Taking The Long Way Home

DSC_0019xxx

So often I write about the beauty of running, but truthfully, I don’t always love it.  Upon waking each morning, the negotiations begin and a parade of excuses whirls through my mind as to why I’d be better off staying in bed.  Occasionally, the excuses make such a persuasive argument that I inch the covers over my head and allow myself another half hour’s sleep.  But when my conscience wins the fight, I stagger out into the brisk, morning air and set my feet to pavement, praying they find rhythm.  With those first footfalls I feel every ache and twinge in my overworked body and my breath comes in uneven gasps, my lungs searing in protest.  The whole endeavor feels slow, laborious, and ungainly.  My mind screams, Why didn’t you just stay home?!

The negotiations continue for the first mile as I consider turning back with each step.  I make deals with myself—if you push yourself to keep going, you can allow yourself to walk the trail section—knowing that I’ll feel like a failure if I do.  But eventually, something miraculous happens—I give in.  I let go of all that cacophonous chatter in my head rattling off lists of reasons why I shouldn’t be doing this—why I can’t.  My breath begins to steady until I’m no longer conscious of it.  My stride feels smooth and powerful, my legs working like pistons as I skim across the pavement or flit over a stream, springing nimbly from rock to rock.  My body and mind quiet down, accept this action, and fully commit, working as one synchronous machine.  In this state of grace, I no longer question what I’m doing or where I am any more than one would question a jaguar carving sinuous trails through plains of Serengeti grass.  By the time I arrive home, awash in endorphins and pride, completing my measly two and a half mile run feels like winning a marathon.  It is a far different experience of home than it would have been had I never left.

Even more than the sensation of flying, this is what I love about running—the idea that pushing through all those doubts and concerns and continuing down a path, no matter how effectively you’ve convinced yourself you ought not to, will always have the potential to surprise you with its value and reward.  It’s a lesson I’ve employed over and over as I slog through this first month of school. 

I arrive on campus each morning, reticent to emerge from the safe, solitary world of my headphones, hardly eager to be there and questioning each moment why I am.  There have been so many days that I’ve piled reluctantly into the van for a field trip, feeling like a caged animal, knowing that once those doors close there’s no turning back.  And god do I want to turn back.  But the doors close, the van rattles on down paved streets, then dusty roads, and finally we arrive at some destination that would be breathtaking were it not for the context of witnessing it in the midst of a gaggle of people.  My eyes drink in the views while my mind drifts backwards in time wondering if I could have said no, could have walked off the bus, could have simply not shown up.  At the mercy of our young instructors, I plod along with the group, all the while calculating escape routes no longer viable or counting down the minutes until departure.  My mind is flighty in that way, so loath to stay with me in the present moment and just be.

Then, at some point, my mind begins to settle and I’m able to accept my surroundings and engage in the day’s activity.  In this present state of being I discover gratitude.  It’s not often that an academic course has you traipsing through a riparian corridor tucked between granite bluffs with the directive to find a quiet place and meditate on nature.  I slip away from the group and find a perch among the limbs of a sprawling tree, a spiral-bound notebook resting in my lap with my pen at the ready.  I pause to notice, to soak it in, body and mind still. 

The river is calm, stagnant, its surface skimmed with the emerald green of algae, coalesced like tatters of lace.  In its few bare patches, the water is a mirror reflecting the flat white of an overcast sky.  Water bugs dart across the surface casting ripples that undulate in small bursts like drops of rain.  Traffic hums in the distance, but here it is quiet save for the twitters and sharp trills of birds tucked among the shivering leaves.  A cool breeze carries with it the scent of damp vegetation and petrichor, that earthy perfume invoked after a hard rain.  The banks of the river are lush, the cheerful yellow of black-eyed Susans peeking out from tangled beds of grass.

I have always found nature to be a balm for the weariness of life.  The trappings of our daily routines—all those responsibilities and concerns—are carried off by the winds, bleached pale by sunlight, humbled in the presence of such grandeur.  Some intangible sense of wellbeing, often lost to the modern world, reawakens in us when we connect with nature.  At its core, it is the original act of homecoming. Because I was patient, because I weathered my doubts and allowed myself to continue on this path until I was able to let go of anxiety and judgement, I was rewarded with this moment of beauty and clarity—this small, glittering gem tucked into the bedrock of an ordinary day. 

