After taking a shower, lighting a candle, putting on The Messiah, and making coffee and fried eggs, I re-enter the mystery of happiness.  Which is tied up, in all extremities, with gratitude. I’m sitting on the couch in my housecoat at 11:00am, staring out of the window at the blue billows of sky, the bare winter branches.  My first semester of grad school at UT is over, as is my first semester of marriage.  For the first time since the beginning of these somehow-conflated endeavors, I’ve crossed a boundary of sorts, and allow myself to consider the distance covered.

I got married, and started grad school for writing, because I knew I had to push myself forward through life.  I have always relied on momentum, or inertia, on the virtues of patience and waiting, but the time came for a decisive “yes.”  So very strange.  And I’ve been pushed so violently through different stages of learning, these past five months, that I can only be amazed by the good work it’s done in me.  Most of that work seems like the clarifying work done by fierce storms, laying small structures out over the ground they once covered so smugly, or lifting roofs off houses, discovering the hidden processes of an inner life.  This is a fairly dramatic metaphor, but to an extent, I really do feel a bit deconstructed by these past five months.  I’m humbled by the proximity of a personality that I will never fully understand, will never control, and can only befriend.  I’m humbled by the proximity of my limitations—both academic and emotional.

This semester at UT has been an exercise in survival—my seminar papers, presentations, and class leadership have all been cobbled-together and carried off with air of breathlessness and desperation.  The peace and small icons of confidence that are rising slowly out of the subsiding chaos must be the gifts of God.  This semester of marriage has been an exercise in patience, as brief agonies fade into the wide plains of peace.  That’s what it’s been like.  The Wendell Berry poem Dr. Hearn read at our wedding, “The Country of Marriage,” is still our wisest counselor.  The long love—what we want—is being built.

Now then!  Josh’s Home Alone Christmas Party is tonight.  And since I’m not working on any papers or readings or shit, I get to mosey over to Amvet’s to look for the appropriately tacky Christmas sweater.  Man, I get to do that!  Yesterday I got to hang out at Mom and Dad’s almost all day!  And go to Target and get a dress with birthday money!  Can you believe that.  And after I get the sweater, I’m going to walk over to the neighborhood greenhouse (what? you don’t have one?) and look over their Christmas trees.  !

After which, I might get on Craig’s List and check out South Knoxville rental houses.  Because Marshall and I have got to get out of this place.  The Obese Neighbors Who Scream At Each Other All Night Long While We’re Trying to Sleep have recently started hanging ratty bathtowels over our handrail.  Are they clean?  Are they dirty?