Ember and Julie, Al and Pam, you each in your own way would like to know what it is that I remember, for perhaps you remember something too. And Maria, welcome, I am so happy you are here. I see that you too remember.
It is a strange thing, this remembering. Whatever I possess of that something belongs I think to a dimension parallel to memory. It is more like an early morning atmosphere through which I see the succeeding hours of the day, which causes some perfectly ordinary things to appear quite extraordinary, and other equally ordinary things to recede into obscurity and confusion.
It is almost as if memory were born in me with the loss of what lies before remembering. Until I met Michael, all my memories were of waking up to a sense of something missing, of seeing it missing in my mother's face, of hearing it missing in my teachers' voices, of living with it missing in my home and with my friends and out in the world.
That sense of loss kept me from forming any really normal relations with family or at school, or later with studies or at work. I knew when I was still a child that I did not want children, because I associated children with that loss. As I grew up I didn't have any ambition for a career because I associated success with that loss. I was asked why I never smiled. I was told that no one would ever marry me, I have no doubt for the same reason.
It was only years later that I learned from my mother the story of my beginnings. I was her first child. As an infant I was almost unnaturally happy. I slept unusually much even for a baby, and when I woke I never cried. I was never lonely and I was never angry. My mother was constantly checking on me because she said I would happily lie awake for hours without making a sound.
Then before the age of memory, something happened suddenly in my family, and it changed everything. It happened so suddenly that I awoke with a kind of start from my waking dream. I woke too fast, and it made ordinary life permanently unacceptable to me. I have never accepted the change.
When I met my husband I had lived for as long as I could remember a life of resistance that defined me. I resisted everyone and everything as reminders of that loss of a world before remembering. But from the first he did not see my sense of loss as a disability. I thought everything was backwards and upside down and so completely incomprehensible I could not even begin to think my way around it. And he thought I was right.
He saw something I could not see—an experience of life preserved precisely by all the resistance that I thought defined who I was. Somehow he saw in me the beginning paused in midstep, almost in midbreath, still unmixed with the world. I think that is what he loved in me, and through him I began to love it too.
Michael says I am like a cake started with a rich cream of butter and eggs, but to which too much flour was added much too fast, so that the moist beginning and the dry substance never mixed. It won't win any baking contests, but it preserves the beginning at the bottom of the bowl for other possibilities.
And he helped me carefully gather up that beginning again. It would not be the same of course, and I did not want it to be. I was not a baby anymore but a grown woman with a woman's needs. But it was more as if that beginning had needs through me than I had needs myself. It was the early atmosphere through which I saw things that made for the extraordinary shimmering I sometimes glimpsed, and what shimmered told us which way to look and how to live.
I can hardly say how slowly we moved our way toward living in that world of shimmering. We suffered a thousand disappointments and confusions along the way. It was very often very difficult. I am sorry to say I did not make it easier for my husband. I took the negative way from place to place—"not this, not that." I was either all the way in or all the way out, and in the world I was mostly out. But it was all that mattered to us, and gradually I awoke again to that life before remembering. All I knew before was that something in everything was missing. It isn't missing to me anymore.
In a way I feel I should stop here. I can say only a little of what it is to me positively, though I have lived it now for many years. Our life of married Conversation in Innermost House embodies it for me in every way, and perhaps that embodiment speaks most clearly. For the only spirit I know forever seeks embodiment. I am no more content with what lies wholly beyond me than with what lies only within me. It is and is not above me. It is and is not within me—though I feel a harmony between the above and within. It is among us. I am amidst it.
The world I remember before remembering is present to me in this world, but inward of it. It reconstitutes the world I know outside, but turns it right side up and outside in. Every abiding thing is there, but translucently. It is fragile for it has form. But its forms are infused with an inward life that is not wholly contained by boundaries. I see this everywhere in the inward world, that light falls not so much upon things as it glows within them. To me every surface and every object in Innermost House is alive from within.
I'm sorry if I haven't answered this satisfactorily. You have asked very good questions about the material nature of Innermost House, and I want to try to answer them in the comments this week. Perhaps that will help. They are important questions, for to me the world of light is to be sought amidst embodied nature. I know there have been long ages when the light we sought was the light that shone above us and beyond us. But I seek the light among us.