Definition of transition (from Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary)
1 – a: passage from one state, stage, subject, or place to another : change; b: a movement, development, or evolution from one form, stage, or style to another
2- a: a musical modulation; b: a musical passage leading from one section of a piece to another
3 – an abrupt change in energy state or level (as of an atomic nucleus or a molecule) usually accompanied by loss or gain of a single quantum of energy
From the Latin transire meaning “to go or cross over.”
Since we are living, breathing organisms, we are always in transition. Our bodies are continually exchanging dying cells for new ones, such that every several years “we” have been entirely replaced.
Some transitions are bigger than others. Graduations. New jobs. Going from single to partnered. From childless to parent. From partnered to single. From daughter to orphan. From faith to doubt. From young to old.
From living in a home to living on the road. And now?
Coming back has been harder than leaving, I think. How can that be?
Something happened out there, in the glens and the glades, among the mesas and the buttes, by the ocean, through the deserts, beneath the towering redwoods, at the feet of the massive mountain ranges, along the thousands of miles of pavement. I was…changed. Uprooted. Familiar comforts removed. My living space shrunk to a mere 30” X 9’. My few belongings carefully selected – books, essential clothing, some manuscripts, meaningful keepsakes from family and friends. Herbs and spices and favorite kitchen gadgets.
Having confessed my shadowy doubts, I shed them like an old coat I’d worn too long, leaving me vulnerable and uncovered. Receptive. Seeking.
I opened myself in order to draw to myself those people, those conversations, those experiences, those vistas, those moments, crystallized, that help ground me in whatever this new thing is. This new me that I apparently had to drive after, pursue across 12,000 miles to snag in my net, bring home to examine.
I have no idea what any of this means, but it means something. I am finding out, sitting here in my old home feeling like a shy visitor, perching, really, as if I’m a bird that may at any moment be shooed away. The things I once loved about being out here, eight miles from the edge of town, with the owls calling in the trees by night and the bees humming in the warm air by day, the rustle and snort of unseen grazing deer in the dense grasses and wild rose bushes of the field next door, the front porch where I once sat and watched hummingbirds do battle over the red-blossomed feeder – these charms no longer hold sway over me.
I don’t belong here anymore. I am ready to go, ready for the next thing. It’s just that I don’t know what that is right now.
Meanwhile, California and Oregon and Washington and Idaho and Montana are burning, millions of acres consumed, leaving scorched earth and devastation behind. Texans are trying to recover from Hurricane Harvey. Hurricane Irma has devastated homes and lives in the Caribbean and is, at this moment, bearing down on Florida and the Carolinas.
It is not lost on me that I am whining about having to come home when so many have nothing but devastation to return to, when so many eat, breathe, sleep horrific loss and sorrow. The world is on fire, the world is besieged by murderous winds and thrashing waters, apocalyptic videos landing in our in-boxes, on our social media pages.
And yet…this is still a time of enormous upending transition about which I feel the need to be fully honest. It’s not that I don’t count my blessings, moment by moment. I do. I see my privilege, unearned, my fortune, undeserved.
But I struggle with the knowledge of a disturbing truth – I don’t belong here anymore. I don’t belong in the old life I walked out of. And I’m finally getting to see that’s okay.
Now I am trying to trust, as the 14th century Christian mystic Julian of Norwich offered, that “all is well and all is well and all manner of thing shall be well.” I am trying to practice some of what I learned out there on the road, when I would project out several weeks and realize with some panic that I did not yet know where I was going and the wide-openness of it would cause my heart to thump. I would have to remind myself, I would most certainly be somewhere, and I could trust it would be okay.
I remember what a treasured new friend made along the way said each time we parted: “Safe passage,” she would tell me, and I would see myself as she had wished it, passing through the narrows, delivered at just the right time to the next right place.
It is in these moments, realizing that somehow I have been safely delivered back home, that I recall my lifelong pattern of mistrusting how I will get from “here” to “there,” wondering how it ever can be, and after the fact marveling at the miracle of it all. How true are Nelson Mandela’s words of encouragement, “It always seems impossible until it is done.”
Then I recall a discovery in the first weeks back in North Carolina, when I was parked in my daughter and son-in-law’s driveway, when the cicadas were still brand spanking new and shouting about it.
How my daughter and I found a just-hatched emerald-hued cicada drying its golden wings in the late summer sun, its brown shell cracked open and discarded. How the cicada, leaning into its new estate, vulnerable and disoriented, could not see the empty shell, could not recognize the old container, had no awareness of how it had emerged into daylight.
And how could it? In the process, it had become a whole new creature altogether.