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.