Come from Away

But even without talking, she taught me to let into my insides the real of this place. From her I learned the deep of here.

Strange As This Weather Has Been, Ann Pancake


Come from away is a common moniker on the easternmost island off Canada, Newfoundland.  I live on Vancouver Island, off the opposite coast of this country, and I am considered a “come from away.” Literally, I came from roughly 3000 miles or 4800 kilometers away, not very long ago. I might be asked by Newfoundlanders, “where ya ‘longs to?”

For a few days, I’ve been reading an old journal from spring 2014, where I lived two homes ago. I wanted to find an incident that happened around that time that I may have written down. Sometimes I can remember events in relation to where I was located in time and place. I didn’t look further for that one event, though.

The beginning sentence I’d written in the notebook I dug out was intriguing enough. “New for more reasons than the other journal is full—this one is beginning because I am.”

As I continued to read what I’d written before, I found unexpected familiarity—those pages could have been written yesterday, longing to belong, to find my place.

My old journal notebooks are also commonplace books, where snippets of whatever I’m reading are nested into musings about what I’m worried about or celebrating or just considering. The quote from Ann Pancake’s exceptional storytelling was just there on one of the pages where I had copied it without making the usual connection to my current circumstance. Now, the grandmother’s wisdom stands out.

Re-reading those surrounding musings rekindled some of myself that I’ve missed.

I see my longing to belong and be at home with myself. I also see the separation, independence, the fret, and disillusionment of trying to “do” what seems worthy or in line with what may or may not actually fit me. Maybe that is part of my hope for the first line about newness and beginning. I had just finished my dissertation and was struggling with the voices that demanded I prove myself and do something relevant and the constant striving and relying on my own intellect, always with more to do and prove.

Reliving my wonderings, I remember the sustainable reason I do daily writing that I keep forgetting—to discover truths about my life so that writing is a spiritual practice, not for intellectual striving or proving my worth.

I’ve been saying that, in one way or another, over and over. And over and over, I am wavering in the discipline to do this kind of writing, daily, and forgo the need to say too much. I have been writing to uncover that deep inside. I write in my journal, or morning pages, or to figure out something on scraps of paper, or in more formal places. But, somehow there is that old striving and proving that creeps in to keep me on the surface of the deep.

The way forward is to keep on. I know that.

Anne Lamott says in Bird by Bird that she wants, people who write to crash or dive below the surface, where life is so cold and confusing and hard to see…to plunge through the holes—the holes we try to fill up with props. In those holes and in the spaces around them exist all sorts of possibility, including the chance to see who we are and to glimpse the mystery.

All those things, all my reading, my puffed up and everyday writing, those notes on random pieces of paper and in notebooks, the books I’ve studied and read for pleasure, the lessons and contemplative moments I’ve experienced have contributed to the deep. We do need discipline, formation, ritual, and even teaching, however, these are little more than channels or props for the lived experience of something deeper.

That’s what the writers who have been formative for me do; they tell the stories of their lives. I don’t always see the deep cold in everything I write, it doesn’t come by crafting or striving. That deepness will be visible by and by, if I just keep telling the stories, making the connections I love to make. So that my day’s words, however brief or long, I can tell them and let them be—and they will rise up to teach me when the time comes, and that might take a while.

Back in 2014, near the end of the journal that I said was a new beginning, I posed a new question: What is another way?

I, of course, posed a few possibilities. One way is writing, I said, and thought I could write other things than the push of academic scrawl. And then, I wondered, if the way might be:

  • Away from everything I know how to manage and survive
  • Out from under reputations I’ve built for myself or maybe even more apt, visions I’ve built for myself
  • Away from the high expectations and disappointing returns

I am a “come from away.” What are the ways to let into my insides the real of this place and learn the deep of here?

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