QUAIL MUTTERINGS #18. Isolation… Connectedness… (October 28, 2012)
I guess I had it all wrong. My thinking was that I had already gone through the empty nest syndrome after my youngest went off to college last year. But evidently there was more to come. Way more. My second daughter had moved out when she went to college, but then returned to live on our property bringing her fiancé with her. A wedding, a baby and a divorce followed over the next six years. I loved having my family around. It was the best of both worlds. You see, we could be together anytime we wanted while living in separate dwellings. But now, my daughter and four-year-old grandson have moved “down the hill” to be closer to the conveniences of city life – I guess. While it may seem like a good move on their part, it’s like torture to me.
In fact, to be honest, it feels downright wrong. There have been five generations of our family living here in the canyon and for better or worse this sense of family and community feels absolutely right. I know in this day and age our youngsters are expected to flex their wings and go out on their own. But in other cultures this is not the norm. It could be considered abandonment. In the old days extended families lived together with the elders helping to care for the youngsters while the parents went out to work. That whole scenario helped promote cohesion, love, trust and respect for the whole group, crossing generations. However, these days, if one of our grown children fails to launch it’s determined to be a negative thing. Either the parents didn’t do their job right or there’s something wrong with the young adult.
But I’m not really speaking of this scenario. I’m referring more to the matter of choice. The idea is that raising kids in a multi-generational family is a much more viable option than attempting to exist in a vacuum – with society’s whims extolling their pressures without there being a safety net to fall back on, for any one of the group. We all know that it takes a village to successfully raise our young. The goal is to help them reach a place where they can be successful in relationships, be able to provide for their own families… In essence, to be loving, caring and contributing members of our society.
Speaking of family groups, we’ve been seeing a group of deer in our area. Sometimes as many as seven, as a couple neighbors have told me. The buck has big, beautiful antlers and each individual appears overly tame. I’d like to see them a little less comfortable around us humans and our machinery, for their own good. After all, not all of us are of a trustworthy sort. Things are pretty dry these days and there’s probably a real shortage on their food supply, which brings them in closer to civilization. These deer are much darker colored, almost a seal-brown, instead of the light-tan I remember from my childhood.
Somehow, I’d like to see our families stick together more as a group – like those deer. Sharing food, cooperating with labor and recreating together can bring more genuine meaning to these activities. There’s just two of us left in the canyon these days, my husband and me. Gardening and growing goodies to share feels a bit empty without my offspring here to share it with. Yes, I know. I’m obsessing over what most people would consider, “No Big Deal.” But to me it feels like a huge loss.
When I lay in bed at night fighting insomnia, the hooting of the owls sends me a mixed message. I feel comforted and grateful to be living in this rural canyon surrounded by the wild sounds of the night. But they also bring a melancholy mood, reminding me of how lonely it can feel here at times. Nevertheless, I realize that I will adjust, eventually, and regroup my inner calm. I recognize that my ability to meditate and quiet my mind will probably return and grant with it a new perspective and appreciation for what is. It’s just that this period of adjustment is not very comfortable. I wasn’t prepared for it.
It’s like the surprise rain we got back in August. It poured while the lightening struck and the thunder roared. I sat out on the front porch yelling into the deluge, harmonizing with the rolls of thunder. It felt wonderful. That unexpected treat of restoring moisture to the earth also created ruinous ruts in the road and front yard. We’ll have to bring out shovels the next time it comes. Having these tools ready can come in handy when the unexpected happens. Such as when half your family moves away. My morning meditation is one such tool for my mind, helping to quiet myself enough to let the subtle awakenings emerge which allow me to be a better person. And to slow down my reactions and responses to more positively affect future outcomes. So, “Here’s to the owls,” who remind us how isolated, yet how connected we all are to everything around us.
Chi Varnado is the author of two books. Her memoir, A CANYON TRILOGY: Life Before, During and After the Cedar Fire and her children’s book, The Tale of Broken Tail are both available on www.amazon.com. Chi directs the Ramona Dance Centre. Her collection of essays, Quail Mutterings, can be found on www.chivarnado.com.