. This also proved to be true.
 

I once spent thousands of miles away from my husband for months during the opening of the past year; a time where our only means of communication was a letter once a week and maybe a ten minute phone call if we were lucky. I still have the letters. Sometimes my hands want to shake when I accidentally stumble on one. Not so much because he was away, but because of what that time meant for us. How everything was on the cusp of change. I feel the tinge of fear flood through me just thinking about it. And it’s fleeting quality doesn’t take away from its ability to overpower me so much as it makes it all the more impressive. But this is also the year I got to hear him say the words “In three weeks our life begins”. Those words made it worth it. I’d do it a thousand times over if it meant it would always end with that very moment, his voice dark and versed, the sound of the swing chain on my old back porch as I just smiled into the great and extravagant nothingness of space and highways that separated us. How even then our lives found the ways with which they could weave themselves into some single thing. And with those words I swear I could spit in the face of doubt.

The darkest side of distance is that it never gets easier. And the quality of the ache isn't always relative to the amount of space, either. Every gap left unbridged is different and yet all still manage to collect the darkest parts of affection, the helplessness of need. The distance between the past and the present; the present and the future; my mother's house and every city where it isn't; the mountains and the swamps; the stories I tell and the places where they manifested; my thigh and his hand. Nothing has ever made me more desperate than these distances. Even worse, you are always aware of them--you sense as one pulls closer, when another reaches farther outward. You are constantly bending location into something less tangible. Hoping in that way you could skew all of the rules, somehow fitting your fist around what's always just beyond your fingertips. The art of making a fool of geography the way it often makes fools of us.


I, like many, once romanticized the idea of losing yourself in the making of yourself.  I think that I also always thought that if something I fought for didn't feel gratifying then it meant my bravery was unsuccessful and I had to helplessly backpedal to find what caused my great mistake. I think now it was just that it wasn’t the right time, the right thing I was propelling towards. And maybe instead of backpedaling, the right solution was just to move onward. I like to think that's one of the things I found myself doing more of this year--moving onward. And there were several times (you know, during one of those great fiascos) where I found myself hiding in our bedroom closet asking God to help me find the courage to give up on something that wasn't right for me.  I also found myself talking to strangers more, making new friends in my new home state, moving on from old friendships that weren't worth clinging to, taking chances on things I often tip-toed around, learning what it is to grow along side another human. The phrase "You invest your love where you invest your life" comes to mind here.

Looking at my husband now I realize he barely has freckles anymore like he used to--I can remember them well if I dream hard enough. I wonder if the change in him just begun or has been happening all along, if the same change exists in me. Maybe clouded and characterized by state lines and crushed mountains. I wonder how to say it right, if I'll ever find the way. The frustrating thing about language is how there's always so much left that gets unspoken for. And like a last look, the feelings escape you too quickly to determine what they really are before it's too late. This is also what I love about language; it has a way of blinding you by both its force and folly. The way I have spent nights wondering how I could write it all out of me while the people I love slept near me in a soft slur of midnight and moonlight. How I have spent years trying to build that love into something much more specific--something like how the sounds of locusts humming near creaks in the south are the same sound of my heart as it envelopes the spaces between my memories and these words.

I guess what I'm getting at is that there was a time when I would have wanted to call this year a lot of things, all while never being able to find the right way of saying it. It is marked with exhaustion, brimming with our hard spent energy. But the more I talk about it, the more it occurs to me that it was a year of exceptional beginnings. And looking back on it, there’s something gracious about the way in which it begged to be built. I sit here in my living room now wondering about the way I’ve spent these last twelve months struggling with finding my home. I’m looking at film photographs I have hanging from every corner of my living room now, these people and places that made me. Emmanuel and me sitting on that rock out stretched over the grand canyon; Jenna wearing her hair down that one time in Portland; Warren’s look of shock and subtle joy as he stepped in the icy pacific for the first time; Billy and me in the parking lot just seconds before we graduated.  I wonder now about the way I spent so long searching for a thing I didn’t realize I had been deliberately creating all along. And I have this feeling that 2013 is going to be spent throwing ourselves into really appreciating that.

So here's to you, two thousand and thirteen. & here's to you, March. For always having a way of being both trying + wonderful all at once.