Tomorrow morning, I will board a bus outside the little cinema on Aldeburgh's High Street and head off to Ipswich, where I will catch my train back to London, where I will check into my hotel, make a few essential phone calls (like letting the airline know that I won't be boarding my return flight to the US that's still scheduled for 20 April), and go out to get my hair cut for the first time since 23 December. It's a mark of how awesome a haircut it was--really, one of the best of my life, and completely worth having made the detour to Columbus to get it while I was in Ohio that day--that I don't look like a raving fool even though I'm a short-haired woman who hasn't had a haircut for nearly four months.
In other words, I'll step back into the busy round of things. On Sunday morning, having gotten back to my little house the night before, I'll board a train for Exeter, and by evening, I'll be in a hotel in Dublin with my brood of students, all reunited after a couple of weeks of jaunting about on their own.
All of this is fine, and I'm happy about it (especially the travelling that's coming up, because we're going to do amazing things), but I am feeling bereft in advance about having to leave this little town by the sea--and not least because I have found myself too afraid to crack into the watercolor set I brought with me, and now I want one more day on which I swear that I will wet a brush and plunge in. (Everything teaches something valuable: I'm not even to Lily Briscoe territory here, holding a brush and paralyzed about how to begin. My brushes are still in their packet.)
A few years ago, I made a list of things I wanted to get into my life. That was barely weeks before I found the monastery, barely weeks before all manner of sea changes began taking place in my life. And one of the things on my list was that it was starting to feel like about time to get to the ocean and the mountains.
Well: here I am at one, and here I have been putting myself beside the sea whenever I can this year, and here I am about to take my students on a seventeen-day excursion that will take us through, around, over, and up mountains and along, beside, and over seas. The monastery, of course, takes its very name from the fact that it sits amidst mountains. And I have recent news--about which I'm still waiting for specific details--that tells me that I'm going to be spending a significant part of next year in and amidst yet more mountains.
None of these is the place where I am supposed to be, yet. Even this place, where I have loved being, is not my place: I know that my reluctance to re-pack my suitcase and prepare to leave is partly about the fact that this very dwelling where I've spent the past week is a place I can imagine inhabiting happily--the right size, the right amenities (even if it weren't beside the sea). It's also about the fact that I've been so close, here, not only to the sea but also to yet another little fertile creativity, in the shape of Snape Maltings, where I heard Beethoven's Ninth Symphony performed on Sunday afternoon and left the concert hall feeling ecstatic, blessed, beatified. My new rule of thumb: when possible, be where bodies are actually performing. Recordings and projections are far, far better than nothing. But I haven't felt anything like the shivers up the back of my neck I felt on Sunday since the best of the performances I saw with my students last semester. The symphony itself throws shivers all through me. But being there while it was being performed had me in a state of joyous agitation for which I didn't and still don't have the right words.
I'm going to have to make my own place: none of the places where I've been is where I'm supposed to be, and every place I've gone has helped me understand that better, with greater nuance. One of the places I'm going to make--and I may just have figured this particular thing out this morning, in the clawfoot tub where I've spent at least an hour every single day that I've been in this flat--is a longform piece of writing, a home in words. A nest of words, even.
And that, too, was on the list I made, several years ago, of things I wanted to get into my life.
If you stand and watch the sea for any length of time, you start to see different motions at work: there's the cycle of the waves sliding onto (or fighting each other to) the shore, and there's the slower, longer cycle, the current that works under the surface, that is both check and goad, that is inexorable deep force, that is not always visible but is always at work. Much of what I find myself studying these days is that which takes years, decades, generations, millennia to bring forth.
Did I mention that tomorrow I turn 36?