I am dislocated. As from the medieval Latin, I have been moved from my proper place and position, my normal arrangement has been disturbed. Synonymously, I have been disrupted, thrown into disarray, disorganized and confused. These things have happened to me, my passive voice little more than flotsam on a strange sea.
We left our home. The land we lived on for 11 years, the home we built and finished into contentment. The place our animals have known as home for all or most of their lives. It’s simple, really: we couldn’t find adequate jobs in the rural area we lived in, but we found good ones in the urban area we left over a decade ago. So we did what so many do every day: we moved to find professional opportunity.
But that is the end of simplicity. Moving is a nightmare. Moving is stressful and exhausting and painful. It’s certainly harder with livestock and ranch equipment as part of the mix. So there’s that.
But this is about something else. I knew it would be hard work to move. I didn’t know it would pull my heart through my chest wall and leave it thrashing on the ground like a trout yanked from its stream.
I didn’t appreciate how passionately in love I am with our home. I didn’t know the lining of my intestines would hum and surge in longing for the particular sound of the breeze in my pines. I didn’t know my lungs would collapse every time I thought of the view out my living room window. I didn’t realize my skin would recoil from the foreign air, the wrong wind currents, the landscape that is not mine.
Decades ago, I saw an arthouse movie about an indigenous man in an arctic setting who was captured and put in a jail cell. It was his first sojourn in a solid structure and the first time in his long life he could not see the sky. He immediately began to die. I don’t remember the name of the movie or what happened to him, but I think of him. Of what happens when you are suddenly stripped of the environment that held you.
I’ve never lived at any one address for 11 years, other than my childhood home. I’ve never pitched my back and my heart into a place like we did in building our homestead. I’ve never designed a house and then seen it emerge raw and ready for tending like a greasy newborn. I’ve never spent my hours and days in the company of the same trees, a revolving but familiar cast of wild animals, and a reliable splash of brilliant stars for 11 years straight. I didn’t realize what had happened.
I am of that place and that place is of me. I wrote an essay not long ago, called In the Company of Trees, in which I mused on the reasons for the strange but tangible affinity I felt for my immediate natural environment. I wrote that my body and the trees around me contain the same top five elements, giving us a kinship not apparent on the surface. I wrote about my shedding a skin cell, which disintegrated and gave up its prime elements to the tree’s roots, while I breathed in its pollen and oxygen and particles of bark. Over time, our bodies leaned toward each other.
Torn away, I am bereft. Sick and empty in the middle. I don’t think I’ll die of it, but I can see how it’s possible. I can now understand the desperation of people pushed or ripped from their ancestral homes. The anguish of thousands of refugees who are so much more dislocated than I, in such dire circumstances. The land we love is another organ, the loss of which can lead to internal hemorrhage.
Over time, the pain will subside. The connection will grow distant. I will mingle my atoms with other places. That fact in itself makes my chest clench. Something that can be gotten over diminishes in importance. I don’t want to get over it.
I will not change the name of my blog because in every important sense, I am still on Elk Meadow Road. Husband and I will institute a new Thanksgiving-time toast: next year on Elk Meadow Road! In the meantime, I keep Elk Meadow Road just as I cradle my liver. I will slowly shed the atoms I picked up from my trees, scattering them in this new environment, but I vow to keep what I became there.