Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Land Flowing with Milk and Honey

I’ve recently moved from the city to the country – about two and a half weeks ago, I think. The expectations that one has moving into a new home are interesting; my real estate agent noted, wisely I think, that when people buy a new house they’re not really looking for a house, but for peace. And you really do feel that way on some level: you will move, and you will have a new life, and somehow all of the difficulties of the past will evaporate like frost in the morning.

Naturally, intellectually you know that this isn’t true, but on some deep archetypal level, the feeling remains. It is, I think, a pointer towards the desire for heaven. The Jewish people, when they were wandering around Sinai searching for the promised land, seemed to have that sort of experience. It was going to be a land flowing with milk and honey, where they would live in peace with their children, blessed by God, a people no longer homeless and enslaved.

Of course the actual promised land was a land teeming with Canaanites and other undesirables. No sooner had they taken possession than they were plunged into an endless series of wars, conquests, persecutions. When things went well, they became bloated and proud and turned away from God, which in turn occasioned more chastisements, more wars, more conquests...

Yet the image of the promised land remains compelling. No one, except perhaps for the extremely dry and cynical atheist, reads the accounts of the pilgrim people in search of a home and thinks, “Yeah, sure. Milk and honey. Just you wait and see, bubba...” There is some level on which we can all sympathize, on which we know that yes, the land will not actually be a perpetual stream of uninterrupted earthly joy, but it is still worth hoping for on those terms. The unfulfillable promise is not actually a lie, it’s just a sign of a higher reality.

Besides which, there is usually a certain amount of milk and honey to go with the Canaanites. My new farm has not caused my children to cease from fighting amongst one another or sulking disgracefully when they lose at games. It has not rid my husband of his choleric temperament, or me of my melancholic one. Rain occasionally falls, and I worry about money, and feel insecure about my writing, and all of the usual trials. Yet out my window, there are trees stretching as far as I can see, and down around the corner and I can go and sit by a pond framed with a blazing fringe of autumn sumac. Flocks of birds descend to sing in the branches of the massive pine in my front pasture, and even on rainy days, there is more light pouring in through my windows than there ever was on a clear day in Toronto.

Not heaven, obviously, but I’m still happy to give it a nine out of ten on the milk and honey scale.

1 comment:

  1. The hell with the Canaanites! Your place is wonderful! I've been thinking about the wood stove in your kitchen and your awesome cinnamon buns for weeks now! Stop wondering when the other shoe is going to drop and hellfire is going to rain down upon you and start chopping some firewood and saying your prayers! Be warm, be merry and be humbled by your amazing luck!

    Love from the poultry!


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