I try to remember this when I find myself questioning why I moved here.  Whether it’s something as small as leaving the house for a run, showing up to class, or moving half way across the country, that doubtful voice in my head is always the same—Why didn’t you just stay home?  But, my experience of home, of Chicago and Lake Michigan, of family and friends, wouldn’t be the same had I stayed.  It would be an extra half hour’s sleep in the morning—easy and unaware, deprived of mindfulness and gratitude.  I could never truly grasp the value of what I had from the midst of it—a view lacking in perspective—nor would I have discovered the value to be gained in experiencing something new.  It often seems that turning back will bring us closer to safety and comfort, but it is only through endurance, through persisting on our journey, that our minds and our bodies truly find home.

Advertisements

Fish Out Of Water

4741645982_56ae3dbf3c_o

After learning the old sailing center was soon to be torn down, those of us who held any claim to it set upon it like vultures and pilfered what treasures, relics, and scraps of memory we could before our once beloved kingdom came to ruin. I walked away with the key to the tower, a flake of old paint—that distinctive, muddied sky blue—and the hooks that raised and lowered the flags. My brother took the bright, yellow Exotic Species Advisory sign that hung over the front desk and left it in my parents basement where I found it years later and decided to “borrow” it for my new home. It now sits on the bookshelf in my bedroom, its bold, black lettering warning of the dangers of the zebra musel, the spiny water flea, the round goby, and the Eurasian watermilfoil.

I can’t help but feel sorry these invasive species—they didn’t ask for the relocation. They were ripped unceremoniously from their homes—whether unintentionally, after affixing themselves to the slick hulls of visiting boats, or purposefully, through the foolhardy intervention of selfish humans who valued their own recreational desires over the wellbeing of an entire ecosystem. Either way, they soon found themselves in foreign waters with no choice but to adapt and survive lest they perish. Unfortunately, their survival came at a great cost to the natives.

I empathize with these creatures even more after my own transplantation, though I am not innocent in the matter. I was that foolhardy human who dove willingly into foreign waters and now my only choice is to adapt—but at what cost? Having been raised on Lake Michigan, orienting myself with the steadfast knowledge that water lies to the east, forever beckoning me towards shore, I now find myself paradoxically at sea in this arid, desert land. In the mornings, rather than running along the lakefront, I sprint down dusty highways and rugged forest trails, the parched air searing my lungs so that I often return home with the metallic tang of blood on the back of my tongue. As I wander these unfamiliar paths, something twists inside me like the needle of a broken compass, something seeking water that isn’t there.

But, while the natural environment requires some acclimation, it’s the locals of my own species I fear I won’t adapt to—and honestly, I’m not sure that I want to. We might be the same species, but we are undoubtedly a different breed. And while diversity lies at the heart of all things wonderful in this world—survival, beauty, interest, expansion of thought—there’s a certain point at which I’ve got to take a step back and go, Whoa, that is too much fucking expansion. Call me narrow minded, but I have no desire to open my world to High Country Guns and Knives with its “Make America Great Again, One Gun At A Time” poster, or Bucky O’Neill’s Gun Store with its “Team Glock” banner, or any number of gun stores, pro-Trump lawn signs, NRA stickered cars, and gun-toting, cowboy-loving, god-fearing Americans roaming the streets, longing for the “good old days” with romantic notions of the wild west swimming in their eyes. Let me tell you something about the wild west—there was nothing romantic about it. Like the rest of this country, it was founded on a legacy of thievery, genocide, and oppression of indigenous people. Nostalgia for the days of yore requires a certain privilege and blatant disregard for true, un-whitewashed history. It’s like that inane question: “If you could live in any past era, which one would you choose?” That’s a question for a very specific type of person: straight, white, cisgender, Christian males. Because if you’re a person of color, a minority religion, queer, trans, non-binary, or a woman, the correct answer is, fucking none of them.

I may be the exotic one here, the hapless invader, but I doubt I’m wreaking much havoc on the ecosystem. Rather, I think this place might be eating me alive. To be fair, the people here hail from a surprisingly broad range of backgrounds and schools of thought for a small town in a red state—the area attracts a decent amount of crunchy, outdoor types and every pro-Trump rally inspires an even greater counter-protest (though, I think liberals are much better at this whole protesting thing, because that’s not an accurate reflection of the actual liberal/conservative ratio here)—but there’s no denying the majority of the population is exceedingly old, white, Christian, and conservative. Sometimes, as I’m wandering the streets, I can’t help but feel as though I’ve got a tattoo stamped on my forehead announcing, I’m one of those liberal Jews you fear so much.

I suppose what it all boils down to is this: I feel out of place, a sore thumb, a crooked tooth. It’s uncomfortable, yes, but is that a negative? It’s important to step outside of your comfort zone and experience new ideas and people, if not for the sake of expanding your horizons, at least to expose yourself to the reality of what so many people in this country believe. Perhaps some mutual empathy and understanding can be fostered, bridges crossed, white flags extended. Or, failing that, at least I’ll have new fodder for this fake-news blog of mine.

