405: “Far” (Ursula K. Le Guin)

“If we refuse the notion of away,
could we relearn the truth of far?”
                -Ursula Le Guin, from “Distance”

                My family, away at the edge of the Pacific, where I grew up watching driftwood bob in the waves, feels far off from tonight. The child I was in tidepools feels far off. The friends I’ve made in different places — Rishi Valley in Andhra Pradesh; Amherst in Massachusetts; a cafe in St. Petersburg, Russia — feel far off. My grandparents feel far off. Earlier this week my mother sent us a picture of her mother, a teenager surrounded by friends in 1946. I tilt my head, trying to recognize her. To meet her eyes. Far off in place, far off in time, far off in world.
                I think I often practice a kind of holding, a hug that’s looking for closeness. Tonight, with all this far, I’m sitting with distances. The “truth of far,” spreading out beyond what I can see, what I can feel. Some of my friends will move away next month, and who knows when I’ll see them again. Many of my friends I haven’t seen in too long. And here far inland from the tidepools of the pacific and across rivers and plains from Amherst and across an ocean from Rishi Valley, I feel a closeness and also a depth. Like drinking from a spring: water up from aquifers so far below, water maybe from a rain that fell somewhere sometime, a far that takes my breath away and gives it back like a breeze passing.

2 thoughts on “405: “Far” (Ursula K. Le Guin)

  1. Beautifully said! I wonder if we can use the same quote as a foundation for different questions. I’ve been reading Constellating Home: Trans and Queer Asian American Rhetorics by V. Jo Hsu for a class I’m taking and a repurposing of Le Guin’s quote seems possible:
    If we refuse the notion of Other, could we relearn the truth of Us?


    1. That’s a beautiful variation, Lesle! I think Le Guin’s form is really fun to play with, just like you’re doing, and opens the door to lots of powerful shifts and movements. I’ve been thinking lately about what I mean by “me,” and the many different ways I understand that. Billy-Ray Belcourt’s This Wound Is a World (a collection of poetry) has been inspiring a lot of those thoughts lately, and I’ll have to pick up Constellating Home, too!


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