Poetry

I apologize for the radio-silence.  I’ve been a terrible blog-neglector.  My only defense is that I was too busy writing for school to write anything for personal use.  When the term finally ended, I had written so much prose that I lost the desire to write more, and turned to poetry instead.  I debated whether or not to post poetry on here, as it didn’t feel in-keeping with this blog’s format, but the original idea for this blog was merely an outlet for my writing and this is what I’ve been working on, so here it is.  You and I will just have to tolerate the discomfort that a lack of uniformity brings–although, that’s probably more of a me problem.

 

Prescott, Arizona

Ceci N’est Pas Une Pipe

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My mother is kneeling on the bathroom floor
like a statue of some greek goddess
Patron of small favors
Today’s special; home repair

She is dressed in linen
and a fine sheen of sweat
Her olive skin bronzed
from the scorch of desert sun

It is so unlike my own skin–my father’s
pale, with a constellation of dark freckles

I have always envied the way she tans in summer
that perpetual, aureate glow

She is wielding a pipe wrench
an old relic, weighty
and thick with rust
scoured from the detritus of antique row

She fits gasket into J trap
and tightens down the slip nuts
looking far too elegant
for the mundanity of plumbing

A hard line of muscle
ripples beneath the taut flesh of her arm
and she looks powerful
Feels powerful

In this moment, I wish I were a pipe

A thing she could grasp in her hands
and examine for cracks
A thing she could twist, and tighten,
and fit together like a puzzle

If my damage could be squared away
with step-by-step instructions,
with elbow grease and a set of tools
her ministrations might empower her

Crack fixed
Leak stopped
Job done

But I am not a pipe
I am water without containment
The river that bucks the levee
I am all cracks

And my mother,
though she cannot stem the flow
will not stop trying
to hold this raging river
in her aching fists

 

A Recipe

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Chopping vegetables
in my mother’s kitchen
she teaches me to peel garlic
with the broad side of a knife

Strike the bulb
palm against metal
split the paper husk
and strip the lucent skin

I rock my knife
through tender onion flesh
mimic her nimble strokes
the studied curl of her hand

The pungent scent draws tears
that I brush away
with the back of a shirtsleeve

She passes me a wooden spoon
a baton

I stir and stir

Two thousands miles away
the scent of onion
browned on a rental stove
catches in my throat

It tastes of sweetness and sorrow
the acrid brine of tears

There is an ache
in the pit of my stomach
that has nothing to do with hunger

I brush a shirtsleeve
across my eyes
I carry on
I stir

 

 

Satisfaction

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Tuesday morning
I am crouched on the bathroom floor
delighting in the red welt
of the cabinet ledge, etched
across the skin of my knees

I curve spine to match J trap
slip thumb and forefinger beneath pipe
and slide the plug from its socket
with a squelch of damp rubber

Above, the drain cap pulls free
and the sulfurous sludge
tar-black, congealed
slides from the throat of the drain
and spatters like ink blots
upon the pale, acrylic basin

Did Rorschach know
there is nothing ambiguous in the beauty
of the excavation of muck
from a bathroom sink?

 

Of Foreign Winds

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The autumn wind howls
across the sweep of dusty trails
and the stout pines tremble
like the slackening of bow-strings
upon arrow’s release

It sunders leaves
from cottonwood trees
and stirs them into eddies
Hennaed flocks of birds
startled from their perch

They gather in the crooks
along the dry wash of arroyos
rustling like the specter
of waters that won’t run

How strange the wind should blow here
with no sails strung to catch it
no heaving stretch of water
to roil beneath its touch

 

Chama, New Mexico

Driving Through New Mexico at Day’s End

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On the road, south of Española
through undulations of land
cast out with a careless hand
like the toss of quilt across bed
not tugged flat at the corners

The scrub is winter-brown
yet to be adorned for the season
with the jeweled drape of snow
And withered stalks of chamisa
chatter like teeth in the wind

But that New Mexico sky
wider than any sky I’ve known
Like an act of nuclear fission
Like the bomb at Alamogordo
cleaved the sky in two
and the atoms carried on dividing
surging out across the state
until the sky swelled
with the immensity of it

That sky burns amethyst tonight
in atonement for the dreary chaparral
And in the rearview mirror
threads of cloud have settled low
across a darkening horizon
to kindle in the claret glow
of waning desert sun

 

House Crickets

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All night long
the house crickets cry out
bowing the black violins of their legs
chirping across the valley
of the sunken living room floor

