The Messenger
The Widow's House



I drove north to Starksboro on September 9 with no end date in sight. That's not me; I want concrete plans, or at least concrete foundations. I can improvise on that. The only concrete things I had were the drive north, a large basket of wet laundry, and the stuff I almost always carry when I travel. My computer to write, paint, brushes, and paper to capture the extraordinary, and appropriate foot and outerwear. Socks. I don't always do so well with socks. 

I sat on the deck, looking at the mountains for an unprecedented eleven days, at which point I felt compelled to go home. In truth, it would have been far better if I'd unshackled myself and let the people and things take care of themselves. It would have been far better if I'd stayed on that deck.

I let go and evened out; eventually all water flows over rocks, waterfalls, and the boiling floods of quick winter meltdowns. I'd passed through the rapids without much thought and I floated. In eleven days I watched those green and purple mountains change. Flecks of gold and yellow, some red along the road, and I panicked. Maybe I was afraid I'd never leave, my family too good to say if they suffered my company or not. Some misguided belief that I really ought to just get on with it now.

That's the thing about falling down. If you fall down hard enough to discover you've been walking around like a shattered easter egg, the answer is not to get up and fall back into formation. That sort of thing is reserved for the military and medics, civilian or otherwise. We believe, from the moment we are old enough to hear it, that all of us must stand up and fall back into formation. There is a long standing Calvin edict which says: if you do not, you are immoral and deserve everything you've got coming. It can be difficult to turn the volume on those voices down. They aren't going away but we don't have to tolerate the shouting.

It was my brother, rising up from the ashes of our Midwestern heritage that threw me back on my ass. Everything he said was true, subjectively speaking, or at least true for him. Jack is a vulnerable, loving man and only his fear would allow that level of toxicity to pass through the phone lines. As with my father, who has spent his entire adult life worrying about me, Jack's own fears swallowed me whole. 

I climbed out of the whale's belly, looked around and wondered how much damage we'd done to each other. There wasn't much to do with it at the time; I needed to get myself safe. 

Get myself safe. Now that's a statement. If I had to guess, I'd say I've probably been working to get and keep myself safe since I was three or four. After that, I had company. I suppose I took on the mother role, including the beatings, shit rolls downhill, now doesn't it? I took on the mother role and did everything in my power to catch him when I could see the falls coming. I had children early and took that on as well. The rest of the journey is pretty much the same. I go last, no matter what, and I dispensed with that oxygen mask metaphor as soon as I heard it. 

When I left the house in Weston at the end of 2018 I felt unmoored in a way I'd forgotten. I said, to the Chappaqua people, the most important thing we need is to be safe. When we were clearly not safe, I picked us up and moved elsewhere. Once again I said, the most important thing we need is to be safe. 

Well, she's safe, but I am not. What I believed would keep me safe has eaten me alive, and it does not have to be this way. 

I have this overwhelming fear, terror, really, of ending up at the mercy of one of my children. I don't how Mike would handle it. His heart would be there, but I don't know what he'd do. Probably just fine; it's my fear projected on him that suggests he would fall. Lucia. Mother of God, Mary on a Half Shell; every ounce of anger, rage, and bitterness that woman carries is directed at me, or at least it feels that way. Elder abuse is not in her bones, but rage is rage. I might be suffocated in my sleep. Elizabeth? My lovely, sweet, courageous last baby? I don't think I could stand the resentment. None of them are particularly inclined to take on the obligation of another. These are just my beliefs, which does not make them even remotely true. However.

It appears I've just redefined 'safe'. Safe, for me, is a lack of judgement, a willingness to just let me be. Safe, for me, is a place to repair the accumulated damage. Shellacking a shattered hardboiled egg does nothing for the guts of the thing. Rubbing a little dirt on it, wrapping it in duct tape is a temporary thing. Layers upon layers of duct tape reveal gangrene when the damn thing finally bursts; and burst it will. 

I had three choices, all of them involved leaving nearly everything behind. One of them involved being alone in a house in the forest. That was a done deal, but not optimal. The truth is, I want to be in Vermont because I want to be in Vermont. The flow of that household is a thing I can slide into without causing harm. My obligation is to myself. Vermont is where I want to land one way or another, but I've been afraid it would take me another twenty years to figure out how to get there.

Starksboro is sanctuary. It is a safe space and a launching pad with the benefit of doing good. 

I will go in the spring, no later than the end of May, maybe a little earlier depending on how long it takes me to dispose of these other obligations. Things that are just things. I'm going north with no more than my RAV4 can carry. There might be a small storage closet at a local facility, but only for those things I don't want to repurchase to make a small apartment habitable. And what is that, exactly? What does habitable mean? It means a roof, heat, and a water source. 

The only thing of sentimental value I can't seem to let go of is the rocking chair. I guess I'll figure that out. Or I won't. 

I'm going North, to sanctuary. I'm going North to be still. I'm going to North to learn to breathe again.