I pulled out the boxes I have stuffed in the closet of my old room. Five of them: old journals, a tablecloth, hiking boots, a walrus baculum Ian gave me before he left the Maritimes that's about the size of a femur. And books, mostly books: Kingsolver, Chekov, Mitchell, Zwicky, Dickens, all the Harry Potter books I could get my hands on when I was fifteen. They like there with their spines stuck to one another, like a catalogue of bones; like a compression sack of the self. All these parts of me, neatly stacked and lightless! All these ways I used to understand myself and define myself, gone.
Books like those, though, aren't meant to be read by me any more. They're meant to be things that I return to; a certain amount of nostalgia, of lost sense of self has to be felt before I find it necessary to open them up, sweep off the storage cloths, and sit very quietly on the my childhood bedroom floor for a very long, very quiet time.
I always end up doing this when I come back to my parents' house, which I've done every year or so since I left. I was afraid it was nostalgia at first--some longing for the old self who used to be fed and cared for at fifteen, who would sit on the same bedroom floor and scratch out first poems or read Dune. I worried that I was somehow seeing that time as a better time.
I don't think so anymore. It feels, now, like looking back at a map after a long ride though the hills. When I've successfully lost myself and still found my way home, there's a quiet joy in tracing back my route til I figure out exactly which turn I took, where I went, and to live the journey again by tracing myself on paper.
One day there will come a time when I'll take those boxes out and bring them to where I want to be at the moment--where Salinger and Vonnegut and Mistry will all sit exposed to light, in another house and another place and another time; and their spines will fade with time. The maps and the journey will start to look the same.
Ach, this has been so self-reflective. Montreal does this to me right now. I'm worried, too, about the next weeks: meetings in New Brunswick, in Nova Scotia, which may or may not change what the days will look like in the coming months and years.
A doctorate feels so immense right now not because of its actual length or what its work requires, but because of the precarity in needs me to accept: that for at least another two years, the books stay in the closet, the clothes are kept packed, the baculum (hem) remains under wraps. Two more years of not knowing where exactly I'm living, or with whom; and of being certain that, no matter what, I'll uproot somewhere in order to do it. It's a chance to do much, yes. But it's also a necessary surrender. I want to figure out the edges of my surrender, pace out my territory. Find out where my choices end.
And then, as MacKay reminds us, snow tires.