September 07, 2002

Janus: The Empty Nest

Janus: Ancient Roman God of beginnings and activities related to beginnings. January is named for him as it is the beginning of the year. Janus is listed first in prayers. His name is invoked when sowing grain as this is the beginning of the crops. His blessing is asked at the beginning of the day, month, and year. He is also the god of entrances, of going in and coming out. Which means he is the god of doorways, bridges, ferries, harbors, and boundaries.

Today is a day of goodbyes. God speed. Stay in touch. Be careful, call us when you get there.

And he is birthed from us yet again, has left the known and comfortable amniotic envelope of home and family, bound for ills and joys he knows not of, but must find for himself, in yet one more new place. Our nest will be empty once more, and we too will be empty for a spell. Then, sooner than our new grief would want, the sea of the mundane will close in over the void and fill the emptiness, mostly, with mind-dulling routine and necessity and ennui. Life will go on, within us and without us, and without Nathan upstairs playing his guitar, or sitting on the front porch with 100 pounds of dog in his lap. There will be no dreams told in the morning or contemplative walks down by the creek in the afternoons.

There is some solace in the fact that he has only left town.

This leaving, he will drive first to Massachusetts, alone, reaching his destination by late tonight. First he will wrestle with God, ask hard questions and deal with the answers without the distortion of parental perspectives... a self-inflicted agony that will likely change his spiritual journey. for the good. Then, in a week, to Burlington, Vermont. Once again dependent on the kindness of strangers, but with a meager source of income and his first brush with the monotony of 40 hours of weekly responsibility. I would welcome him to the adult world, but that would cruel, and it would also be premature. He has had his share of youthful folly and travel; and like Peter Pan, this one will surrender to adulthood only after a good, long guerilla resistance.

Three years ago this month, he was hatching his plan to 'do something really memorable', not having the foggiest notion of what that something would be. His vision ultimately took the form of a walk home from Bar Harbour, ME, on the backroads of New England. After eleven weeks of Ramen Noodles and nights spent in the company of America's wonderful characters, he lumbered down our dirt road with 1100 miles of tan and muscle, having given the world a big hug, and it hugged him back.

A year later, he set off for Belfast, NI. After getting the obligatory academic exchange out of the way, he wandered around Europe on foot, toting my old Jansport backpack, playing guitar and singing for his meals in German cities, going hungry. Much of last summer he was herding cows and making cheese, on a small farm, in the Swiss Alps. We expected to meet his flight home on September 13. Things, of course, went very wrong. Yet he got home, eventually, from that adventure and graduated college, eventually.

He has been home and a part of our lives again since May. And I have been 'off work' during this same period, and home to enjoy his company, but making his absence all the more conspicuous with his leaving on this most recent voyage this morning. The beginning of his new life is the end of another brief parental cycle of illusion that he still needs mom and dad to get by in this world. It seems it is impossible to stop playing the role of parents, even if our children are both 1000 miles away, wise and mature and perfectly capable of good decisions and good hygiene and of reasonably sound moral character, even without the catechism of numbered lectures that are so familiar they have become a shared family comedy.

Looking forward. Looking back. Janus-faced, like the prow of an old sailing ship cutting the waves of unknown seas, we navigate the now, looking back through memory at what was, and ahead through the eyes of hope at what will be. God speed, Nate. God speed, Ann, Fred, Holli. In this journey we only have the now in its two-faced duality, but it is enough. In it, we have each other.

And Nate, please don't forget to call us when you arrive on your new planet tonight.

Posted by fred1st at September 7, 2002 05:52 PM | TrackBack

I know how you are feeling - only daughter is off to University this weekend.

Posted by: Ian Bertram at September 11, 2002 11:07 AM

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