the time is out of joint~Shakespeare, Hamlet, I.5.190
Lately, the idea that I have anything to say feels patently absurd. It’s probably also patently absurd that I use expressions like “patently absurd.” My intention has been to post weekly, on Thursdays, and I’ve not been doing a fantastic job of it. Thursday slides closer and then slips by in the backwash of the week’s end, trailing a tinge of that quiet but uncomfortable remorse one feels when one promises oneself that one will do something and one doesn’t. That is a lot of ones, but I’m feeling archaic. The time is out of joint.
Perhaps it’s autumn that does this, that works its strange magic through the waning days and lengthening nights. When the leaves flame out against the hillsides and the nights are star-glitter clear, my soul unhinges, grows restless, shifting the way my bones shifted before the births of my sons. Preparation. Everything feels loose, disjointed. The center cannot hold. I find myself half-drunk with wanderlust, daydreaming of the gorgeous peril of roads that lead ever on from my front doorstep. I wish for a wizard and a gang of dwarves to appear on my stoop, to stumble into a backless wardrobe, to fall into a painting or down a rabbit hole or out a window past the third star on the right and straight on till morning.
Autumn brings nostalgia, too, and it occurs to me suddenly, after the necessity of scones and tea to lubricate the gears in my mind, that nostalgia, too, is a kind of wanderlust, an aching to travel not through space but through time.
I wonder how many of us feel that we are out of joint. In searching for a word for this feeling, I came across a great deal of anecdotal longing as well as a couple of words which are of course not English because while my ancestors were brilliant at synonyms for “mead” and “he killed him with a spear,” they seem to have neglected this one. In Portuguese, there is saudade; C. S. Lewis preferred sehnsucht, from the German. Both seem to be not totally translatable, but convey a sense of piercing or melancholy longing. It feels painfully fitting that English has no word for this feeling, no way to pin it down and examine it. It is a dragon unnameable and thus, unconquerable.
What if Rumplestiltskin had had no name?
The old stories beckon. I overdose on ballads (my friend Juliet hosts an excellent Celtic show on WEFT Champaign, which streams live on Sunday evenings). My favorites right now are Steeleye Span’s version of “King Henry” and Old Blind Dogs’ “Bedlam Boys/The Rights of Man.” After all, All Hallows’ Eve is coming; this time of year, I like my ballads dark and creepy with a high body count. The end result of my annual creepy ballad obsession is a six-year-old who putters around the house singing, “More meat, more meat you give to me!”
Creepy or not, there is in these ancient words a pull as irrevocable as the tide, and my kiddos seem to feel it, too. I remember being their ages and feeling out of joint even then. I wonder–is it possible to be born in the wrong time? We now acknowledge that a person can be born in a body that feels wrong to her. These are the kinds of thoughts autumn always seems to bring, swirling through my mind like leaves in a maelstrom of color and a wind that carries almost-understandable voices.
These last few weeks have been a maelstrom, too, a chaos of emergencies and obligations as the laundry piles up and the dog-hair tumbleweeds grow fat and roam majestically across the hardwood floors of their domain. There has been goodness, too–a road trip to my sisters’, the sweetness of coming home, the little damp heads of my boys pressed to my shoulders as we curl up in the big bed for stories after their showers. Walks in the autumn-bright woods with dogs frisking and clamoring at the white flash of a deer’s tail or the scampering of a squirrel.
The year comes full circle at every point, but somehow the Celtic new year suits my soul best. As walnut leaves rain golden from dark branches and the sunsets take on the watercolor hues of autumn, this, more than any other, feels like a time for endings. For beginnings. And for a long pause, a slow deep breath in between.
Having said all this, I’m not sure what I have to say. I’m having trouble showing up to the blog, the page, the social-media-whatever, these days. I feel unmoored, restless as the leaves swirling, haunted as the voices of the crows that ring out over stubble fields.
Where to go from here?