So I return to my (desert) home and my (desert) life

by Lorin Michel Friday, December 19, 2014 9:29 PM

 

I have five favorite books of all time, one of which is Pat Conroy’s The Prince of Tides. It is an exquisitely written fictional memoir about a man, Tom Wingo, who grew up in the south and who has traveled to New York to help supply the memory of his nearly catatonic twin sister after she tries to kill herself. He has left his wife and children behind. His wife is having an affair and Tom is having an existential crisis. He has his own affair with his sister’s psychiatrist. It’s a brutal story but the prose is lush and poetic. I remember reading it on an airplane, finishing it as the plane was landing in New York. I was in tears.

I thought of this book and its gorgeous last paragraph today as I drove across the desert, alone. I’ve been in Los Angeles for several days, having meetings and securing more work that will begin in earnest in the New Year. I had driven rather than fly because it just seemed easier. It’s a long drive but an easy one, and I don’t mind it. Plus, as I was leaving Los Angeles today, the news channel was talking about how it’s the busiest travel day of the year at LAX and what a mess it was, especially on the upper level which is the departure level. I hate the airport; I was glad to already be on my way east even if it would ultimately take me a bit longer.

As I drove through the desert, surrounded by cars and trucks and trailers, one of my favorite passages, the last from both the book and the movie popped into my head. I have no idea why.

“So I returned to my southern home and my southern life, and it is in the presence of my woman and children that I acknowledge my life, my destiny. I am a teacher, a coach, and a well-loved man. And it is more than enough. In New York, I learned that I needed to love my mother and father in all their flawed, outrageous humanity. And in families there are no crimes beyond forgiveness. But it is the mystery of life that sustains me now. And I look to the North and I wish again that there were two lives apportioned to every man and every woman. At the end of every day I drive through the city of Charleston, and as I cross the bridge that will take me home I feel the words building inside me. I can't stop them or tell you why I say them, but as I reach the top of the bridge, these words come to me in a whisper. I say them as prayer, as regret, as praise… I say, "Lowenstein… Lowenstein..."”

All I could think of was that I was returning to my desert home and my desert life. And that it is in the presence of my husband and dog that I acknowledge my life, my destiny. I am a writer, a creator, and a well-loved woman.  And it is more than enough. In LA, I embraced  the  love I have for my family and my friends. And that in both, there is only joy and wonder. But it’s the mystery of life that sustains me always.  And I look to the East and I wish again that there was less miles between my Tucson and my LA. At the end of the day I drive through the vast Sonoran desert, and as I cross the border that means I will be home in three and a half hours I feel the words building inside me. I can’t stop them but you’ll understand why I say them, and as I reach Phoenix and turn south, these words come to me in a whisper. I say them as prayer, as promise, as joy … I say, “I’m home… I’m home.”

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