The independent news organization of Duke University

An inconsolable longing

filling the void

The breath of autumn carries red leaves in the afternoon, sighing at the beautifully dying world. I dream and smell and look for home, and I’m there, though it is impossibly far away.

We idealize home, that of the past, like we idealize our past selves. We yearn for our childhoods, the innocence and tendency toward wonder that has since escaped our cynical, developed minds. I often hear a song or watch a movie that reminds me of my family, the way it used to be, and think, “What wouldn’t I give to go back?”

But we can’t go home again. We can’t restore what no longer exists. Home is but the hazy tint on our memories that reminds us exactly why it is we must slowly lose those memories. The romanticization of memory grows as memory fades for the simple reason that we will never be back again, that we must acknowledge our existence as the extremely finite sum of our experiences, and recognize our own mortality in the ever-increasing breadth of our past.

We lose memory to escape from this paralyzing reality, ensuring that we live in a present unhaunted by the constant flow of time. We lose, and romanticize what’s left. Home.

But I can’t go home again. I shouldn’t go home again. That home seems so perfect, but it was perfect for a different person, a different version of me with different passions and different goals, envisioning a future that never came to be. As an idealized future manifests itself into an unremarkable present, my goals inevitably evolve, and my character alongside them, slowly forming me into someone else entirely. I couldn’t go home again, not now, not without realizing home isn’t what I thought it was in my naivety—going home would only tarnish the perfection, the rosy tint through which I sadly smile.

And so, home must be something else. It must be, for I feel its pull in the first chill of autumn, the first reminder of the balance of the world, the ebb and flow of life and death and time.

There is an inconsolable longing that exists in all of us for a home to which we have never been, Home, an amalgamation of feelings and images of some place far away where we truly belong. It is the future we idealize in our present, the way we wish we could live our lives and the way we still hope to.

In these moments of Home, past and future fade away into quiet breath—my breath, the breath of a friend, the quiet hum of the breath of the earth and the autumn. Time is not suspended, for lack of a medium of suspension. There is only crisp, pure air. Time fades. Life, for a moment, is no longer the defiance of death. Death does not live in this moment, and I do not move towards it; death is so far away, so unreachable. Life is no antithesis here; it is the simple act of breathing, the breeze. 

I feel Home at Duke all the time, as the leaves change and drape the stone in shades of red and yellow. I walk through woods to places on campus I’ve never been with people who don’t feel the need to speak over the breath of the world. I hear sincerity in voices and feel soft wool on my skin. These are the images of a forest in Colorado in the evening, when the aspens have flooded the earth gold to the horizon, intermingling with evergreens under the patchily overcast sky. Red leaves tremble as I do in the chill, warmed again by the falling sun through the clouds. 

My Home is not a memory. It is not the past. I long not to go back. My Home isn’t mine, not in the usual sense, because I belong to it rather than the other way around. It is a romanticization of my present self and thinks nothing of the past. Home is the autumn and the autumn is she, her red leaves among the gold. They warm my cheeks ruddy and smile, she and they the same, sie und sie, see and sea and she and me. But soft and drunk on comfortable warmth in the cold, skin on skin, blood on blood, the intimacies of intimacy whispering into each other’s sighs. Content and burning. 

In the lifelong process of dying, we seek only to experience enough to be content with ourselves when our time is over. We live and remember and change; we yearn to go back though we know we can’t; we come to appreciate the present and the things that make this ridiculous life worth it, all in the name of Home—where we come from, where we’re headed, what lies beyond this life. Leaves turn and change in the same way, dying alongside the world, alongside me. I am Home, beautifully dying in the evening, experiencing and breathing, carried by the wind in the breath of autumn. I float as music into the rafters, and I am home. 

Jaxson Floberg is a Trinity sophomore. His column, "filling the void" runs on alternate Mondays.

Jaxson Floberg

Jaxson Floberg is a Trinity sophomore. His column runs on alternate Mondays.


Share and discuss “An inconsolable longing” on social media.