Friday, September 29, 2006

Home for a Mudsill

Dear Walker Percy,

It was like awaking from a "deja vu." The sonorous rattle of the cicada clacking across the patched cement of our back deck. The disconcerting thing is that the sound of a single cicada, 2 1/2 inches long on the outside, is a racket. And that is when I realized that I am homeless.

Strange for someone who nests, who gathers around herself impatiens and begonias, who puts family snap-photos in groupings under the plexiglass of poster frames, who keeps second grade successes marked with stars, and trophies from mini-marathons for the benefit of a children's hospital, but there it is.

My husband speaks it out loud, but he is wont to do that, ready to up and out of there at the notice of a moment. He isn't homebound. "I've had it," he'll say. But I'm trapped by a few pieces of homeliness. Something in the turf or in the walls can cling to me, but mostly it's the cleavings of relationships. Up and out of there isn't comfortably part of my framework. However, in spite of my longings, my propensity to be a local, I haven't found a nail for my Welcome Home sign.

Walker, you say, "New York is New York", but localities in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana (and perhaps Tennessee too) share traits which set the region apart from much of the United States. Perhaps that is true. Perhaps there is a southern traitedness that shuts its door on outsiders who would seek a home place, laughing with that Southern irony you talk about so much, at visitors who knock and seek to gain some entrance. I'm not sure if it is refusal based on irony or refusal based upon refusal, that otherly refusal of the traitedness. "Y'all come back, now," is after all predicated on the delicious assumption that we'all are leaving.

Janine just arrived from up north. Well, West Virginia. Her family moved her in with a rush, what you might term "Northern edgyness". The apartment was set up and operating before I arrived with my dolly. Welcome, welcome, good luck. We stood outside in the warm evening with glasses of unsweetened tea and she asked me a very unsettling question. "What is that sound? It's driving me crazy." What sound? What was she talking about? And that was the moment that started the deja vu. It set me up for an awakening of sorts. I had stopped hearing the cacophony of the cicadas.

Your frontispiece to The Last Gentleman quotes Father Romano Guardini from The End of the Modern World. "Loneliness in faith will be terrible. Love will disappear from the face of the public world, but the more precious will that love be which flows from one lonely person to another."

And so it has, love is gone, North, South, East, West, publicly gone. We're a lonely bunch and in the midst of the static of life it is hard enough to identify other lonely faithful even when you can speak the same cultural language and there nothing to distract you from hearing. So shall I go home to the North or stay here and continue in failing attempts to find the flow of love as it exists here?

Perhaps I should be encouraged that the cicadas have faded from my attention. It could be a sign that I may find a home here after all. And, as the good Guardini went on to say, "Perhaps [wo]man will come to experience this love anew, to taste the sovereignty of its origin, to know its independence of the world, to sense the mystery of its final why? Perhaps love will achieve an intimacy and harmony never known to this day. Perhaps it will gain what lies hidden in the key words of the providential message of Jesus: that things are transformed for the [wo]man who makes God's will for His Kingdom his [her] first concern (Matt 6:33)."

May it be so.

Betsy DeGeorge

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