Love is like wildflowers;
It’s often found in the most unlikely places.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
From Essay IX: The Over-Soul — “The Supreme Critic on the errors of the past and the present, and the only prophet of that which must be, is that great nature in which we rest, as the earth lies in the soft arms of the atmosphere; that Unity, that Over-soul, within which every man’s particular being is contained and made one with all other; that common heart, of which all sincere conversation is the worship, to which all right action is submission; that overpowering reality which confutes our tricks and talents, and constrains every one to pass for what he is, and to speak from his character, and not from his tongue, and which evermore tends to pass into our thought and hand, and become wisdom, and virtue, and power, and beauty.”
From Nature — “Nature is a language and every new fact one learns is a new word; but it is not a language taken to pieces and dead in the dictionary, but the language put together into a most significant and universal sense. I wish to learn this language, not that I may know a new grammar, but that I may read the great book that is written in that tongue.”
People are inconsistent. We must be; we’re alive, living, responding, changing. Funny thing is, in the West we’re often taught that this is a bad thing. It isn’t efficient. It isn’t dependable. It goes against all kinds of Protestant ethics of order and purpose and such. But in Eastern cultures, it’s often celebrated. “If you see the Buddha in the road, kill him.” When the Buddha becomes a monolith, a never-changing dogma, it is no longer a life-giving source. I look to historical information and try to understand why people did what they did for a living now; I’m a historic interpreter. I keep fighting this penchant for landing on the “right answer”, the one that describes order and purpose and makes sense. I’m learning more that the joy of interpreting history is found in saying “we don’t know why”. We’re quirky; isn’t that marvelous? We change, we evolve, we digress, we’re capricious. In many cultures, gods were like that, too. It was acceptable, maybe expected. But in Western theology, that became a bad characteristic for a god, and immutability became important. We want something dependable, something stable, so much that we’re willing to construct it and enshrine it. Why? Because it allows us to stop trying to be responsible in the world? The effort of responding is perhaps a constant drain, and we are lazy by nature? I think of cultures that are resilient, flexible, responsive to the environment, and I think that consistency is maybe not that important or beneficial after all.
“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.” Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance, 1830
What made me think about this? I was looking into Wisconsin history, and the history of the Upper Peninsula, and came across the story of Henry Schoolcraft. His first wife was half Ojibwa and helped him in his scholarship of Native American cultures. His second wife wrote a popular anti-Tom novel in response to Harriet Beecher Stowe’s famous book and disapproved of mixed-race unions, thereby alienating her stepchildren completely. Why would the same man be married to both of these women? “I don’t know why.”
I recognize in myself a tendency to try to put my partner in a box, to figure out the consistent rules that will help me predict his behavior. There aren’t any, really. But he is hardly a sociopath. He simply wants to be allowed to communicate his thoughts and feelings as they arise, to be understood in the moment, known intimately for the authentic and complicated man he is. He is more than willing to talk and reason and explain honestly and even to make promises and act on them in order to gain my trust. Perhaps it is simply my natural laziness that wants to put labels on him and save myself the trouble of paying attention. Truly caring about a person requires great effort. It is hardly efficient. It necessitates all kinds of little adjustments. And that is a valuable process, a craftsmanship of sorts. Which reminds me of this clip my brother-in-law sent me which he titled: Precision East German manufacturing in the workers paradise. I’m not sure if he was trying to be cynical. I think it illustrates a very authentic part of human process.
I learned that the blue flower growing in my garden and all over the Wehr Nature Center woods is called scilla siberica (wood squill) and is native to southwestern Russia, the Caucasus and Turkey. I am guessing that settlers brought it over here about a hundred years ago. I’m tickled that we have parts of our name in common! I am thinking more about the settlers and their way of life while I wait to hear about the outcome of my Old World Wisconsin interview. What did they find different about the flora and fauna here? What did they miss from the old country? How does the emotional connection to land, a place, a “mother country” develop, and what did it feel like to venture out from there to an unknown place?
Memories are sweet; what is here right now is also sweet.
I find myself using more energy to be present with what is right in front of me. When I retreat to my memories, I take that energy and shelter it deep within myself. It feels like I’m hiding, in a way. It’s not easy to allow anyone else to inhabit that place. It’s slow and calm and secret.
I have a memory garden. It blooms with the flowers of the old country: my babies, my husband, my house, my youth. I like to visit it and inhale its familiar fragrance. I am alone there.
The world of the present is all around that secret garden. It asks to be acknowledged, appreciated, and invited into my deep consciousness.
I could call this my “settler’s mind”. But there really is no division. Here, there, then, now…it’s all fluid, connected, like the roots and rhizomes of wild flowers.
“One of the illusions of life is that the present hour is not the critical, decisive hour. Write it on your heart that every day is the best day of the year.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Every day is the best day, every place you are is the best place.