After the midnight showing of The Rachel Maddow Show everyone is asleep in the house except for myself and Tonks. People should imagine that this would be a tranquil time; a time to reflect in the quiet of the night. What pierces the darkness, however, is the loudest chorus of howls that this little creature can create.
At this point it has become ritual. "Baby girl, what is it?" *HOWLS* "Do we really need to do this every night?" *HOWLS EVEN LOUDER* "Alright alright, but you have to be quiet since everyone is sleeping." We then go to the kitchen where we split a slice of salami before going to bed.
She and I have a long history. Back in 2007-2010 she would show up in my room every night, jump on the bed, and look towards the window longingly. Every night I would open the window where she would either sit and watch or walk back and forth waiting to be petted. Every time I would return over the next few years from Meadville, Manchester, Diablo, or Bellingham, we would pick up right where we left off. The exact rituals might have changed, but the connection always lasted.
Is this how the bond was between Voldemort and Nagi? Did she keep him up at night wanting treats like mice? Even when she was away did their bond come back instantly? Is this what having a living horcrux feels like?
Right now you are most likely thinking two things. Either you are thinking:
1) What's a Horcrux?
2) Ben, you are a Huffelpuff and don't deal in the Dark Arts. Why are you thinking of horcruxes?
While in the world of Harry Potter horcruxes are the result of evil magic trying to pursue eternal life, I think in reality they are not evil. Painful, yes. Difficult, absolutely. But I was encouraged and even expected in my early career of environmental education to explore as many places as I could. In my capstone I explored my querencia, or the place where I find strength. Even though I just explored one in that presentation, each place where I have lived is in some part a querencia for me. But I think that with each querencia I unknowingly created a horcrux. With so many, my being/soul/self has been split over and over again.
Before the Seven Year Journey
Watching the stars on Chapel Rock. Gazing over the farm just before Somerset. During this time I really felt connected to only two places. Growing up in Tauger had me living in the country. If you would believe it, at the time of this writing there is no google street view of where I lived! That is how remote it was: even Google doesn't know what it looks like. Even though I hated being outside I remember fondly the farm that I could look down and see. When we moved to Hampton during my high school years, I felt no connection to Allison Park.
At Lutherlyn I explored the over 600+ acres of woods and fields. This is where my career started, even though I had no idea. Countless nights of singing, dancing, and watching the stars. And I knew everything so well! I was so sure of everything, that I could answer any question. But this time would come to an end, and I needed to go out and adventure. I needed to learn, and be humbled.
The Seven Year Journey
From Allegheny College to City Year, to North Cascades Institute to Outward Bound, these four organizations were my life for seven years.
At Allegheny I solidified my career choice of becoming an environmental educator. I began to have conversations about multi-intelligence theory and experiential education. I lived, learned, laughed, cried, made friends, lost faith, and realized I had a lot left to explore. I knew I needed to meet more people (and go where it was cold).
In Manchester, NH I served in a school as an Americorps member. What bright ideas I had about the world were quickly refocused when my students would say things like "My brother was almost shot last night" and "What is a needle doing on the playground?" My students taught me they were not "innocent kids who had all the bliss in the world" but real people with their own problems and goals. I connected to that city and those students more than I thought I could. I needed to learn how to connect them to the natural world, so I went to train with the druids.
In the mountains of Washington I did so much more than receive a Master's of Education. The more I learned the more I realized that I knew nothing. Every day I was humbled by my peers, the rivers, and the mountains. But it also grew me into someone who wants to take a four day solo, or make a curriculum. But I needed to come back east to be closer to family...how about Boston?
I fell in love with that city more than I ever thought I could. The walkability, the history, the ocean, all make such a fantastic place to explore. And living on an island! How awesome is that?! My daily commute was a freaken boat!
But on this island I started to see something wrong with me. I still deeply cared for all of the people, places, and experiences I had done. But since I had spread myself out so much, there was no place I felt connected to. It was in the heart of Boston that I realized I knew that city better than the city I claimed to be from...Pittsburgh.
Am I from here? I'm from Lutherlyn, Trauger, Allegheny and Manchester and Diablo and Bellingham...but not Pittsburgh. If I claim to be a place based educator I have spread myself out too thin; there was no place I knew well enough to teach.
After the Journey...onto the next?
The journey was amazing, and I would never trade any of it away. But for my personal and professional self I needed one place. One querencia. One horcrux of place (at least for the next few years).
I have no idea what the next few years will bring. As I type this I am currently without a job, trying to figure out what the next steps will be. But the time will come when I look back at this time and say "How could it have happened any other way?"