This morning when I went outside into the deliciously not freezing day I saw this car parked around the block from my house. I found myself nodding in agreement – time does, indeed heal pain; minor pain, like that of a too-short haircut; major pain, like that of ending a relationship or losing a loved one. I spent the journey in to work wondering – what motivated the owner of the car to post those words? What did they mean to him or her? Has time already healed their pain, or are they in need of constant reminder that one day their pain will be healed by the simple passage of time? Eventually I had to turn my mind to tasks at work and abandoned consideration of the message on the car.
And now I’m sitting here between tasks with a nagging question: does time really heal ALL pain?
Last Saturday I woke up from a dream about home. I have dreams about home often, specifically the people and the house and the land where I was raised. I spent a lot of time outside year round, playing in the woods especially. During my morning writing exercises after recalling that dream, I let my mind play a little game with itself. It told a story about a me who did not have to go to work, but who could get in the car and just drive on up to that other city.
My mind described vividly the experience of the other me riding up the highway, passing the favorite landmarks, stopping for obscure snack foods at the place where those can be found, passing through mountains and valleys and tunnels and city and arriving at home to find that nobody is there.
The other me then went into the woods, down the narrow deer path, along the tree-lined ridge, over the muddy spring where salamanders live, past the junk hole full of rusty coffee cans and green fiberglass waves and to the bleached white tree partway down the hill. The other me went to the tree and pressed herself to it, and listened for a long time, still and quiet, and when she turned to go there was a perfect dappled doe there, standing silently curious.
The other me then went on to visit with family members and spend time with people and then it was time for the – I hesitate to use the word real, because the experience I had of going home in my mind was certainly real, and the me who went was probably more real than the me who had to stay behind – but the physical me had to stop writing and get ready for work.
When I returned from my little daydream I wanted desperately to reconcile the two versions of me; I searched myself to see if I could just up and go. In the end it wasn’t meant to be. My heart was broken, and there were tears, inconsolable homesick tears that fell until there were no tears left to fall.
What I realized that morning is that no matter where I go, how wonderful a community, how lovely a place, how magical and beautiful a natural setting – I will always long for where I lived as a child. I am as much a part of that land as the salamanders creeping through the creek, as the rocks jutting out from the hill, as the thorny berry bushes along the forest edge. My experience as a wild thing in those woods shaped my spirit, and while I might fit into other places, it won’t be with the same satisfying snap of a puzzle piece being pressed home where it belongs.
For now, my conclusion is that time does heal SOME pain. It might even heal MOST pain. Does time heal the pain of homesickness? So far, my 13 years’ experience suggests that only home can heal the pain of homesickness.
Which brings me to the next question: is it true that “you can’t go home again”?