Friday, December 7, 2012
We are almost there now! I read your words today with such a blessed sense of relief.
Julie, what a deliverance you are to me! "Focus is often a matter of deciding what things you're not going to do." Yes. Until that focus narrowed to converge upon Innermost House, deciding what things not to do was all I could do. All I could say was no and no. I could not accept the necessity of a world that was meaningless and Placeless to me.
I feel just as you say. "No fine thing was ever accomplished by acceptance." At least it has not been my destiny to arrive at anything fine that way.
Acceptance may be the last, best thing—as it was for me at Innermost House—but things don't seem to begin that way for me. And I am now beginning again.
Leah you are as patient as a flower. Let me return to your question about acceptance, because your comment today helps me understand what you were asking differently. You said, "I have been trying to think what meaning I was trying to impart when I spoke of "acceptance" and I think it was an acceptance of what has happened. An acknowledgment that the life you knew at IH has ended and your life would never be the same."
I so wish to say plainly what I mean. Innermost House was in the world. It is now lost to the world. What I possess of it inwardly is all that's left. I accept that unreservedly. I even embrace it. My course in life has changed.
I mourned for a year the passing away of an eternity I believed would never end. There have been days when I felt only an utter emptiness. I feel now what that emptiness was preparing for me. Innermost House is missing from the world, but it is not missing within me.
Pam, when you are so nearly silent I feel that I have vexed you. Give me your hands and let me speak to you. I do not need or seek more peace than I possess. I have enough to do the work that now is given me, and what will come will come when I plant myself more firmly on this new shore. I do not need more happiness. I already possess a lifetime's share and more of personal satisfaction. My unacceptance is not what it appears.
I am not a worldly person. I may never progress beyond forever beginning again. I am stuck with it whether I like it or not, and thankfully I do like it.
But because I have lived among the woodland birds and beasts and trees who share the beginning with me, it is easy to forget the people I have chosen for my daily companions. I have lived for a woodland eternity in one room with Achilles and Hector, with Socrates and Pericles and Aristotle, with Abraham and Moses, with Jesus and Siddhartha, with Arjuna and Confucius and Mohammed. I have lived with heroes. I have breathed their living breath.
I do not speak of books, but of living, breathing, speaking spirits. I have known Washington and Lincoln, Emerson and Thoreau near as their contemporaries must have known them. I have known them at their truest and their best. I have loved them and suffered with them. I have rejoiced with them.
And they none of them set out accepting what I would not accept.
The wonder to me is that my simple unacceptance has been enough, and they have loved me in return. They have loved the beginning in me, and valued my memories of the beginning as their own.
Sweet Becky and Alice, you are right. I agree with you. The living seed of peace lies within. It is only that, in my experience, there must be a great emptiness to receive that peace, or it dies before it has a chance to take root and live. Then we are forever left putting on peace like a cloak to conceal our unrest.
I now know what real emptiness is, and I have intimations every day of such a peace as I have never known in the world. I can no longer wait for dawn but stir from bed in darkness to greet the morning star.
And Rebecca, there you are waking to my self-same thoughts. Yes, maybe we checked that acceptance box somewhere else. And I would gladly check it again to keep faith with this incarnated condition.
Dear Dewey, thank you truly for your prayers. I am beholden to you, and I am grateful. Let's you and I unite to pray for Mr. William Least-Heat Moon.
Acceptance to me means accepting the truth before me. If Innermost House is lost to the world it is lost to the world, and I will not pretend it is not a loss.
But it is within me now, and I will speak of it and rejoice that it ever was.
For nothing now can change one fact: that somewhere once in all the world there was a foursquare house where all the ages and races and nations met, where all the knowledges and experiences of women and men were healed and made whole. To have known it once is enough forever!
Wednesday, December 5, 2012
Tides advance and recede, and there are two shores to every ocean. Truly Rebecca, I do not know which of us is more affected by the other.
Leah and Becky, Rebecca, Julie and Sherry, we meet here to negotiate our various courses in life. I am at least as much in search of my bearings now as any of you.
Yes Julie, I do trust in my fate. But I have never known what to want, and I do not know now.
That is why I cannot quite even wish for things. I have always had only my special needs, which seem more to act through me than for me. I just try to stay out of their way. They know better than I what is necessary.
Leah, you ask if the love of one's fate means to me “the acceptance of what must be and a belief in the ultimate good, or at least the lessons that fate will bring.”
A love of fate to me cannot mean a learning of lessons. I have never succeeded in learning lessons, even as a girl. Lessons seem to be beyond me.