Acclimatization

29417564503_5b03c3629f_o

I am officially a college student–words I never thought I’d say.  Orientation began on Sunday and the sudden flurry of activity has struck a jarring contrast to the isolation and languor of the previous week–a week spent wandering aimlessly through town as I explored the local trails and businesses.  The mileage on my phone may read the same (a feature I only recently discovered and have since grown obsessed with–I feel a shameful lack of adventurousness if I don’t, at least, approach ten miles a day), but my hours are now filled with meetings, lectures, and classes held in rooms packed with a veritable sea of people.  It’s going to take some time to adjust to such profuse socialization–if that’s even possible.  In the meantime, you can find me tucked behind a building, hiding in the shade with headphones clamped firmly around my ears and a book of crosswords in my lap.

I shouldn’t complain, though.  As much as I prefer to be alone, there is a limit to how much seclusion I can take.  The other day I found myself lying on my bedroom floor under the guise of exercising, but mostly scrolling through my Facebook feed, listening to the crackling of wasps writhing in the ceiling.  I couldn’t help but be reminded of the story, The Yellow Wallpaper, in which a woman exiled to an attic room by a paternalistic husband “concerned for her health,” begins to obsess over the room’s yellow wallpaper until she slowly descends into madness.  That feeling of being relegated to a life of isolation with nothing but four walls (or, in my case, an admittedly charming townhouse) for companionship and entertainment is achingly familiar and, as portrayed in the story, has the cruel effect of amplifying the horrors lurking in the otherwise mundane.  With nothing else to occupy my mind, the benign goings-on of a colony of yellow jackets (whom, despite my overactive imagination, most likely won’t chew through the drywall and lay siege to my bedroom) were transformed from a prosaic act of nature into something malevolent.  Patches of sunlight bejeweling the bedroom floor danced with their shadows as they crawled from the eaves, and their sonance, no more menacing than the the snap-crackle-pop of of Rice Krispies, took on a haunting quality that whispered in my ear, “We’re here, lurking just out of sight, biding our time…”  Fortunately, I don’t have a patriarchal spouse with prejudicial views about mental health enforcing this self-imposed cabin fever (nor is mental illness at the root of my reclusiveness, as it once was), so I was able to step outside and shake myself from this grotesque reverie.  It’s miraculous what fresh air and a healthy dose of perspective can do–reality reasserted itself and the wasps reverted to their former innocuity, making it almost comical to think that I—purported lover of insects—could ever have been so rattled.

Still, transitioning from no company at all to an overabundance of it is exhausting, and in the midst of this shake up, waking in the early morning has become my respite–a small window of peace and clarity before the tumult of the day kicks in.  These early hours are ripe for reflection and I often find myself missing my usual morning haunt, Lake Michigan–particularly at this time of year as summer creeps toward autumn and the nor’easters begin.  These storms send ferocious winds howling down the fetch of the lake, drumming up waves that unfurl, creature-like, from a seething mass of water.  They buck and rise before rushing headlong to meet the shore, breaking with a hiss and spit of white foam that sends small rocks tumbling in the shallow surf, clacking against one another like billiards. In the aftermath, bits of driftwood wash ashore, gnarled hunks of labyrinthine root and sinuous, skeletal branches, wave-worn and wind-beaten, bleached white like whale bones.  It’s one of my favorite times of year and this is the first season I won’t be there to witness it, or to rig up the 470 and take advantage of these tempestuous winds.

Of course there is beauty to be found here, too.  The cream soda scent of ponderosa pines is strongest at dawn, while the air is still cool and crisp.  It snakes through the open windows and beckons me outdoors before the heat of the day gets underway.  I follow White Spar Road as it transitions from parking lots and gas stations to cabins of log and stone nestled in the thickening trees.  At Limberlost Lane (a name that really trips off the tongue), a small trail leads into a forest preserve where the aroma of ponderosas grows overwhelming and patches of prickly pear cacti and dusky blue spiderwort emerge from a blanket of fallen pine needles.  Scattered among the trees are the polished red branches of manzanita and the glossy leaves of scrub oak.  Everything is still save for the ravens, startled from their perches in the trees, their lustrous, black wings held aloft as they take flight.  It took nearly two weeks to acclimate to the altitude and the rise and fall of a rock-strewn, earthen trail, but the first day I ran the entire two-and-a-half mile loop without needing to pause and catch my breath felt like a benediction after the disquiet of having uprooted my life and attempted to resettle on such foreign ground.  I may miss the water, but bounding through a sun-dappled forest at day-break without another human in sight is no small consolation.  In fact, it’s kind of the reason I moved here.

