Yesterday, David and I had a brief discussion of home and inheritance. I’m currently in a low-grade kind of exile and David is living again in his home place and dealing with the Rage of doing so. But I have the Rage too, and here’s the reason I gave at the time:
Perhaps because, as Kansans (though this is not limited to us) we’re denied the basic inheritance of being from somewhere, since our way of life there has erased itself from the time it started.
I think we’re hard-wired to grow deeply and irrevocably attached to wherever we grow up. It teaches us everything. But we never learned the language in Kansas, the plants, the animals, the medicines, the rhythms. It has been treated instead as the enemy. And so we accomplish the bizarre dark miracle of being from nowhere. There of course natural geniuses in the Great Plains language, but I’m not one of them.
Today he shared an article suggesting home is only found through contemplation and meditation. This is a sane and healing suggestion, but while it can resolve personal questions, it leaves the earthly realm, the literal home, undefended.
And that is, I’ve realized, the source of my frustration, of the Rage. I am not naturally a homebody. In temperament and interests, I am a wanderer. I thrive on chaos. I’ve never had a single lasting habit. I am the wayward, the prodigal, the outsider.
But in order to fulfill this destiny, I must first have an actual place to leave, a way of life worth abandoning. For the children of the colonizers of Kansas, of whom I am one, that work has already been done. What I inherited was a generic culture of perpetual arrival and departure that makes a mockery of my natural calling.
So in order to give my travels their full force, I must first recreate a homeland worth leaving.
And so I study. I learn the names of the plants and the animals. I try to intuit beautiful and lasting solutions to universal human demands for food, shelter, and company based on the materials available in Kansas and then spin stories around these inventions. I dream of taking back the land from the pesticide people. Riding grasshopper gods over a broken interstate highway, following the smoke from adobe ovens, collecting eagle feathers and beadable rocks and sending all the barbed wire back to Chicago in one giant ball on the last train to ever run across the grasses.
But these ever-shifting homelands I dream of leaving, the porridge I dream of missing, the mulberry festivals that have never existed, will not arise in my lifetime. And so no matter where I go, I won’t be there, because you can never leave a place you never were.