Essays on the Journey: no. 1

Mr. Aberg, my 10th grade history teacher, said, “What makes you, you? And how do you know? That chair there, we know it’s a chair because it has chair-ness. What makes you have Kelli-ness?”

Mr. Aberg sadly has passed on; his legacy however has not. It is now a deep part of my life. Indeed, what is my Kelli-ness?

Ask yourself the same question. What is your Kathy-ness? Wes-ness? Tom-ness? Dianne-ness? Vera-ness?

As I was getting ready to put digits to keyboard, I watched a cat walk around the grounds at the Manor. I also watched two male turkey’s courting a female, plumage out, strutting around our wild kingdom over here on Charlotte Street.

That cat, he’s not thinking, ‘hey, that wild turkey over there has it pretty good, I think I’ll try really hard and maybe someday I’ll be a turkey!’

No. No way. That cat just sauntered over to the porch and leisurely climbed up the stairs, barely even noticing the magnificent courtship going on.   That cat had cat-ness.

That’s the quality of being that I’m speaking about. That quality of someone who doesn’t even have to think or wonder or say, they are and that’s all.

This came to me as I thought about some of the most outstanding contributors in history. There inside them was an essential something, an essence of Being that was nonnegotiable.

For the last 15 years, I’ve been all over this country and the world seeking a something that I thought I could obtain.  Studying cultures made me ask myself: am I culturally appropriating? Academia boxed me in, drawing lines around knowledge and thought that seemed arbitrary and limiting.  Security and prosperity in the guise of business demanded my allegiance, with economic threats. All of these structures, external.

What I just realized is that I spent 15 years trying to become a turkey! 

Go ahead. Laugh. But hear this, I know I’m not a turkey. My fixation with discovery and development with its emphasis on transformation is just a vehicle to become kelli, to contrast what is in here with what is out there.

In my heart resides my essential kelli-ness. It was always there, since always and for always. That essence is less a description and more a felt sense, a symbol even. Try as I might otherwise, I know I can only make me be kelli. This reverberates in my head as I remember favorite stories like The Little Prince:

“This is only his box, the sheep you asked for is inside." [he told the Little Prince.]

What’s your box? And what’s inside it?