Just East of Another Eden

Happiness is a thing to be sought,
but never chased.


As long as they could remember,
they were on the move, about to move,
or unpacking. It was familiar, but not comfortable.
They spent their lives trying to find a place,
a place that would make them happy,
which, it turns out, is like an alchemist
trying to turn fire into wood, or lead into gold.
The more they thought about it,
the more imaginary it became.
The more they looked for it, the fainter it grew.
Whenever mud sucked at their shoes
or a fog settled in, they packed their things
and moved on. They found a new home,
a new place, and justified the move
by pointing out the inconveniences of muddy shoes
or the great expense of the extra coffee needed
to combat the effects of fog. Careers suffered.
Friendships failed. Pleasure seemed more distant
than when they saw it last,
and home was always just over the horizon.
Their relationship to their place in the world
was like that of a bachelor to women:
It seemed not so much a fear of commitment
as an addiction to paradise,
an endless search for the promise land.
But they grew weary of even the finest garden.
Its dirt got under their nails, and the sweet scent
of its flowers always attracted bugs.
So they gathered neither dust nor moss,
nor sank their roots deep enough to reach
the nourishing substance found in the deepest soil
of all lands. They were missing something
or mistaking it for something else. Their problem,
it seemed, was one of confusing metaphor
and symbol with reality, of seeking beatific visions,
angels, and conversations with saints,
when their world, and their heaven as well,
was inhabited entirely by ordinary people
and made of ordinary places and things.
This plagued them relentlessly, until, at last,
they realized that woman is only an angel from a distance,
and man is only a saint when at prayer, and that
at the end of all pilgrimages,
at the end of all journeys to magical islands
and promised lands, they had to go home.

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