Songs of Experience

“Songs of Experience”

The (semi) Romantic poet and artist William Blake is certainly no Mary Oliver to me, but I do enjoy the fact that he could invite someone over to “look at his etchings,” and he’d actually have something to show that visitor upon arrival that was, you know, etched. I also like that he taught his wife to read and write–and that his peers largely regarded him as mad.

Even more, I appreciate that his writings–although they strike this modern reader as a bit simplistic in some cases–explore the idea that it takes oppositional forces to create something that is Whole. Blake wrote about innocence and experience, heaven and hell, corporeal and spiritual, ultimately making the case that you’ve got to have the two sides to have anything at all.

I agree, yet this year in a new environment is highlighting the fact that many don’t. Maybe it’s natural for inhabitants of a leisure culture, but it does seem like a lot of caring people want every day to be “good,” want every thing to be “a great time,” believe that if something is periodically flat or unhappy then maybe it should be rethought.

I’ve been mulling this over in regards to our experience here because I’m very, very glad we have days that are challenging. If we started out with “it’s so beautiful here” and then moved to “the people are amazing” before ending with “we’ve never had more fun,” then we’d be having a one-dimensional experience, free of layers or complexities. In other words, I’m really grateful that I feel sad and lonely sometimes. I find it delicious that, especially when so much of my life is “set,” I get to feel constantly off balance here.

The thing is, the tough days make the happy, wavy days all the richer.

When it comes to the melancholy that has set in each time visitors from the States have left us to return home, it’s a beautiful bit of heart piercing because it means we have people we love, and they came to share in our adventure, and they had compelling reasons to return home. It’s wonderful to feel bereft when they leave. Because an empty heart means we’ve been very, very lucky.

This is just how I feel a day after our good friends Pamm and Ed have left us to fly back to Minnesota. They came, and each day was sun dappled and conversation filled. Then they left, and we felt empty, missing their laughter and wonder and card playing. The pull of opposites, reminding us of the abundance of our lives, was positively Blake-ian.





20 responses to “Songs of Experience”

  1. alwaysinthebackrow Avatar

    What a learning experience you are having! Are your kids feeling this way as well? I don't know that I would be able to be as open to these feelings-I admire you for this. If your kids are sharing this perspective, they are so far ahead of even most adults and your experiences will be very important to their futures.
    Thinking about you from here.

  2. haphazardlife Avatar

    Because an empty heart means we've been very, very lucky.


    What a wonderful perspective you have on things, Joce.

    – jazz

  3. Green Girl in Wisconsin Avatar
    Green Girl in Wisconsin

    It's true, I have to remind myself when tragedy strikes that if all were sunshine and lollipops, we'd cease to be happy about it.

  4. jess Avatar

    Whoah, Chickie, you might have to turn in your US citizenship for that kinda thinking!

    But if you do I'm going to come live with you in Turkey. you have extra room right? I come as a set. 🙂

    Haha- my word verification is "Aphro." Phabulous.

  5. Nora Avatar

    As long as there's a balance in the two opposites, I see no problem. You don't want too much tragedy, though. It would be too hard to bear. I think maybe Blake had his share of it. You don't want to suffer too much.

  6. Jenn @ Juggling Life Avatar
    Jenn @ Juggling Life

    I love the way you think.

    This is exactly what I've been thinking in this year with my exchange student. In his native Brazil every single day is a party and he works for nothing–he thinks we do nothing BUT work. Which is not true, but I've realized I do not want to play until I've worked–it means nothing otherwise.

  7. kmkat Avatar

    You are a profound thinker… for a girl. :p

  8. geewits Avatar

    The best way to experience life is to experience all of it. You seem to have that down pat.
    And hey you always have people like me: Your blogger-only buddies. We will be a constant and will always be around for you right here in the interlands.

  9. cathy Avatar

    I love Blake and the truth is often much simpler than the web of lies we spin to explain our circumstances…

    and excuse our stupidity or cowardice. ( of course I'm talking about me not you here.)

    By the way I love you too 🙂

  10. Mother Theresa Avatar
    Mother Theresa

    I just love the perspective you have on life. You're right, it is impossible to have a permanent "great time" because after a while your senses become dulled and then you're no longer having a great time, because there's nothing to compare it to. Suffering is part of the human condition, and if we tried to eliminate it completely, we'd eliminate the joy too. Anyway, I'm glad you enjoyed the time you spent with your friends and that you value the sadness of their parting.

  11. Mother Theresa Avatar
    Mother Theresa

    Oh, and the profoundness of this post almost made me forget that you won the photo contest, so, which blog do I link to?

  12. Jocelyn Avatar

    Mother Theresa: Who knew my vast knowledge of toasters would reap such a reward? Exciting! Howzabout you link to this blog, as it's my perma-blog, while the other one is just for this particular year? Thanks, chica.

  13. Deborah Avatar

    Yes, you're right about all of that, and I'm so glad that you have that sort of perspective (evidence that you are every bit the thinker that I suspected you to be when your blog first popped up on my screen) but I still wish that melancholia wasn't keeping you company. I say that partly because it has a tendency to pull one's attention away from the present to the potentially more positive – although unknowable – future. And I wouldn't want you to miss out on a single thing. But then, I am a bit of a worrier, and you are not somebody who needs to be worried over, I know.

    I come here for your thoughts, Jocelyn. So often they're very funny and quirky and have a way of making me see things in a different way, but even when they're not funny I just drink them in. You posts are always a very satisfying mneal for the mind.

  14. actonbell Avatar

    The thing is, the tough days make the happy, wavy days all the richer.
    Sometimes hard to accept,but so true.
    Beautiful post.
    The picture is stunning–almost looks like snow!

  15. secret agent woman Avatar
    secret agent woman

    When I'm in the midst of he negative it is so hard to see why it's necessary, and yet I know it is.

    (word verification is "undie")

  16. lime Avatar

    i like your perspective here. now can i have some leisure to balance out my last several months of seemingly unending adrenal surges and exhaustion, pretty please? i promise to appreciate the calm with new depth.

    but seriously, if you never got over the honeymoon with the novelty that is turkey, you're right, your experience would have been that of an utterly one dimensional quick shot tourist, and that's not why you moved there for a year. i like that you're sucking the marrow of your time there.

  17. Pearl Avatar

    Joce, I feel exactly the same way. Exactly. I am a little disheartened by how many people expect/wish that everything be "great" when in fact it is the "not so great" that makes the "great" stand out as BEING "great"!


    p.s. Mary truly did mark her status in FB as being "out loud in Turkey". 🙂 You've made her very happy.

  18. monica Avatar

    yep – it's like we need to get up early in the midst of the cold and dark winter morings and drag ourselves to work, to REALLY enjoy the soon to come glorious christmas holiday…

  19. yogurt Avatar

    Gotta have a little pain to appreciate the pleasure. I surely agree. Glad you had visitors. I'd sure like to be one of those friends you show around but Turkey isn't exactly in the cards right now. I'm lucky to get a couple hours away from home these days.

  20. Pam Avatar

    Wonderful post as always Jocelyn. Makes perfect sense, challenges and all.Thinking of you.xx

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