Le vent se lève

“I hear a voice calling
Calling out for me
These shackles I’ve made in an attempt to be free
Be it for reason, be it for love
I won’t take the easy road”

First Aid Kit’s “My Silver Lining” is playing in a coffee shop where I am sitting in my new town, York, in Pennsylvania. I have a conversation with my mother within which I decry the hip culture and all its hypocrisies and lack of a true identity. And then I go to a coffee shop.

I struggle with what I want. I visit friends in Chicago and pine for the gray sharp life under building shadows. I live in Montana and want to become a deer (or at least live among them).

I saw a post recently from a friend who lives in a beautiful, popular city. “I live where you vacation.” She does live in a place like that. I do not.

I follow my gut and move to a place where the river runs strong and the people look at you a little strange when you first walk in but who beg you to stay when you’ve decided to leave. I fall in love with this place. I fall in love with people in this place. Everything I want is in this place.

Except for my professional environment. I begin to wilt under the harsh fluorescent lighting. I leave work and head to the bar that is too tall for my small frame and I realize I have a new old-man cynicism that has come about 30 years too soon. I run across the same bridge every morning and I listen to the fast and penetrating house music so that I pretend that what I’m doing is worth it. I’m here for the community. I’m here for the mountains. I’m here for the friends who are like no other friends I’ve ever had.

I have a new chance and my heart breaks because of it. My heart breaks because of the people who took me to the VFW and to a potluck tucked into an Idaho field and to a secret waterfall by the Kootenai River. My heart breaks because I know that I will leave. My heart breaks because that is the way I am and will be.

I come to a place that reminds me of Missouri, and this sense of familiarity surprises and confuses me. The unassuming red barns dot the brilliant green fields and the yellow meadows. I came here when I was a child. I remember the maple syrup-covered snowballs and the peculiarity of the country life. I come back 10, 15 years later and it feels good. It feels safe. It is another place where people do not vacation. Most people likely do not know where this new place is. And I am happy with that.

I have adopted a phrase from a recent Miyazaki movie, “Le vent se lève.” “The wind rises.” Surely the wind will pick me up again. But for now I must be like one of the red barns and live among the green, green grass and let my reluctant roots touch the soil with more confidence.

I come to this coffee shop to be around people and to create some semblance of connection. I want to wander and leave and tie up my roots around my organs and my mind and my heart instead of push them into the ground around me.

The wind will always rise. But the wind rises through the trees and across the fields and it lifts the soils and carries the birds to their homes and the seeds to their place of rest. The wind is important but so is the soil, and as such, I must love the soil and slowly start to pull my roots from my heart that they protect so ceaselessly and stubbornly.

“Le vent se lève! . . . il faut tenter de vivre!
L’air immense ouvre et referme mon livre,
La vague en poudre ose jaillir des rocs!
Envolez-vous, pages tout éblouies!
Rompez, vagues! Rompez d’eaux rejouies
Ce toit tranquille où picoraient des focs!”

– Le cimetière marin, Paul Valery

“The wind is rising! . . . We must try to live!
The huge air opens and shuts my book: the wave
Dares to explode out of the rocks in reeking
Spray. Fly away, my sun-bewildered pages!
Break, waves! Break up with your rejoicing surges
This quiet roof where sails like doves were pecking.”

– Translation by C. Day Lewis