We are animals who seek patterns. The up and down of the breath, the sun, the pulse of the moon, the seasons and their connected symbols. Even before we add meaning to the events of our lives, our bodies construct interlocking melodic units built of the rhythms of those events. “Rhythm is one of the most powerful pleasures,” says poet Mary Oliver, “and when we feel a pleasurable rhythm we hope it will continue. When it does, it grows sweeter.” Our bodies long for this. Rhythm is one of the body’s nutrients.
Seasons layer into a kind of polyrhythmic experience, with days, weeks, and months tapping their overlapping meter into our bodies and our psyches. Rituals and holidays bring together the beats of culture, family, and seasons; patterns resolve, refresh, and begin again. Our earliest traditions and rhythms carve us permanently and each year in a place, with a people, reinforces the pattern. That becomes our mother tongue, something like our body’s accent.
Perhaps there is a certain kind of wisdom that can only be gained by staying in a place, so that you can learn to parse the long resultant patterns that can only be seen after decades of the same culture, people, and place. Some patterns are built at the rate of coming-of-age ceremonies, babies born, and generations turning over. The long swoop of planetary orbits.
And yet… it seems like there’s a counter-longing that, if not deeper, is brighter: The bright flash of freedom that comes from breaking the pattern altogether. Perhaps it’s because there’s another kind of wisdom that can only be gained by stepping out of the pattern, leaving a place, leaving the people, letting go of home.
Do some people not long for the path they have already chosen?
Text by Amie Tulius and photograph of Katherine Lawrence by Nathan Webster. NOWHERE this weekend.