From where I sit, wedged into a corner of the sectional, I notice the plant on the end table, somehow still flowering in the ceramic pot painted by my youngest for Mother’s Day, last month. It’s a plant I can’t identify, nor can I, for the life of me, remember to water. This is a source of low-grade anxiety, grating on me, as I wonder at the way I inflict loud judgments on myself for the quietest of things. As though a mockery, an obvious answer to my question, a half-drunk glass of water rests forgotten on the coaster by the computer, waiting to be poured out. I recall it through a gritty delirium of creativity from two nights ago when I arrived home from work and thought it a good idea to edit photos at one in the morning.
From where I sit, gauzy white curtains, grayed slightly by a mist of clinging dog hair, veil the lower panes of the room’s broad windows, diffusing the light through the glass. And, from where I sit just within the open door, the screen invites a luxurious day wind through the house. On the deck, there is a disarray of patio furniture, wire and plastic, littered this way and that by children’s hands who use things at their whimsy and leave them as they lay. A dusty umbrella folded and turned on its side lays coated with pollen, taking up much of the deck since being discarded there last winter. Not so far away, the distance where the sky meets the earth is slanted, a ridgeline sparsely slung with ponderosa pine, the intervening space between trees a fragile, lacy green. It’s this hillside that so often catches my eye.
This is my horizon.
For a long time, I’ve thought the measure of a great writer was how well acquainted he or she was with away. With whatever roamed wild in the great, blue yonder. I’ve thought mostly that comprehending distance was far more important than grasping proximity in the realm of words and self-expression. I’ve made it a point to wander, to meander through spaces I wouldn’t usually go, in order to become interesting, to cultivate charm, fascination. An understanding of my place in the wilderness of the world. I have thought that to write well, I must meet my horizon, journey as far away as my eye can see. I have thought that to create “good” art I must somehow move out of myself and into the space of the unknown, the territory of question, the posture of inquiry. Lately, however, in the wake of my husband’s recent surgery and with the kids out of school for the summer, I’ve carved out more time for contemplating this nearby distance from my curled imprint on the couch. And, while my horizon’s pull is strong, it occurs to me I would not have the vantage point of out there being out there, without sitting in here to see it.
Adventure, perhaps, is futile if there’s not a point of return, a place to come back to. It’s senseless to throw a dog’s ball if there is no expectation it will be retrieved, brought back to be thrown again. There is no reason to cover space, to wander through the world if nothing calls me back. If there is no sense of reliance built upon the small, insignificances of domestic life. I sit, contemplating the ridge, the land, its undulation, and I understand what it is, what shape it makes. But, only from here. From where i sit. From anywhere else, the view would be different. My vision closes the distance my feet may never cover. I roam, only to return to the center, this axis I pivot from. It is strange, too, how often the converse is also true. How home becomes home only after you have been away, either literally or figuratively. Right now, from where I sit, a palpable dry wind ranges through the house, filling the room where I write, its motion delivering the story of away. It is a quixotic mixture of home and gone that billows the curtains, and as I commit these words to the page, a potion of contentment creeps in. It is either an incentive to stay and write or an invitation to leave and wander, to figure out my propensity to settle and roam.
That this ambivalence remains is refreshing somehow, like finding water in a weary place. Like, the act of finally rising, gliding across the room to pour leftover water on a dull plant.
Author: Anna Oberg