And that’s only a small piece of the beauty.  While not having a car is a significant hindrance when it comes to enjoying the bounty of natural resources Prescott has to offer, Acker Park is only a mile walk from the town square.  The trailhead lies at the far end of the historic district, an area comprised of small and quirky victorian houses lining the kind of southwest street where Jesus and Kokopelli adorn the same lawn.  There’s also enough American flag bunting bedecking the porch rails to weave a sun-shade across the entire state, which they really ought to do—at least then it would be useful, rather than a garish and inane display of patriotism.  Mercifully, the red, white, and blue of combustible, synthetic fabrics soon transitions to azure skies, juniper greens, and tawny earth.  Acker Park is a beautiful, mile-long forested oasis nestled between highways and residential neighborhoods.  Sure, I could hear the reverse warning of a backhoe as I hiked, but the crickets kept time and I turned up the volume on my headphones and wandered the dusty trails in a state of bliss, admiring sweeping views of Granite Mountain and Thumb Butte along the way.

So, as nature and humanity duke it out for a time slot in my newly hectic life, I’m attempting to strike a balance.  The days may be long, but rather than going stir-crazy, I now relish the mornings and evenings spent alone.  And after this first week of orientation is over and my schedule shrinks to a more appealing length, I might even welcome some companionship, rather than resenting it.  Who knows, maybe someone interesting will unfurl themselves from the sea of people and come crashing my way.

Guns, Germs, And–More Fucking Wasps

Screen Shot 2017-08-22 at 2.14.08 PM

(Help Me)

I don’t think I accepted quite how difficult it would be once my mom left Prescott and I found myself alone in an unfamiliar place, until I spotted an errant black sesame seed on the kitchen floor–a remnant of her morning toast–and felt the hot sting of tears at the corners of my eyes.  I may be 27, but damn it, I miss my mom.  And more generally speaking, I miss not being the sole inhabitant of a home.  I miss not rattling around these rooms like a loose tooth with only my vaguely disturbing thoughts for company.  So, like any reasonable 20-something who finds herself alone in a strange new land, I joined Tinder.

Well, first I downed an entire box of sugary cereal and went for a run in the blistering Arizona sun, nearly puking due to the aforementioned cereal-binge, dehydration, and the ever-present fear that I would accidentally stumble onto private property and be picked off like an extra in a back-woods horror film.  Then I wandered aimlessly through town, longing to stop for an afternoon beer in a shady dive bar with the hard-bitten, leather-skinned, small town Arizona, day-drinking crowd, but ruefully recognizing that I was still just barely keeping the cereal in check.  Then I joined Tinder. 

I was mostly curious to see what the local dating pool had to offer and was horrified, but certainly not surprised, to find an inordinate amount of photos of men clutching guns with all the pride and admiration of a father cradling his first-born.  This foray into the murky depths of Tinder didn’t have the desired effect of bolstering my faith in the prospect of future companionship–if anything, it made me feel even more alone–but it did lend credence to my fear that I might one day wander off trail and into the crosshairs of a hunting rifle.

While we’re on the subject of semi-rational, Arizona-based fears, here are some others:

I’m afraid the desert sun will dry-roast my pallid skin until it crackles beneath my fingers like an oversized pork rind.  I’m afraid that, as a result, I’ll make a staggering leap from looking like a twelve year old to looking like I’m one hundred and twelve in a matter of months.  And yes, I do wear sun block.  And no, I don’t wear a hat, Dad, because I’ve inherited your colossal forehead and can’t stomach the mortification of walking around with a human-sized hat perched atop my comically large head like the live action version of Hey Arnold (though his head was oblong laterally, rather than vertically).

I’m afraid I’m going to be infected with bubonic plague, because I read an article about fleas testing positive for plague in an Arizona county 200 miles away and now I’m convinced they’ve rounded up all of their plague-infected friends and are making a bee line (or is it a flea line?) this way (because of course they are).  I’ve begun viewing the cats and dogs in my neighborhood with the utmost suspicion–but mostly the cats because they can transmit plague through their saliva and god knows they’re just lying in wait to take you out.  Cats are shifty as hell.

I’m afraid the local bartenders already know me as, “That strange girl who always orders the same bizarrely flavored cider and refuses to drink from a glass as is customary in polite society.”  But listen, I don’t care how uncouth it is to swig a 22 oz cider straight from the bottle, take a good, long look at the rim of your next bar glass and tell me you don’t see someone else’s lip marks.

