Same Place, New Place

DSCN1368I tried to figure out how to start a new blog and keep my current address. It was all too complicated so this will have to do.  And that is sort-of right.  After all, I don’t get a new life.  I don’t get to wipe the slate completely clean. Even though already, something fundamental has changed.

What’s the same is obvious–it is still me, I haven’t even gotten to Alabama, though I am now less than a month away from leaving.  The stories aren’t that different, at least not yet.  But a couple of days ago, I knew with great certainty that it was time to start writing again from a new place and perspective.

So what is this new blog and new place?  I have been met with varying degrees of astonishment, incredulity, some out-and-out disdain and untempered disapproval and disappointment, when I have told people I am moving to Alabama.  Many have a hard time pronouncing Lowndesboro, and a surprising number have flat out told me they will never come see me in Alabama.  That’s caught me by surprise and I’ve been thinking about that.  Why Alabama, even if Sherod is from there and that is where we were married?

I don’t know how to explain how much I look forward to getting there.  The most I can say right now is that at night, I will be so far out in the country that I will be able to see the stars, really see the stars. I will have the velvety silence of the country.  I find myself staring at the pictures of our new house.  The interior is actually quite a mess–we will have major renovation work to do starting with the fact that the master bedroom is painted a Barney purple.  My work will be far more modest than it has been for 30 years and after the events of the past few weeks in my life, this is an acknowledgment of my limits.

There is something else as well.  A couple of weeks ago, my ECF colleague Ron, and I, went on a listening tour, making several stop in New England.  Our trip included a visit with a member of the leadership of EDS, the Episcopal seminary in Cambridge, MA.  Somehow, in the course of the discussion, I mentioned our move to Lowndesboro, and how Sherod and I would be living 10 minutes away from Hayneville, the place where Jonathan Daniels, an EDS seminarian, was killed, during the Civil Rights era.  Turns out that every August, EDS sponsors an annual pilgrimage to the site of the memorial that marks the place where he was killed.

I was simply thrilled to be able to extend an invitation to Diane that included telling her that I could probably receive about 15 people in the house and if there were others who brought tents, they could camp on our property.  The profound affection I have for Alabama does not erase what I know about the ways in which some of the worst of our humanity has expressed itself in that place.  As much as I love academics, the rigor and discipline of higher education, even the most highly educated and social-justice attuned people who have never been there just don’t know Alabama.  I dream that my home will be a place where it is safe to dwell in the both/and of these times.

It’s also like this for me these days:  I loved the notion of vectors and vector analysis at some point during my schooling at Colegio Bolivar and I got to think about that recently. I loved the elegance of how an arrow and a few numbers described an “entity endowed with magnitude and direction”.  I am keenly aware of a multitude of vectors with strange intersections that result in strange angles, sometimes horrible collisions, and some incredible displacements, and disruptions that crisscross the church I love and despair over these days.

There are also vectors of enormous magnitude the life in of these United States, that are going in directions I don’t understand and leave me unsettled as they intersect with my faith, itself motion and magnitude and direction as well.  That little place, those four acres out in Lowndesboro that hardly deserve to call themselves a farm–just 10 minutes from a place where forces crashed into each other with horrible cost–represents a still point, a point not so much of escape as of definition, a place to try to know and understand.

I am finishing this blog as I fly towards New York for work again, already not where I am as I write this.  And here is my same old blog that is no longer, that is now new.

6 thoughts on “Same Place, New Place

  1. So glad you’re back. I’ve missed you. Alabama is beautiful and is a rich and wonderfully complicated place. It’s right up your alley.

  2. I’m not sure you are aware, but I was born in Mississippi and actually lived there for the first 9 years of my life. My dad was from Alabama. I am not sure I could live in either place, but life is what you make of it. Love the wonderful things that you will experience and those things you cannot abide, well I know you will deal with them the best way you can through love and perseverance. I know, for a fact, you will change some folks lives for the better.

  3. Oh, these convergences . . . I have nothing nearly so dramatic as you do going on in my life, nothing at all in fact, but I, too, have been considering major blog changes as my perspective alters. I’ve posted almost nothing for weeks as a new focus has been merging. Now you have me considering other possibilities as well. I can hardly wait to see how your new adventures unfold.

  4. Dear friend,
    First off , happy to have you back, I knew you couldn’t keep away 🙂
    Secondly, although I understand your disappointment in the reaction of some of your friends I think you are being disingenuous in being incredulous at the reaction. The south and Alabama in particular has done much to give the impression of being inhospitable to anyone who isn’t white, protestant, hetero and preferably male. You can’t be unaware of that, in fact I know you aren’t. Alabama isn’t being singled out unreasonably, it has earned its reputation;this hasn’t anything to do with being Sherod’s birthplace or where you married,you both “pass”, not all of us do. I have driven across this country several times, only in the south have I felt distinctly unsafe, Alabama was frankly the most terrifying time and again. Be patient with your friends, send updates that they aren’t lynching on your block ( a joke, relax) and in time they will come around. Hopefully you and the liberal minority can make a difference and encourage the region to move away from its misogynistic, homophobic ,racist, intolerant stance and join the rest of us as we march forward.
    I look forward to seeing your pretty little farm but I would be lying to say I wasn’t a bit nervous, especially with LA being my norm.

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