I am an expert. In longing. It’s a thought that splattered in my brain like a big fat rain drop while I sat in a writing workshop. The Teton mountain range towered in the backdrop as the resident writer read evocative and verbose narratives describing mountains that make me want to dry heave in mock revolt. They feel too fake, too overdone. But as she droned, a voice in my head said, “I am an expert in longing.” I had to explore the sudden thought. All my teens, I longed for isolation to escape the pull and nag of the world, of school, of my parents’ expectations, of my girlfriends’ mood swings and silent treatment. I longed for a life that wasn’t punctuated with verbal jabs and where loose cotton clothes would make me beautiful. I longed for an ascetic life where only me and my most intimate friends lived in a cabin in the woods and gardened and fed each other and laughed. The china would be chipped – and that would be okay. The floor would be gritty but it wasn’t a worry; we would sweep it with a broom while the sun cooked the air and the crunch of the bristles sang calm into our minds. I longed for a life lived for something greater, where my integrity would cut through injustice like a ship cuts the sea. I longed for a life where couldn’t, wouldn’t and should were not the rudder that steered me.
Later, I longed for adventure. I moved West to a red landscape that made me long for it like a man longs for a woman’s touch.In the midst of adventure, I longed for normal. I lived with only what I could fit in my car yet I rarely longed for things – except maybe salt and pepper shakers and a vacuum. I longed for the intimacy of my childhood friends. For my mom. For a lover. But I found a life where one set of clothes is enough. Where chipped china doesn’t matter but delicious food and good friends at the table do. I found a life where normal didn’t exist but laughter was paramount. Where function mattered so much more than fashion, where work that mattered meant more than a house or a routine. I found a world where – when I had the gumption to get off the couch at the end of a hard day – a world of crisp air would greet me, silence punctuated by raven calls and the click of a glass-winged grasshopper, mountains punched the sky and wind skipped across my skin. The world is where I sit, I wait, I wonder. I still have would’ves and could’ves – impossible to avoid. I still thrust my life into crevices that make me long for comfort or love or home. And the longing is sweet. It is filled with appreciation, with awareness, with luck, wonder and awe. Filled with uncanny encounters and unusual characters and frustration and emptiness and half drunk wine bottles and the spicy smell of juniper smoke. It is a lonely life sometimes, without one person to fill up all my needs, but it fills me with amazement. It’s edge gives me a sense of purpose to drive me, and if I’m not on the road to somewhere, I am stagnant and sad. I can’t imagine anything worse than life without the questions, “What for? What now?” When I am longing, I somehow also know, that I am on my way.