I’m afraid the crackling noise I hear in my bedroom eaves is the wasps I’ve seen crawling into the gaps in the siding and they’re biding their time until they’ve eaten away enough dry wall to  break through the ceiling in a shower of plaster and writhing yellow bodies at which point they’ll engulf me as I lie in bed, vulnerable and unsuspecting, and sting and sting until I die a horrible, gruesome death.

I’m afraid I’ll never find out what all the electrical switches in my house do.  I’m even more afraid that the switches that don’t appear to do anything are, in fact,  doing something–something that might one day start a fire.

And now I’ve rambled on about semi-rational fears long enough that I have, once again, quit Tinder.  What an exciting 24 hours it’s been.  Thank for tuning in to this week’s installment of “Perpetually Neurotic And Indecisive Loner Attempts To Deny Her True Nature With Little To No Success.”   Tune in next week as I delude myself into thinking I’d like to make friends before tossing my phone off a mountain (the lake is no longer an option) and returning home to drink alone.  (Or, as alone as one can be with a ceiling full of wasps.  What is it with me and the wasps?)

I Don’t Think We’re In Kentucky Anymore

19038197641_56a70b5455_o

After two weeks spent helping me get settled in my new place in Prescott, Arizona, my mom just left and I’m pretty sure she ripped my heart out and took it with her. I know that at 27, most mothers and daughters aren’t quite so attached at the hip, but not everyone can be as wildly cool and dysfunctional as we are. It takes a certain level of dedication–to all-day Gilmore Girls marathons, junk food dinners, and early morning lakefront walks—it takes a willingness to shirk responsibility in favor of bonding time, it takes a measure of incurable neuroses and a generous helping of sarcasm, witty banter, and general disdain for the rest of humanity. And, above all, it takes boundless, unconditional love and admiration–something we’ve got in spades.

I could sit here bawling my eyes out, ruminating over the fact that these next three months will be the longest we’ve ever spent apart (not that I haven’t lived alone for the past eight years, but we spent an inordinate amount of time together because, well, see above re: the rest of humanity–no one else measures up), but instead I’ll choose to be grateful that I have a mother so wonderful as to inspire such intense levels of separation anxiety. Few, if any, are so lucky.

Also, it’s less than three hours until noon and I have a fridge stocked with WASP levels of alcohol, so that helps. In fact, in a feat of impeccable timing, my daily planner–ruler of my life–ends today and my new one doesn’t start until Monday making today a glorious, lost day. No niggling compulsion for productivity so as not to leave blank spaces in my daily breakdown, no accountability for a shameful amount of time spent binge-watching Netflix, no written record of cooked meals eschewed in favor of downing an entire box of maple pecan crunch cereal with a pineapple cider chaser—basically, I’ll be reveling in my natural state of being when left unchecked.

313

But first, I will attempt to cover at least a portion of what’s transpired these past few weeks, though, I can’t promise much in the way of skillful writing or accurate recall–having the memory-span of a goldfish makes things tricky. Between packing a Dodge Grand Caravan to the gills in a truly incredulous feat of Tetris-style mastery, a three day cross-country road trip with stops in Lawrence, Kansas (surprisingly charming) and heaven on earth (my Uncle’s house in Chama, New Mexico), finally moving in to my new place, a preposterous amount of trips to a number of chain stores that forced me to temporarily table my ethics in favor of affordability (the guilt runs deep, but I will admit that it’s nice to own such extravagant luxuries as unbroken furniture not rescued from alleyways and bobby pins not pilfered from the circus-studio floor), and settling in–these past two weeks have been a real whirlwind and I don’t think I could possibly begin to fill in all the details. Instead, I’ll provide you with a stream-of-conscious collection of musings and reflections on the big move and life in this new town. It will likely be somewhat indecipherable and utterly disorganized, so if you choose not to continue, here’s the short version: I’m here, it’s beautiful, it’s strange, I’m happy, I’m heartbroken, I’m everything in between, and the journey goes on.

312

315

314

(Chama, New Mexico)

The town of Prescott is a weird and wonderful hodgepodge of all manner of existence–let’s start there. It’s filled with a spectacular olio of natural beauty–the cream soda scent of Ponderosa Pines wafts through the air like something out of a Willy Wonka fever-dream and stunning vistas of mountains and buttes encircle the town like the jewels of a behemoth crown. To the north, drip-castle formations of granite boulders surround Watson lake, undulating outward across an alien landscape while, to the west, Thumb Butte rises from amidst a forest of alligator juniper, ponderosa pines, and prickly pear cacti, presiding over the town like a benevolent ruler. To the south, nestled in an idyllic pine forest, the perfect mirror of Goldwater Lake reflects a vivid cerulean sky and cotton wisps of clouds like something out of a fairytale.

