If I were a Hobbit in the Shire, I would have stayed in my hole in the ground, captured by the beauty of rolling green hills, the bursting fresh flavor of home grown veggies, the companionship of family, dear friends and neighbors. I once lived in a pastoral pocket of the world, in a Shire-like land with cultivated hills and valleys, where sunlight streamed in golden angles, scored by birdsong and paced by the slow movement of morning into day. My mother still lives there, on a little hill where three children once ran barefoot on the soft green lawn.
A memory of me skipping to the garden, salt shaker in hand, plucking a small red tomato from the vine.
Of course, there were also long months of winter, deep snows, icy wind and messy slush. There was mud and flooding in the garden. There were days and days of low hanging gray stratus clouds that blotted out the will to smile. There were lonely times, heartbreaking times, and times of boredom. I used to think that Sunday afternoons were practice for enduring purgatory. They dragged out so long in silence that I longed to go to school.
There was conflict, and unhappiness, and I knew about it without needing too much explanation, although that was also given, in great detail, over hours of tears in the night.
Then, sooner than anyone was ready for it, I also became part of the conflict, with my moody need to be right and to be left alone. The programming inside my internal life-cycle clock was ticking. The clock urged me to conflict and to go out and have an adventure. To leave the Shire and drive into the unknown, with little more than a vague childhood dream to guide my purpose. I thought I was answering the call to proceed onward toward my one, true vocation. Then I got called back. And proceeded to refuse the call of my vocation for most of my life.
I'm probably refusing it still.
I am afraid of the unknown.
My idealism, that incomplete mental model of the way things should be, have repeatedly caused me to impulsively abandon paying jobs. I am often a tiny bit nervous that I have not embarked on a steady career.
But now the world is changing, Elliot is maturing, and I find myself searching. I realize that I have unexpectedly arrived at a check-point. Am I completely lost, or on the right path? The self doubt that arrives with an independent lifestyle is more intimidating than anything I've ever experienced. There are no report cards, no benchmarks, no tests or critical evaluations by an authority figure. There are only feelings.
And feelings change like tides and waves and shifting sand. I am a sailor who has to learn to manage all the rigging and the sails and the rudder without proper training and schooling on even the basic terminology. It's not that there isn't enough information out there for me to use, it's that I seem to arrive at these thresholds and check-points without being fully prepared for a journey.
I have to learn all the time, as I go, every single day. If there's anything in my pack, it's the stale bread of doing things the way I've always done them, one ordinary step at a time, trying to avoid the sharp rocks and the black bears.
And this makes it difficult to proceed in a writing and teaching vocation, because I suspect that I have no authority on any subject except my own feelings and observations. I could be incredibly wrong about everything.
But I hope that I'm not wrong about the things that I value and hold sacred, certainly for Elliot's sake. I worry that the learning we do is incomplete. But then, how complete is a traditional education anyway?
I worry that because Elliot is an extrovert, home education is limiting, although we do get out and see children at least four days a week, except for January, when we were sick and isolated by winter. Yesterday, warm spring air arrived and we headed to the park.
Afterwards, we landed in an uncomfortable discussion about returning to traditional school. Even though Elliot is fearful of that possibility, I went on talking about it. I don't want him to be afraid if the path leads back to school. At the park yesterday, I realized that he's grown out of the playground. I remember when he was eighteen months old and so fearless that he climbed the tall steps to the big slide. Yesterday he looked at that same playground and didn't see any children even close to his age. It's middle childhood, that liminal space between slides and swings and the hills of a BMX course.
I am never prepared for callings and checkpoints.
But here I am. No compass in hand.