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Make it Mosaic!
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copyright 1999-2001

by Emily J. Wolf |
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One of my favorite childhood books was Donald Hall's The Ox-Cart Man. I flipped through the pages of simple and elegant drawings of an early American family long before I learned to read; by the time I could read it myself, the binding was broken and pages had begun to come detached from the hardcover spine. In the story, a New England farmer goes to Portsmouth to sell his goods wool, leather, vegetables, candles as well as the cart and ox that brought him to market. Saying good-bye to the ox, he kisses it on the nose and heads for home. As a child, I loved this story because of the themes of the eternal cycle of seasons the sense that a kind of newness and rebirth comes with every season, every change. As an adult, getting ready to move from the small city where I attended university to one of the biggest of big cities, New York, I turn to The Ox-Cart Man again because it reminds me that what I'm doing this packing and shedding of worldly goods is as natural as the seasons, and that change will renew me, despite all that I'm casting off in the process.

I have moved exactly eleven times in the past six years. I have moved from dorm room to dorm room (sometimes each semester), and from one apartment to another. I've mastered the twin arts of packing and unpacking, and I can fill out an address change form faster than you would think possible. I've had many addresses, and many more phone numbers. I've become comfortable with these small, in-town moves. They've taught me to imagine myself as a turtle, carrying my shelter on my back; they've taught me to rethink "home" not so much as a physical place, but rather as a mental state. This understanding is what makes this next move so significant: for not only am I changing cities, I am also changing my mental understanding of home. "Home" will no longer be measured in semesters, nor will it include classes, professors, or paper writing the known variables that make up the transient life of a student. Instead, my notion of home will depend on new and unknown quantities. 

For nearly six years now, I've been here in upstate New York, first as an undergraduate and then as a graduate student. When I first arrived in Binghamton (in a loaded-down, sagging station wagon crammed with every comfort, every book I could possibly imagine ever needing in that new dorm-home), I hated this city. I suffered through my first semester, while I filled out transfer applications for schools in nicer, less rainy places. But I stuck through that first year, and made friends who, in turn, made this tired, upstate city easier to manage. 

keep wandering this way!

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