mad in pursuit journal


Liberating the puppies

"If you know where you are, you know who you are." [Wendell Berry]

Here we are in the final countdown before our May 3 flight to Ireland. The linear, orderly part of me is at war with the deeper emotions.

I fought off fears of a fiery demise by spending half a day making a list of our insurance policies, bank accounts, computer passwords — whatever someone would need to start putting us to rest or airlifting us home. Way to put a cage of order around the jackal of fear. A talisman that everything will be okay. My amulet.

Yesterday afternoon I grappled with putting the descendants of my Great-Grandparents Dunne — upwards of a hundred people — into a family tree. A map for Jim, who is already overwhelmed with too many names. A visual aid. A hand-out. It's reassurring to see it all laid out, a page for the American immigrant branch, a page for those who stayed in Eire. We all have our place. No misfits. No black sheep. Only the living and the dead, the wanderers and the rooted.

Nice to see it all organized, in safe, tidy boxes, with well-behaved lines connecting us at sensible distances. Another set of cages around the unruly, face-licking puppies of intimacy.

I can't watch an Irish movie without crying. The thought of Ireland engulfs me. My father is with me. My Grandma Price is with me, teaching me her songs... "the shortest of short-cuts to Old Ballymoe" and "the only blarney stone I know is underneath your nose." And I see the sweet, sweet smiles of her brother and sisters who also decided to emigrate: Auntie, Aunt Margaret, Uncle Pat. I hear them when I talk on the phone with my cousin Sinead. I'm rushing — falling — into the heart of my family.

I've always been one to draw a nice neat boundry around emotional upheaval. Enough is enough. Like Robert Frost's neighbor says, "Good fences make good neighbors" ("Mending Wall"). But he goes on to say:

Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down. I could say 'Elves' to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself...

So maybe this is my time to stop rebuilding the fence and wander into the open fields.


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