Nor does a love of my fate mean an acceptance of what must be. I do not accept what must be. People have told me for as long as I can remember what must be, and I do not accept it.
If I had accepted what must be, Innermost House would never have been. I accept that the first Innermost House could no longer be, but I do not accept that an Innermost House cannot be. Nor do I insist that it must be again. I only insist that it was, and that without it something is missing.
But the ultimate good—in this I believe with all my heart, and I believe I always will. It is only that ultimate is far away. I do not believe that the world out there is all there can be. It was against that world that Innermost House was made. Innermost House is what cannot be in a world where things must be as they are.
I know that a great many people desire peace today. I too want peace. But I am not willing to pay the price of accepting whatever happens to be for it. I do not care if the whole world unites to compel it upon me.
I have lived for timeless years a unity of night and day, of cold and warmth, of growth and decay and death and life. If I am compelled to live in a world of endless electronic day, of perpetual summer and youth, then I will live in it.
But I do not accept it as all of what must be.
Innermost House is against the law in most places. It is unsupportably expensive. Those who want it cannot afford it, and those who can afford it don't want it. The life it requires is too plain. The thinking it demands is too high. It is unreal, impossible, misguided.
But the wonder is that within its walls I accept the whole of the way things are. I can accept the whole of the modern world, and the ancient world, and all the worlds between them. I can accept the worlds of gain and loss, and life and death, from within the walls of Innermost House.
It is Fate I truly love, Beautiful Necessity. My private destiny has meaning to me only in relation to that. If it proves my destiny to live in a new Innermost House, then I will live in it and speak from it. If my destiny lies elsewhere, then I will speak of it and declare that something is missing.
Monday, December 3, 2012
Leah, last week you asked about my husband's experience of leaving Innermost House. You wondered if it mirrors my own or if there are some subtle differences.
Michael and I are two sides of one life. It is only that I am this side of us and he is the other side. In many ways it was stranger for him than for me to leave Innermost House. To the visiting world of our guests, he was Innermost House.
There is a phrase that comes to us I think from the Stoic philosophers—Amor fati. It means "the love of one's fate." I have heard it interpreted as stoical resignation and acceptance.
Whatever it means to the philosophers, that has not wholly been my experience. I have lived for thirty years united to one whose love has never recoiled from our destiny. And I have never known him to be resigned to anything, but always to seek a way to its meaning.
I say this now because I know all the frustrations and discouragements of seeking an Innermost Life in an unyielding world. I want to encourage you to do with all your heart whatever you feel in your heart is best.
You think you do not know my husband, but you do. Everyone who has ever seen the photographs of our life at Innermost House has seen him. For what you see is him, not me. I am the half of us you hear.
If Innermost House is beautiful, it was his love of our fate that made it beautiful, even his love of our fate that made it possible to leave it.
Friday, November 30, 2012
I am deeply moved by your beautiful words. Thank you Julie and Sherry and Pam, you constantly reassure me. It makes a difference.
I am so glad to meet you Nicole. Your new comment back on The Conversation post recalls a world of memories to me. The abandoned child. The orphanage. The why? I think you are right that the Conversation is a forever seeking of Place in the world, of our Place and Place itself.
Rebecca, you touch upon so many points so near to my heart that answering you as I wish to do tonight is beyond me. I'd like to address what to me is the essence of your story, for I believe I recognize your experience.
Leah, a few weeks ago you speculated about Innermost House that, "Although their home and life have been showcased on simple living websites and movies, I would argue that IH is so much more complex than anyone would have imagined."
That is simply true. Speaking only for myself, the Innermost Life is outwardly very simple but inwardly deeply complex. The relationship between that simplicity and that complexity is a Mystery. It is the central mystery of my life.
Rebecca, your story of the difference that just thirty feet between your big house and your little house has made in your life at home is so vivid. In everything you say I recognize my own experience. The fire. The storm. The silence.
To me, the world is the "big house" you leave behind when you walk to your studio. The world is full of luxuries and comforts and conveniences, but just ten paces into the woods it relaxes its hold on us a little, and we relax from our dependence on it. Those are steps toward the simple life of having less and wanting less and doing little. There is great peace in simplicity.
And then there is the fire. The actual experience of it. The gathering of wood and the kindling of flame. The warming of hands, the cooking of food, the feeling of making the difference yourself.
Inward still of all that, a living complexity of inner life truly awakens. Who has looked into the fire that burns between herself and cold and hunger, and not heard the voices of countless human generations, and felt their dreams and thoughts and lives all live at once again? Around the fire is born the Conversation.