319

(Prescott, Arizona.)

Much like the nature here, the neighborhoods, buildings, and people are also a motley crew. Walking through town square provides a kaleidoscopic view of humanity–greased-up, leather-clad bikers, aging hippies with bare feet and tie-dye shirts, bleach-blondes with overly-coiffed hair, pancake makeup, and skin baked to a crisp by the harsh Arizona sun, soccer moms with gaggles of tow-headed children, herbal tea-drinking, crystal toting, new-agers, retirees enjoying their golden years in lawn chairs beneath the shade of the statuesque courthouse, and, much to my horror, no small number of gun-loving, Trump-voting, conservatives. Not that that comes as a surprise–this is Arizona, after all–but I won’t deny that discovering one of my new, neighborhood businesses is a gun shop with a sign that reads “Make America great again, one gun at a time,” caused tremendous culture-shock and a fierce desire to rant, rave, pull my hair out, and throw up in my mouth a little, before calling for an air-lift out of here.

318

(Prescott, Arizona)

Mercifully, my new home is truly an oasis. Situated on a private street at the foot of the pines, my quirky, 80’s, two-story town-home is quiet and charming with panoramic views of forests, streams, and a glimpse of Thumb Butte through the branches of an imposing pine. Its cozy interior was designed with my signature blend of mid-century modern, southwestern, and vintage style with a smattering of Mexican and Chinese folk art. Already, it feels like home. This is such a childish thing to say, but, I finally feel like an adult. Wait, that’s a blatant lie, I’ll rephrase–I finally feel like I have an adult apartment. No more easy-bake oven and Barbie dream fridge that cooled so unevenly I could only use the front half lest my food be turned to ice. No more eating on the couch (a borrowed one, at that) for lack of a dining table, or even room for a dining table. Here I have a life-sized stove and fridge, a real dining table, a desk so that work needn’t be completed while sprawled across the floor–I even have his and hers closets which seems wholly superfluous for a perpetually single hermit like me, but turns out to be quite useful as someone whose neuroses dictate the need for a halfway home for clothes that have been worn and can no longer live with the clean clothes, but aren’t so dirty as to necessitate relegation to the laundry bin. In fact, this house is so far beyond the realm of places I intended to find (the rental market out here is a nightmare and my options were few and far between), I’m having trouble feeling I deserve it. This is a running theme in my life given how much I’ve relied on my parents when mental illness made supporting myself infeasible, but, excessive or not, I am exceptionally grateful to my parents without whom nothing in my life would have been possible.  So, I will attempt to quash the guilt and focus, instead, on that gratitude. They went above and beyond what any parent could reasonably be expected to do for their not-so-adult woman-child and I can’t believe my good fortune in having two such supportive, generous, and loving parents with a saintly amount of patience and an impeccable eye for design (a major bonus when they’re helping you furnish and decorate your house).

3110

There’s so much more to say and I have too little patience to write it, so I’ll leave you with some dribs and drabs and other assorted miscellany.

The title of this post refers to the fact that I kept calling Kansas “Kentucky” on our drive out here–much to the annoyance of my parents, and to the point where I then found it impossible to refer to Kansas as anything but Kentucky, before finally deciding that any state we drove through would henceforth be known as Kentucky.

311

(The beautiful views in Kentucky)

I’ve had surprisingly few meltdowns during this whole, exhausting process, but I will cop to sobbing into a shower-beer the first night because, despite holding it together through the extreme chaos of the actual move, stepping into my shower to discover that the water smelled “weird” (the hot water tank just needed to be flushed after disuse) was the last straw for me. I’m very smell-sensitive.

After moving in, I went into such an industrious frenzy that I woke up at 5am one morning and spent an hour rearranging my entire bookshelf by spinal color.  Best decision I’ve made thus far.

My mom and I discovered an abiding love for blood orange cider drunk mid-day at our favorite local bar and proceeded to work our way through their entire stock. We also discovered that dehydration and blazing sunlight will get you good and toasted in more ways that one–that is to say drinking in such a hot and arid climate makes us real cheap dates.

317

My three hour excursions (round trip and including treatment time) to the Ketamine clinic in Chicago have turned into a cross-state, ten hour Odyssean slog out here. Granted, it would have been nine hours had we not missed our return shuttle, but it’s still a marked change from the ease of receiving treatments before. Making the trip worthwhile (aside from the obvious necessity of the medication) was the extraordinarily kind staff and Turbo, the therapy dog, who gave me the best hug of my life before slobbering off all the coconut oil I’ve been using to plaster my face back together (my skin does not agree with the aridity out here).

