Homesick & Greatlessness
May 2nd, 2015
Home is so sad. It stays as it was left,
Shaped to the comfort of the last to go
As if to win them back. Instead, bereft
Of anyone to please, it withers so,
Having no heart to put aside the theft
And turn again to what it started as,
A joyous shot at how things ought to be,
Long fallen wide. You can see how it was:
Look at the pictures and the cutlery.
The music in the piano stool. That vase.
– Philip Larkin, “Home is so Sad”
Sure, I may be a little homesick. However, I chose this title as a play on Carsick, as in the John Waters book that came out last year about his hitchhiking adventures across I-70, the second book in two library visits that I’ll return before I finish.
I hated reading it. And I like John Waters, but the notion that millions of people would want to read 200 pages of an entirely fictional, opaque, name-dropping misadventure before his real account of the journey …the notion, just that notion, is offensive. And the first book? Maps and Legends by Michael Chabon. Some writing just pisses me off. 10 pages to clarify that high literature is, indeed, entertainment, just like comic books, game shows, and burlesques? Fine, have it.
“Homesick” is a much more difficult emotion than simply “missing home,” and “home” is somehow more fundamental than “where one starts from” (thanks for that one, T.S. Eliot). Is home “where the heart is?” Uh, sure. Is it as simple and plaintive as “that vase?” No metaphor really serves.
Driving home from work I feel the pull of the compass; Great Falls is just through the Vista Ridge tunnel and a few rest stops past the horizon. The air is familiar; it is 5:30. Summer. I am sitting by the Potomac with a beer. Now I am drinking the beer. It is a Miller High Life. It is crisp. I turn my neck a bit, watching friends playing on rocks, barefoot, like we’re all six years old and this is what we do every day. Rob, Matt, Ben, Pham, Laura Falconi, if we’re feeling frisky. There is some cool arts event going on in D.C. that I am okay with missing. There are popovers with honey or maybe pizza in the oven back home. Stoplights. Stillness, 3am. We all go out to the screen porch. We go back inside, like always, when our eyes begin to dry up and crust over.
Nostalgia. I am not in Virginia, but if I wanted to, I could drink High Life on my balcony all evening and watch the sun set over Portland in the distance. In fact, the High Life is cheaper here.
Earlier today the phrase “greatlessness” came to mind. What does it mean, exactly? Nothing seems great. Everything is just there: good for the most part, but a tepidness pervades. Portland isn’t uninspiring, though it is a bit remote (hence, the compass). Recently I’ve been feeling both uninspired and remote, knowing I haven’t written that great poem, not knowing why, knowing I haven’t been obsessed with anything, with any art object or theme like I have been in the past. Months ago I told a friend that I am very stable these days, that I’m cooking, keeping in shape, trying to draw regularly and maintain the blog. Stable, but lonely. She said I sounded old and boring.
Except for being a turd about the blog, my life has remained more or less the same since then. And I’m not lonely, either, but I’m a bit bored with stability. During a particularly stressful phase of college I experienced a mental wintering, my thoughts coursing through a cold, ghastly forest of snow-covered snags (imagine a really, really bad Prezi). My current introspection is like digging through a bag of stale popcorn, which is still unpleasant, but less so.
About a year ago I had many conversations about wanting to leave Charlottesville, how it felt so small; now it slides into my thoughts like a postcard. “Greatlessness.” It’s having nothing to complain about. I watch the silhouette of some kind of warbler fidget up the broad pine outside my window. It is almost 5:30 somewhere.
I need a new book.