Certainly Elsewhere, Ambiguous

20 May 2014
6:08 pm

T. —

I’ve been elsewhere, but I’m back. I’m here now.


The final statistics from my time on Iona:

I wrote 115 letters, sent 35 postcards, and read 19 books. I received 73 letters/cards/postcards. 

I’m really happy with those numbers.


I had turned it into a ritual: letter-writing. I had wanted to write you letters of all the various reasons why I went to Iona, because there are so many, and because some of them are contradictory but no less true. I know I only wrote you two. I’m sorry it fell through. I’m sorry this fell through.

But I did turn letters into a daily ritual. I wrote at least a letter a day. And that was something I came to rely on: a marker for how my time passed there. I kept a small notebook and turned it into a letter ledger in between the daily notes, so that I knew who I wrote to, and at least a brief idea of what it was about. Postcard to MacKenzie: The sunset I don’t expect to see. Some of the phrases are stories in themselves.


I’m thinking a lot about stories, and how we tell them, and who we tell them to, and why we share them. I’m missing writing my letter every day, and so I’d like to come back to our letters here, and I’d like to carve out time to write letters on paper.

I’m feeling contemplative, but I’m rusty at figuring out what to say or how to voice it.


I’m sorry you’ve been going through a lot, and I haven’t directly been here. Some things I’ve wanted to echo back to you:

You no longer have to feel this way. You’re right.

You will be okay. You are okay.

Life is all about the difficulties we have processing things. There’s nothing new or unusual about that. The point is to keep working through it.


Yesterday, I went out to coffee with a new-old friend, and he said Do you always speak this way? I tried to get him to clarify, but all I could answer was Yes. Since yesterday, I’ve been turning it over in my head, trying to figure out what speaking this way means. At first I thought it was about delivery, about the way I move my hands to dance the words alive on the table, the way I literally lay things out in front of me. A miming, a gesture of meaning and narrative. But today I think it was more a comment on the questions I ask, the way I look at things. Later in the conversation we were talking about children, and he said I know you won’t coddle your children when you have them. I just get this sense of how you are, and that isn’t going to change. You just continue to be how you are. I do try my best at continuity. I try to be assured, and when certainty isn’t possible, I am assuredly amenable to living with some doubt.


About stories that continue to open up
You would expect my story to end sooner than it does, and I would have expected this as well. But I was wrong, as it turned out, about the doorway being closed after the incident with Mordechai Akiva. It was still wide open and only seemed to be getting wider. If at some point in your life you should experience such a confluence of events as I experienced in the time of which I speak, it may seem as though you are a tuning fork or magnet, as if you’ve found your way into a lucid place where many things appear at once and you can see how close you are and have always been to all these things and then you’ll wonder why it is that they have suddenly been revealed. Some of what you see in such a time will change your life and some of it will be forgotten. It is not my intention to speak in riddles, but I will suggest that it is very natural to see all of these things as a big puzzle you must assemble. I will suggest, as well, that certain pieces will not fit, not now or ever, and that you must learn to live with these ambiguities. You must also learn to trust these ambiguities. This is perhaps the most important thing I know.’ (313)

– ‘Day For Night’ by Frederick Reiken


I need to give you a list of the books I read.


This Morning I Could Do/A Thousand Things
Robert Hedin

I could fix the leaky pipe
Under the sink, or wander over
And bother Jerry who’s lost
In the bog of his crankcase.
I could drive the half-mile down
To the local mall and browse
Through the bright stables
Of mowers, or maybe catch
The power-walkers puffing away
On their last laps. I could clean
The garage, weed the garden,
Or get out the shears and
Prune the rose bushes back.
Yes, a thousand things
This beautiful April morning.
But I’ve decided to just lie
Here in this old hammock,
Rocking like a lazy metronome,
And wait for the day lilies
To open. The sun is barely
Over the trees, and already
The sprinklers are out,
Raining their immaculate
Bands of light over the lawns.
Keep moving.
More soon,

One thought on “Certainly Elsewhere, Ambiguous

  1. Those are fantastic numbers. I feel a bit envious (must be because I am a glutton for letters).

    I think having a letter ledger is great idea. I might try it for myself.

    Happy you are back!


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