Screen Shot 2017-08-20 at 11.40.58 AM

I worried disproportionately about a number of bees seen crawling into the woodwork above my balcony before remembering I just survived the world’s most heinous wasp infestation without batting an eye. Funny how being in a new environment can magnify worries that might not manifest in a place that’s familiar.

316

Things I’ve broken since I’ve moved here:
-A bottle of coconut oil in the aisle of the Sprouts, after deciding that late-night, high-speed grocery shopping in a fit of delirium, following a nine hour car ride and two hours of unpacking, with only an hour to go before the store closed, was a serviceable idea.
-A brand new plate, after dropping it in the kitchen sink post-ketamine odyssey, whose shattering prompted a bout of drug and exhaustion fueled weeping and muttering about, “uneven dish sets.” Obviously, unevenness is a totally valid thing to cry over.

Things I’ve fumbled, almost broken, and had removed from my grasp by my watchful mother:
-Nearly everything I’ve touched. I blame the altitude. And maybe the cider.

Things my mom has fixed since I’ve moved here:
-A leaking pipe under the bathroom sink–turns out you can Amazon prime yourself a J-trap. What a world.
-A running toilet which she deduced had a defective fill valve through a series of Youtube tutorial guided explorations and attempted remedies. You can also Amazon prime yourself a Fluidmaster 400ARHR High Performance Toilet Fill Valve, which she installed in mere minutes with the aid of an antique pipe wrench (scoured from a row of local antique shops, after discovering that this town has no hardware stores in walking distance) and her general, innate, ingenuity. What a woman.

Well, that’s all for now. I’m sure more will come to me later as I process things during this upcoming week of limbo before school starts. For now, I’m off to eat sugary cereal and get day drunk. Let the emotionally maladjusted fun begin!

Screen Shot 2017-08-09 at 9.16.45 PM

I Looked, And Behold, A Pale…Wasp?

19029091352_20d8f39454_o

And so it has begun. The day of reckoning is upon us. The end is nigh. Okay, okay, I’m being dramatic–I’m only moving out of my apartment. But it does feel rather apocalyptic. For one thing, the temperature has soared to a sweltering 95 degrees (with 100% humidity, naturally) as I’ve begun packing up my attic abode. Gotta love a mid-July move. You might be wondering, “You live in an attic in Chicago–don’t you have air conditioning?” Great question! My apartment is technically equipped with central air, but I am woefully at the mercy of my landlords (the system is for the entire house), whom I’ve long suspected are members of an alien race hailing from a planet much nearer the sun, granting them the power to withstand heinous temperatures. That or they hate me and want me to die before they have to return my damage deposit. (Just kidding! You guys have been great! Don’t look too closely at the drywall, though. Or the front door for that matter–I went through a bit of a knife throwing phase and my aim left something to be desired. And maybe avoid glancing down at the carpet–I can’t fathom why I chose to start a collection of rusted scrap-metal, either!)

The second sign of the impending apocalypse is the arrival of the wasps. For the past two weeks they have sent daily envoys from their nest in the eaves and I’m beginning to get the feeling they don’t come in peace. This burning desire to lay siege to my apartment is truly perplexing because no sooner have they entered than they begin their desperate quest for escape. They drift menacingly by as I’m relaxing on the couch, shattering my foolhardy belief that having four walls and a roof might afford me some magnitude of protection from the perils of the outdoors. If they’re lucky, I spot them in time to escort them from the premises via my handy bug-catching jar (every home needs one), but an unfortunate few succumb to the inevitable heatstroke that results from more than an hour spent in my apartment, and their needle-thin corpses pile in the corners of my window sills, forming tiny mass graves. I’ve kept a running count of the wasps–seven dead and twelve live ones. Will I make it to twenty before I move out? Stay tuned!

So, between the stifling heat and the invading hordes of wasps, I’ve found myself wondering aloud as I pack, “What circle of hell is this?” My first inclination was the sixth circle–being entombed in flames– because it feels as though I’m roasting alive. But I’m also knee-deep in a pool of my own sweat, so it’s more like boiling, really, which I suppose would make this the seventh circle–a river of boiling blood and fire. I may be a godless heretic, but I’m no murderer, so I can’t imagine what I’ve done to deserve this torture. I hear boiling meat retains its nutrients better than roasting, though, so at least that’s good news for the wasps when they come to feast on my molten flesh.

