Saturday, May 1, 2010
I've heard that from many friends and neighbors since arriving in Eastern PEI. Nice words to hear from islanders and other folks like me who have come home from away. It's a simple and sincere act. One that my dog Annie understands how to perform to a fault. Other than that, coming home has not generally been a celebratory event in my life.
As the move to PEI goes on, Susan and the boys are heading for the home stretch, finishing work and school and packing up the house in Santa Barbara. I'm not sorry to be missing that. My last few weeks there were spent wading through too many things collected over the years and realizing that I can't afford to carry so much stuff around with me. Much too much baggage, you know? So I parted with things and reduced the time capsule of memories preserved in cardboard boxes. They'll have to open my, "Boyhood Home Museum and Gift Shop" without them.
Hours of old radio airchecks and car commercials and assorted nonsense went into the trash. My old orthodontic retainer. (Really. I think because I had to swear I'd never lose it.) The Santa Barbara Mission carved out of a big bar of Ivory Soap (a 5th grade social studies project). Boy Scout stuff, newspaper headlines and high school rally buttons. And I came face to face with all of my old notebooks and writing projects. Hmmm. Seems I've been a writer most of my life. And I wrote a lot of seriously bad stuff too which, thankfully, no one will ever have to read.
Some of the ideas I sketched in words were fun to see again. Vast quantities went to the recycling center. There was a series of "newspapers" I wrote for friends at school, starting in 6th grade and running into high school. Yikes! After stealing shamelessly from Mad Magazine and old TV comedy writers it's a wonder I wasn't arrested for theft...and for being deeply nerdy.
I picked up the thread of a time line begun in my old High School class notes, "Where Are We And How Did We Get There?" which was actually a question on the final exam in my senior religion class at Bishop Diego High School where I spent 4 years as a virtual heathen in a Catholic school. Pleading ignorance on the final got me an "A" and a lesson about confession.
So I've touched all these things one last time. The baseball cards, the pictures of Civil War battlefields, the notes from old girlfriends. And I reviewed a few of those hours spent writing when I really didn't have much to write about. Those hours were awkward. I had to imagine an awful lot about life when I was 16. And much of it reads more like bad science fiction than autobiography. It's really just chewed gum under the table. The past may be prologue but you can't live in it.
Thirty years later I'm at a kitchen table covered with packages of seed. There's a red wing blackbird singing in a poplar near the creek. A partridge is foraging in a brush pile in the yard. Earlier today a nesting pair of Canada geese were checking out the ponds like young marrieds looking for a starter home. And a moment ago a neighbor's son drove up and invited me to come over on Sunday for a chicken dinner. Just another way of saying, "welcome home".
Islanders have a natural outlook that comes from their seafaring culture. Those who seek to build communities would do well to consider the simplicity of their point of view. When you're here, you are home. When you're not, you are away. And so it's the most natural thing for islanders to welcome you home when they see you. It's a simple yet powerful thing to be greeted warmly and welcomed back into the community.
Try it yourself and you'll see what I mean. The next time a loved one comes through the door, stop what you're doing. Hug them close and say, "welcome home".