“You may wonder where they have gone, those other dim dots that were you.”
—Annie Dillard, An American Childhood
Over the last weeks, I have done a lot of traveling back to places I used to live, rocketing through time quickly from the place I went to elementary school, to the place I went to college, and back to where I live now. I found this a very disorienting experience. Instead of telling a smooth story, tracing my life narrative from one place to the next, these visits made me wonder how many different places a person can spread their DNA without losing something of who they are each time. Where, in all of these places was home? Where, in all of those places, was me?
Was there some trace of me in the elementary school playground, in the red brick blockhouse where we’d come in with eyes squinting after being in the sun, smelling the stale milk, pushing into each other to go up the stairs more quickly? Could my voice or some tiny fleck of my skin still be present in the gray windows where we played “Squish, Squash, Out of the Box”? And if some trace of me was there, what about all the other places I have lived? How is it possible to leave bits of yourself in so many places and yet still have enough left to keep going? I find it harder as I get older to live with so many disconnected things. I resist this this scattering that seems to be spinning out farther and farther with every year I age. I live with what is bent, broken, and breaking down. And I am waiting, waiting, for things to be whole.
What hope I have now comes in a picture that might someday be true: A day when the breath of the Spirit will move across the surface of my soul, making all those disparate dots of dust spring to life and dance in the air, and the finger of God will trace through the light, joining together every speck into a story where there seemed to be none. There is a story that includes everything about me, a place where I can be at rest. This I believe. Lord, help my unbelief.