On falling off the face of the earth

by - June 20, 2014

I had never before seen such a vast expanse of bricks. My school prided itself in its endless supply, but it wasn't in the brickyard that I was first overcome by the feeling. I was walking down the street in front of the health center with its fairly new construction and not yet matured trees. I looked up at the sky and for a moment feared that if gravity were to stop, I would just fly off the face of the earth with nothing to grab a hold of on my way out. I grew up surrounded by mountains, large trees and rolling landscapes, and here on this flat scab of earth, I felt completely vulnerable. If you think about it, given the earth is round and assuming it were completely smooth, if gravity were to cease, we'd all float off in a different perpendicular trajectory. We'd never cross paths forever and ever.

The image reminds me of the scene in C.S. Lewis's The Great Divorce where the bus makes a stop at a town (aka Hell) where people have allowed their quarrels and needs drive them farther and farther from one another:

"They've been moving on and on. Getting further apart. They're so far off by now that they could never think of coming to the bus stop at all. Astronomical distances. There's a bit of rising ground near where I live and a chap has a telescope. You can see the lights of the inhabited houses, where those old ones live, millions of miles away. Millions of miles from us and from one another. Every now and then they move further still."

It is so easy to lose that common force that binds me to community with others. Were I never to reach out for connection, I could simply drift on forever and ever. Some days I feel that. But that's what friendship and family are for -- to pull your balloony string and bring you back to the bunch.

Another image I've tossed around since my grandparents passed on was that as a child I've grown up in a dense forest where my grandparents were the tallest trees of the canopy, my parents and their brothers and sisters were the next, and the children are safe to develop their roots in the understory. When Popsy told me I'd be fine as I prepared to leave for college, I believed him. I'd be fine. Yet, as each generation passes, new trees are thrust into the sunlight to be the shade for the others. There is nothing shielding them from the face of the earth and rest of the universe. There's so much responsibility and wisdom, although I imagine the view is amazing.

The transition into adulthood and then parenthood (or have I come about these in reverse?) has been a bit like falling off the face of earth. I fear growing up and growing out and seeing the taller trees give way to wind and time and lightning strikes. This past week I rested in the shade of my parents, and it was so good. I don't want my kids to grow to tall too quickly, and I want to be strong and tall for them. I certainly don't want to wind up as that lone tree in an open grassy field. I've always found them lovely and yet devastatingly sad.

I blame this mood on one of my favorite duos Harrod and Funck. Last week, I pulled out the cd player and Matthew and I danced together like we were the only ones in the world. Yet this song moves me, not to dance but to close my eyes:

We haven't forgotten a thing,
But let's not kid ourselves these days.
We let years go by once again
For moon and monkeyshine and masquerades.
From quietly shedding our youth
All the blame and that hawking about truth.
Finding we're dissatisfied,
Renouncing the doubts of the night in the clear dawn.

There's a far-away look in your eye,
It's behind the lines of the second page.
It's like reading some poet sublime
And your life 'til now was just commonplace.

Rewrite, rehearse, and repent.
You've gone over it again and again.
Aching to march in parades.
You bump shoulders behind barricades in a sea of faces.

And so it goes, all fall down.
Could this planet hold a place for you?
When the tide creeps in all around
Take a knee-deep breath or two.

Did your family teach you everything
About the in-betweens of grace and shame?
Go, run and sound the alarm,
'Cause it's wearing off like novocaine.

Awake enough to recognize
It's a bore when your heart's vandalized
By the ones who smile and say, "that's the breaks,"
And the see-you-later-but-you-know-I-did-love-you embrace that you've grown used to.

And so it goes, all fall down.
Could this planet hold a place for you?
When the tide creeps in all around,
Take a knee-deep breath or two.

Well, we haven't forgotten a thing
But we won't kid ourselves this time,
Because love's the show, it won't ever fold;
Around town it seems like everyone knows it'll raise the sky....It'll blow the sky.

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