Thursday, April 23, 2009

Connecting with the Land

What is it about Juba that makes me numb everything beautiful? It sounds harsh, but is true.

Last weekend I was sitting outside at a table under a tree and realized that if I was anywhere else (my parent's backyard, or my former backyard in DC came to mind), I would think this simple act was relaxing and beautiful. But instead I noticed the breeze, looked up at the way the Acacia tree's thorns and leaves and small yellow flowers contrasted with the blue sky, heard the bird chirping and hopping around next to its nest, and felt...empty. These small things usually make an impact on me, make my heart swell, put me at peace. But here? I just cannot get there.

The next day Simba and I took a drive out past town and parked on a side road that ends at a broken bridge so the traffic would not disturb us. We sat on the spare tire on the roof of the landcruiser, watched the sun set over the hills, became part of the day turning into dusk and preparing for evening. Anywhere else this would be moving and calming. While it was wonderful, I still felt...almost nothing.

Why is it that as hard as I try, I cannot build a connection with this land? So many parts of our world speak to me - forests, mountains, beaches, deserts - but here? Not so much. I feel that I've failed in some way with that aspect of my life here.

My mom sent me a poem a while back about the need to say goodbye not only to the people but to the land. This is what I am trying to get to, but for some reason have fallen short. And I am not sure I will understand the reasons why until later, much later.


Be infinitesimal under that sky, a creature
even the sailing hawk misses, a wraith
among the rocks where the mist parts slowly.
Recall the way mere mortals are overwhelmed
by circumstance, how great reputations
dissolve with infirmity and how you,
in particular, live a hairsbreadth from losing
everyone you hold dear.

Then, look back down the path as if seeing
your past and then south over the hazy blue
coast as if present to a wide future.
Remember the way you are all possibilities
you can see and how you live best
as an appreciator of horizons,
whether you reach them or not.
Admit that once you have got up
from your chair and opened the door,
once you have walked out into the clean air
toward that edge and taken the path up high
beyond the ordinary, you have become
the privileged and the pilgrim,
the one who will tell the story
and the one, coming back
from the mountain,
who helped to make it.

~David Whyte


sligo said...

you are in such a 'real' place on this planet that my words may seem as empty as you feel, but, still, i give you this: you are in a part of the world, and in a society, that requires an unimaginable amount of energy from your soul if you want to do something even as simple as maintain your existence, let alone do the work that you do. i am not suprised that you have no soul-reserves that would usually be there for you to engage in your current place.

you are right and insightful, though, because you will be carrying much of your current life with you long after you leave there, and we can't know how you'll feel, but, indeed, you may in the future feel much more than you feel now.

you will need the distance to breathe and remember these times, even though you will never, truly, leave this part of your life behind.

i continue to admire your strength, dedication, and your nothing-held-back journalism.


nyGRINGAinCHILE said...

i agree with sligo 100%. i wonder if you will not realize just how strong your connection is to sudan either in the up-coming months, as your stay there comes to an end, or afterwards once you have left. either way, juba will forever be a part of you and you a part of it. :) i loved the poem by the way. xoxoxo

Petunia said...

sligo - thanks for your words, they are not empty! i can relate to what you say about not having soul-reserves left. i never knew that being drained emotionally would have this effect, but i'm sure i'll get it back bit by bit.

nyGRINGAinCHILE (beatrice) - i love that poem too. i know it will be one of those things that i will realize so so so much after i am gone, so we'll just have to see how that pans out ;)

also, my parents and grandma get this blog emailed to them through Feedburner, so their responses get emailed to me and not posted here, but i feel compelled to share what they wrote in response to this post.
"Years ( it may be many ) you will know why you were in this land. For now you know this is why you don't belong there. A catepillar may not know why he has to spend all that time in a cocoon until he is given wings and can fly out of it. LOL Grandma." (yes, my grandmother wrote LOL!!!)

And then from my dad: "You have in no way failed. Some things in life are not good/bad or win/lose. They just are."

And my mom: "Maybe all it means is that it's time to come home... :)"