I don’t know why we must go through these eccentric exiles.
But I am learning to remember that they are only as regular as the return home.
A birdlike boy, who went on to become an honorable attorney, told me that he wished he had my serenity. He knew me in the summertime, when my best ideas and bedrock truths share lemonade and sundaes by the riverside.
You’ve been here before, your sneaker treads still visible in the sand near mine. The work of your life feels like play and you walk close to your Creator. You feel your power and your purpose, unstained by pride. Your own worth floats friendly at the top of the glass. You see results. You see your face.
In this place, my words befriend each other. Writing flows as though it’s what I was born to do, as though I can do anything I set my love to. I feel the wonder of having been born at all.
My sweetness is un-sticky, honest, and well-received. Workday conversations become sun salutations.
Dots align in constellations. Meaning makes its way out of my maelstrom and onto the page, legible and lithe.
I believe I was hand-placed in this particular sky.
I believe I will never forget again.
I am serene. Birds overhead may think this is permanent. I may think this is permanent.
I may already have one bony leg en route to exile. It is good that I am unaware.
Then it comes, absurd and necessary, the low tide of zest. I write nothing, or worse, lyrics without music. My metaphors are pale with shame, willing themselves erasable. I feel erasable. Purpose feels impossible.
My love jolts like a laser with a dying battery, jumpy and unsafe. Nothing lands. Syntax spits my name like an expletive. Creative collapse is here. The ice cream social is over. I will lose my job and my joy.
I lick the last smear of success from my nose, the hint of a kinder time. How can I sing the Lord’s song in the land of bondage, when the cager is myself?
I believe I will never again write or rejoice or hear the stars sing hymns.
I am not serene. I am not home.
I am in process. I forget again.
I am in process like cashews becoming butter, like basil born for the pestle and the pesto. I am in agony. I am in disgusted distrust of myself. I cannot be trusted to trust the Truth. I am in the desert, past the place where even bobcats and bobolinks try to talk sense.
I am empty but my backpack is full.
I am an empty, naked negative capability. Keats coined this term for the fertile space of doubt and confusion. Swollen with negative capability, the artist is uncertain, unafraid, a friend of gray, in no hurry home to neat notebooks and placid paragraphs.
Such an artist as Keats or Shakespeare or the screenwriter for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles might survive for years in this desert, confident even in the mind’s quicksand and the heart’s haze.
I will tip my spoon to the man, willing to accept the empty bowl as womb, the disorientation as a way station.
But Keats was Keats and I am a hungry bird.
So, I reach into my backpack.
The Creator loves the exiles, the widows and orphans, the famished and the bloated, the divorcees and the insecure egomaniacs. The Creator knows how to nourish but rarely offers crackers and peanut butter.
The Creator has given me a pink knapsack of river rocks.
They are etched in anxious handwriting that looks suspiciously like my own. I take them out, bite down on them like bullets, read them one by one.
I wrote favorite essay ever after 2 weeks of dreck.
That did happen.
I produced jaunty press release after sitting on floor all morning.
CNN did not cover this event but it was monumental.
Felt the love of every living creature after fearing the jig was up. Again.
Boss called you “honorary daughter” exactly one day after you said a foolish thing.
That one was rather shocking. Are you saying my bonds are not tissue paper?
Wrote again. And again. And again. And again. Some of it good, all of it necessary.
You’ve been here before.
That one wasn’t my handwriting.
Your power will return. It’s not yours, by the way.
I will never forget again.
You will forget this afternoon. That’s what these rocks are for.
I suddenly notice they are marbled with quartz.
Blessed are the empty, for they will be fed.
You mean I will write again?
I am who I am.
This really is the desert.
Blessed are the poor in perfection, for they will always be home.
You mean exiles can be serene?
Write on, baby bird. Have some ice cream. You’ll be here again.
Need more great reading? Check out these pieces from MockingOwl Roost contributors and staff.
- The Need for Expectations
- My Baha’i Temple Experience
- Sputter of Acclaim
- The Yellow Labrador Retriever
As Development Director at Tabby’s Place: a Cat Sanctuary, Angela Townsend bears witness to mercy for all beings. Angie has an M.Div. from Princeton Seminary and a B.A. from Vassar College. She has lived with Type 1 diabetes for 32 years, giggles with her mother every morning, and delights in the moon. She lives in lovely Pennsylvania with two shaggy seraphs disguised as cats.