The one bright spot in this ghastly inferno (other than eternal hell-fire) is that the constant, looming threat of heat exhaustion and anaphylaxis leaves little room to feel the gut-wrenching emotions that this undertaking would otherwise engender. It wasn’t until I sat back after four solid hours of dismantling the home I’ve spent the past eight years creating with such love, care, and devotion, that I began to sense the first inklings of heartache. The all-consuming nature of such a monumental task can only draw focus for so long, but eventually the boxes are stacked, the packing tape is set down (after untangling it from my hands and every other available surface–seriously, fuck packing tape) and there’s nothing left to mask the gnawing realization that the time has come bid farewell to a chapter of my life–a chapter that has spanned the better part of a decade and seen me through such innumerable triumphs and tribulations that the notion that its trappings could be stripped bare in a matter of days is incomprehensible. I know the things that I’m packing away are just that–things–but the amassing of material possessions is a means of creating personal history, a living museum where each item is imbued with a certain set of memories, recollected upon sight, touch, or smell. (Or taste, I guess–I don’t know what weird shit you’re into.) The ransacking of that museum feels a bit like having the pieces of your brain and your heart torn apart and rearranged in a heedless jumble, like an ill fitting jig-saw puzzle, then being told, “Carry on–this is par for the course.” I suppose that’s the nature of moving on–it’s impossible to build anew without some small measure of destruction.

Once I’d met my quota of necessary destruction for the day, I headed to the sailing center in search of respite from the heat and the heartache. I went for a restorative paddle, drifting lazily beneath the balm of cerulean skies and hare’s tail wisps of cirrus clouds, relishing the lap of cool water as my board bucked beneath the muddled chop of Lake Michigan waves. After, as I wandered home along the lakefront toward Chicago with its skyscrapers standing tall like giants, gaunt faces of steel and stone, I knew another pang of sorrow–not just for the home I would be leaving, but for the city, too. I recalled countless nights at the beach spent lying on the bed of a catamaran, hair still damp and smelling of seaweed, a bottle of beer in hand, slick with condensation in the summer heat. Off in the distance the traffic would hum, the El trains grinding along their rails, but the water’s edge invoked a hushed reverence–a sense that these were hallowed grounds. I’d pass hours watching planes take off from O’Hare, arcing out over the water in trails of blinking light–the only bright stars you’ll see in a city where it is never truly night. So much of my life has transpired along this small stretch of shore–how can I possibly leave it? But I know I have my reasons. Drowned as they are by fear and uncertainty, I’m sure they still exist. I need only to summon the faith that they’ll resurface once more when this period of upheaval has passed. Besides, what’s the alternative–languishing in a blistering apartment, trapped with a swarm of stinging insects? Better purgatory than hell, I suppose.

Sea Change

16756581195_bf94638a69_o

Walking in the tracks of the surf rake this morning, the freshly-turned sand crumbles beneath my feet like brown sugar.  Elwood has scavenged a chicken bone from the remnants of a late-night gathering–bits of peanut shell,  watermelon rind, and an empty box of fireworks scattered across the sand.   Discarded beer bottles glow like torches in the light of the rising sun, mirroring the reflections that flicker across the water in the ripple of waves.  The disgust with which I view this ubiquitous trash lends a sense of irony to the delight I find in spotting the glint of frosted glass along the shoreline, relinquished from the steady churn of the lake.  Sometimes the difference between trash and treasure is merely the passage of time.  How often our tales of woe become our most winsome stories.  Through their retelling, they are honed and polished like bits of sea glass, made small and palatable, their rough edges smoothed.

I hope this is the light in which I will come to view this transition from Chicago to Arizona, sea glass to red rock, cynical high school drop out to open-minded denizen of the world of higher education–colorful, shimmering, and imbued with the magic of hind-sight.  Because right now I feel the sting of jagged glass, unweathered by the passing of time.  It feels like performing surgery with a broken bottle–dissecting the tissues that bind me to this place with artless and imprecise strokes until all my tethers have been loosed and I’m ready for transplantation.  I worry about how slowly this connective tissue regrows, how long I’ll spend adrift before I begin to feel some sense of belonging in a new place.  More than that, I worry that the sinews joining heart and home can never truly be slackened enough to allow for this distance.  I fear that I will live with an unbearable tautness in my chest, forever calling me home.

I try to remind myself that it’s better to dive into the unknown with grace and daring than languish in the comfortable monotony of the devil you know.  Better the vast potential of open water than the stagnation of refuse-strewn shores.  (Speaking metaphorically, of course–people need to stop throwing their shit in the lake.)  With any luck, I will one day emerge from this rough and tumble sea of change honed and polished with my rough edges smoothed.  Whether the waves will spit me out on distant sands or those of my local beach, only time will tell.