• Gretel Enck

Underneath

Updated: Mar 21, 2019



For many years I felt like I was trying to get back to the person I was when I was seven: happy, carefree, unselfconsciously confident, innocent in a way. And now I find myself there, back to that person, in my adult version of that, on my own terms, here in my Marfa life. As the months of freedom and glory stretched on, though, a new goal emerged that surprised me. I wrote to a friend in early February: “I want to get back to that person I was in my 20s who was searching for truth. Mostly, I think, I want to see how I’ve measured up and see what else it is that I need to be learning from the world. What have I not crossed off of that 25-year-old’s list of truth-seeking?”

I feel like the journey I started then, and the values that I gravitated toward, have informed my life and my decisions. I’m very happy with those values. But I think I’ve lost something of the quest. I’ve been manifesting those values, but not re-examining them to see if I can go deeper. This winter I’ve been re-reading some of the books that were important to me back then to see if I can ignite any thoughts.

And sure enough, contained in the letters and diaries of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, are the answers, the thoughts and ideas and memories that take me right back. Her searching expressed my searching at the time and reignites my search today: the balance of work and life and art and understanding. “That living is a more important art than any other one. That writing is only important in that it gives me the balance required to live life as an art. Something more, too, intangible, difficult to analyze. It is important to me not because I think I can write great things and give them to the world, but because it happens to be the lens of me, clarifying me, enabling me to see things and to think, and to concentrate what’s in me and therefore to live better.”

And through her writing, she gives voice to the introvert’s dilemma of enjoying people and company in measure, but really loving the conversations with old friends and new kindred spirits who quickly move beyond pedestrian conversation to matters of consequence. She describes it perfectly in a newsy letter to a family member where at the end she laments that her letter hasn’t gotten underneath, but she knows she will be forgiven. Underneath. Yes, that is it exactly. To exist in a plane with other people of examining life at another level. What does it mean that the world is beautiful?

This is not for everyone, but I am blessed in my life to have friends for whom this is our way of being together. And blessed, today, to have received paper letters in the mail from two different friends, two letters full of underneath. It is not a surprise that I seek people who know that magic land.

Since my 20s I have had another journey of the heart and of values and that is into my Buddhist practice which has cemented my values of love and service. It’s nice, now, though, to get in touch with some earlier influences. I know that A.M.L. did not feel completely successful as a writer, but she made a difference to me. And I remember my spontaneous tears when I learned of her death. Again, these days, here she is giving voice to insight I already have but maybe had misplaced.

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