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Wandering Blood Maureen Stanton Away from rest and shelter Why should wefurther press The end of our self-searching Is only homelessness. Lucy Larcom, "Come Home!" For the past three years, a pair of phoebes have nested in my friend Nancy's carport in Maine, successfully fledging young each season. This year, Nancy knew almost within the day when the birds would return. She watches their courting rituals, and when the female occupies the nest, Nancy refrains from parking in the carport so as not to upset the incubating mother. Phoebes winter as far away as Mexico, but each spring these hollow-boned creatures follow a system ofinterstate highways in the sky to the exact spot of their nest 2,000 miles north. Ornithologists have their different theories, but the truth is they don't know exactly how birds home. They've gone to great lengths to find out. In one experiment, scientists flew a Manx shearwater in an airplane fromWales to Boston, over 3,000 miles from its breeding island. Once released in Boston, the shearwater was back in its Welsh burrow twelve and a half days later. (A strange idea—transporting a bird in an airplane. Intrinsic ability against applied mechanics. Poetry versus math.) Scientists have spun birds on turntables, have even surgically severed the semicircular canals in their ears (thought to be used in migration), but the birds still orient. Instinct is partly responsible for homing in birds. If this were true in humans, I might find myself on a rocky outcrop in the Connemara region 57 58Fourth Genre ofIreland, on the porch ofa thatch-roofed stone house where Stantons have lived for three hundred years (and counting, as my great uncle Coleman, now in his nineties, still resides there, sans indoor plumbing). Stantons stay put. My grandfather was the exception that proved the rule. At twenty-six, the oldest of ten, he walked up the dirt road ofhis village for the last time. "I waved and waved, but he didn't turn around," my grandfather's sister, Nan, told my father and me when we visited Ireland in 1984. As we were leaving, Nan climbed halfway up a wooden ladder and waved to us as we drove away in our rental car. I imagined Nan as a little girl in 1926 climbing as high as she could on a hill or stone wall to watch her big brother Patrick grow tinier as he walked away, to savor the last look at him. My grandmother, from the same village, emigrated too (though she didn't marry my grandfather until later in Boston). Neither ofthem traveled back to Ireland the rest oftheir lives, never again laid eyes on some of their siblings , or stepped foot on the soil of their blood. I'm operating against my nature then, against my ancestry. I've moved from Massachusetts where I grew up, to New York after college, to Michigan where I lived for nearly a decade. At thirty-three, I relocated to Maine where I thought I would settle, but two years later I moved to Cape Cod, then to NewYork for a second time, a summer back in Maine, and now at thirty-eight I find myself in Ohio. I am surprised to be here. I feel like I'm moving backwards through fife, like riding in the jump seat ofmy parents' station wagon as a kid, speeding away from where I just was, blind to where I am going. The day I landed in Columbus in 1997 for graduate school, I moved purposefully around my apartment putting things in place, recreating for the fifteenth or so time a kitchen, a living room, like a robin arranging bits ofgrass and twig in the perfect crux of a branch. I was happy to see my things that had been in storage, like gifts to myself all over again, but when my paintings were hung, and rugs and accouterments arrangedjust so, I still felt cored out, gutless. I wandered from room to room tilting pictures, touching things, perfecting placements of shells and bottles like a museum display or Macy's window, a mise en scène, trying to configure home. Ohio...


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pp. 57-72
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