Thursday, May 4, 2017

On a foggy morning

It's cliched, of course, to describe the sound of a foghorn as mournful. But awakening to that sound this morning seems to have put me in a mournful mood: I found myself missing -- and mourning -- the life I lived some 20 years ago.

In those days I lived on a real island -- not like this one -- an island only accessible by a remote, hour-long ferry ride, with only 160 residents, only one store (which was rarely open), no coffee shops or restaurants, a tiny library and museum open only a few hours a week, and a small school with only 10 students. My house and furniture were not my own, my possessions were few, and my time -- when I was not shepherding my daughters, who were 7 and 9 at the time -- was spent meditating, reading, writing, walking the beach by my cabin, and doing photography.

I still live on an island, but it's more of a suburb: there's a bridge at one end, and the busy city is a half-hour ferry ride away. There are 23,000 residents, 3 shopping districts, and multiple schools, both private and public. My kids are grown and gone, I no longer live on the beach, I'm rarely out with my camera any more, and though I still meditate, read, and write -- and have added painting to my repertoire -- my time seems to mostly be eaten up volunteering for numerous organizations.

So what is it I miss?

I suspect it's the solitude; the peace and quiet of the uninterrupted life. I was in serious retreat mode when I moved to that little island, having left a job that had shaken me to the core of my religious roots, and I remember how challenging it was to adjust to a life with no job and no income after having worked for 25 years. A life where my only responsibility was raising my children seemed curiously empty: who was I, if not a rising young marketing executive? What did I believe in, if church was no longer an option? And yet, somehow, out of that, I was able to discover what it meant to feel whole and complete in a way I hadn't before.

Perhaps that's the issue now -- I'm feeling fragmented again, beset by responsibilities I no longer want, busy in ways I no longer want to be, surrounded by "stuff" I no longer feel a need to own... And so I look at the tired old ferry in this picture and I wonder: do I feel its mournful echo in my soul because I, too, have become old and decrepit? Or is it that the life I'm living no longer serves my needs? Or is that mournful feeling just a nostalgia, a longing for a simpler past? Thoughts to ponder on a foggy morning...

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