For decades of my life I thought what I wanted was simplicity, for then all I knew of life in the world was its endlessly complicated web of seeming advantages.
But what I found at last in the Innermost Life was a simplicity that opened inward upon complexity. That inward complexity is to me the innermost thing, distant-most from the complications of the world.
It was that inward fire of Conversation that was missing. It was the complex and beautiful inward order of life that opened to me there in the woods around the fire.
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Innermost House has become a prayer to me now. That is what I found. It is my prayer forever. I shall always be Diana of Innermost House.
I held my breath in hope of rebuilding Innermost House as long as I could. But now I understand that may not happen. I have to breathe again. I have to find another way to speak and be in the house.
I want to move inward with you toward the peace of the house in my heart, toward stillness, toward such words as you and I can find together. I want to feel my way toward simpler writing.
Gary, what a very generous understanding you have. Thank you for finding the words. JoAnn, you too found the words. I am so grateful to you. And Leah, it means so much to me that you remain open to the evolution of this Conversation. I know it isn't always easy!
Alice, your words are beautiful to me. I am more wondering than wavering, but please hold my trust with yours just the same. Julie, you understand. You always find the words. I cannot imagine this Conversation without you. Or without you Pam. If I do not always understand all your words, I know that you do, and you encourage me.
M.W., I just realized you were the first to say that Innermost House is beautiful. There that night in the woods, all those years ago. The very first. Won't you please write to me on the Innermost House website? I have no other way to reach you.
Has anyone who has lived so alone ever had better friends? Thank you all from my heart.
Monday, November 26, 2012
I hope you all enjoyed a beautiful, happy Thanksgiving holiday, as I did, thinking of you.
I took the weekend to read back through our four months of conversation together. It was such a grateful time for me to revisit your many kind words. Thank you all.
It will soon be a year since the night I left Innermost House for the last time. I chose to leave that secret world in order to share it more openly. Yet looking back over my own words, I see how far I have failed to share the truth of the Innermost Life.
My last posts attempted to recount a Thanksgiving week, but I failed even to touch the essence of it at all. I do not mean the facts are wrong. But the feeling is missing, the difference.
For as different as Innermost House appears to be from other houses, the life of it is immeasurably more different within. It is the within-ness I find so incommunicable.
Through our seven years in the woods I observed a curious phenomenon among visitors. It was as if the essential character of a person would rise to the surface of their life as soon as they entered the house, almost upon the instant.
Sometimes the revelation of that essence was sought and welcome, sometimes it was not. I would watch religious people surge in their faith, poetical people break into verse, delicate people burst into tears.
Then I would see skeptical people become watchful in their suspicion, and proud people grow stiff in their resistance.
I did not say a word. Innermost House only needed to be seen and people would speak from their innerness. Then they would know. And I would know.
In a way I think the photographs say what I cannot. It is the first impression that tells. If I could, I would find a way of sharing Innermost House over and over again for the first time only, for that is the truth of how we lived in the woods.
I sometimes feel my words dull that first impression. I fail to leave you and the house alone. For it is not I who can make the difference. It is the house. I don't know how, but I have seen it happen. It is the house that awakens a person's inner life, whatever their inner life may be.
I no longer think there will be another Innermost House. It does not seem intended to happen. I don't know of course. I am still listening, waiting to know.
I need to find a way to share the house without me in the way. Perhaps pictures alone are best, or pictures along with a very few words.
I would like articles to be published everywhere, first time after first time, and gathered together here. And there is the picture book I began before I knew I would leave.
Thank you all for seeing yourselves in Innermost House. I am feeling my way still, as I have always. I am feeling for new beginnings we can share together, seeking out quiet ways to illuminate the house in our hearts.
Friday, November 23, 2012
Yesterday we celebrated Thanksgiving with a family at their home here in the East. The landscape along the way to their house wore the colors of remembering—the gray spray of bare trees, the rust of late-turning oaks, the brown grasses.
It was a very festive gathering, full of holiday fare and happy friends, of delighted children and excited dogs. All the fixings of a proper feast were present, and everything was enjoyed. When at last we left to make our way home in the dark, there were hugs and expressions of affection. Even the dogs raised a howl and cry of farewell.
It was all as far from Thanksgiving Day at Innermost House as it is possible to imagine. It was so real, it made me realize how far my posts of the past days have been from expressing the reality of the Innermost Life.
I feel a need to pause and reflect, to feel my way toward the center of the Conversation we share. I think for now, let's pass a few days in the quiet spirit of a happy Thanksgiving.