Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Circle

Where I live the trees just cling to the ledge in shallow soil; when winter winds howl in the rigging they are readily unmoored.  But the woods are so dense here that they remain, heeled to sixty degrees against their neighbors; when the spring returns they leaf out again and stretch towards the sky.
A little over fifteen years ago, I graduated from St. Paul's School in Concord, NH.  Unsure of myself, my place in that environment or the world in general, I mostly turned my back on it.  While I was sporadically in touch with a few classmates with whom I had been close, I did not rush to reunions and off-campus meetups; I chose a university as unlike SPS as possible and dragged my heels even then, believing that an SPS diploma meant I was supposed to make a name for myself within certain outside parameters that I had not set.  Glossy alumni publications would arrive, and I would glance through them at photos of beautiful, shiny people getting married surrounded by other graduates, at updates about recent social engagements among classmates, at stories about Paulies who were starting successful non-profits, businesses, careers in entertainment, etc.

When I received the invitation to my fifteenth reunion, I decided to go.  Living in coastal Maine with my husband and two children, laundry on the line, bread in the oven and salt in the air, I felt that I was as much of who I am as I was ever going to be, and I might as well admit it to the world.  I was nervous and not sure what to expect.

What a wonderful time!  The adolescent anxiety was ancient history, what muddy water roiled beneath the bridges passed over the rapids and away.  Cooke, if you are reading this, I cannot find your email about anniversary but I remember that it was perfect, fluffy pancakes of time and all that.  The shared history, and the heart of the community, was all that was present.  I am so glad that I chose to go.

Three months later, I found myself in the hospital with leukemia.  With my ancient cell phone and occasional use of a laptop, I was pretty isolated.  When some classmates insisted that I ask for something as a gift or they would select something at random, I realized that I really needed a smart phone.  The class of 1995 gave me a phone and a year of service as a get-well present.

Smart phones are great for Facebook, among other things.  Which brings me, in a most roundabout way, to my point.  St. Paul's is a place; it is a community in the traditional sense.  Facebook is a virtual community, but it is as popular as it is because we crave community and must adapt it to our mobility.  Travel and relocation generate the opportunity to immerse ourselves in new communities, to become part of new places, but we do not wish to leave behind the places that we have been.  We still wish to introduce our babies to our neighbors, to watch their children grow, to celebrate marriages, to comfort and heal sick friends and learn from older folks, but our neighborhood is the world.  We find a way to find that nourishment.

When we find ourselves unmoored by winter winds, we fetch up in the trees around us and continue to grow, leaning.  Grateful.

1 comment:

  1. I cannot believe it has taken me this long to read experience at 15th year was so much the same, Sarah. An incredible discovery of wonderful people doing wonderfully different and life affirming things, good spirits who shared a sense of community and optimism. Months went by when I couldn't help but think how fortunate I was to get to know you again.