Perhaps they’re telling stories
exclaiming of the small delights
of sun-baked concrete
and the comfort of their refuge
tucked within the half inch seam
at the base of the stairs

Or maybe they’re giving thanks
for the sustenance of dried oatmeal
apportioned from my uncle’s breakfast
and laid on strips of wax paper
for their daily feast

They carry on with their stories
undeterred by the creep of light
across the silhouettes of mountains
past the thresholds of windows
along that concrete valley of floor

They chat idly through morning coffee
only breaking come lunch
and for those quiet hours before dusk
the house aches with an emptiness
louder than their song

 

December 23rd

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December 23rd
and the snow has scarcely fallen
Only a day or two of flurries
ashen clouds lumbering over the mountains
wayward guests shooed away at dusk
by the firm hand of the sun

The sheath of ice atop the pond has fractured
water welling from the cracks
beckoning the elk to slake their thirst
where once was offered nothing
And the chaparral is absent
its usual cloak of snow
shimmering like frit across the fields
Only a thin crust of hoar remains
lurking in the shadow of pine trees
tucked along the northern edge of scrub

For the first winter
I can see the way the grass has dried
flaxen, like the pale yellow of butter
rustling in waves down the sweep of the valley
beneath the graze of arid winds
It releases burs that cling to the nap of my pants
hitching their fate to the wrong beast
their potential left unrealized
gathered in the folds of laundry
heaped upon my bedroom floor

 

Robins

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From the corner of my eye
I catch the tawny breasts of robins
pecking through the chaff of dried leaves
beneath my bedroom window

They are foraging for food
while I am foraging for words
We are both seeking sustenance
for the long winter to come

 

Tierra Amarilla, Gris

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Tierra Amarilla, land of yellow
like the sweep of honeyed grass
now starry with frost, glittering
in the silver wash of dawn
as we drive south on 64
early Tuesday morning

Smoke curls from chimneys
of adobes and tumble-down trailers
sown across the rancheros
tangling with nebulas of ochre dust
stirred from the fields
by a sere and bitter wind

But soon the yellow fades
Tierra Roja, land of red rocks
where grass cedes to the thorny march of chollas
standing guard atop the wind-worn pate of bluffs
and cliffs rise like castles
hemmed with a crumble of roadside rock
all that russet majesty
returning to earth

Before long sidewalks creep
along the flank of asphalt road
Town of Española, streets lined
with the waxen brown of luminarias
their paper sacks crumpled, prosaic
no longer imbued with the wonder
of candle glow burning
through the blackened veil
of Christmas night

90 miles to Albuquerque
and the whine of Boeing jets
I will find my way home
with no luminarias to guide me
from the land of enchantment
to Tierra Gris, land of leaden skies
and the steel glint of waters
across the churn of wintry lake
where snow doesn’t glitter, but melts
to murky slush beneath the whir of tires
and the sun is held at bay
by the grey that rules
with an iron fist

 

Chicago, Illinois

New Year’s Eve

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New Year’s Eve
at my parent’s home in Chicago
and the night is city-dark
The ersatz glow of street lamps
casting an eerie pallor
upon the downy underbelly
of monolithic clouds

My bedroom window radiates
with this ethereal light
like one of those B movies
where the aliens transport their victims
into the bowels of a mothership
with the pitiless flash
of an ineluctable beam
All of this unfurling
just beyond the window frame
while, unaware
I sleep

 

Chicago Winter

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Already home one week
and the temperature has finally
crept above zero degrees
For the first time, I venture outside
cloaked in the anonymity
of fleece balaclava, damp
with condensation of breath
four pairs of thermal leggings
thick like seal skin

Chicago winters
have an air of mystery
All those closed doors
strung with with twinkling lights
drawing the eyes outward
shielding the intimacy of bodies
huddled ’round wilting firs
or bathed in the semitic glow
of dwindling menorah light
All those downy coats
hoods drawn, masks donned
shielding the intimacy of faces
obscuring recognition
All those rolled up car windows
people mouthing conversations, lyrics
nodding heads to radios unheard
the notes trapped
behind fogged glass

 

Home

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I am not home
until I’ve toed the threshold
where concrete apron slips
beneath eager tongue of shore
and the grit of snow and sand
scrubs the Arizona red
from my boots

The temperature
has barely crested ten and
a thin vein of white rims the horizon
where cold lake meets colder air
clouds huddled low against water
breaking toward bluer skies
that rarity of winter sun glinting
off the slick crust of ice, growing slicker
beneath the steady churn of waves
lumbering barrels, torpid with slush
surging across the cantilever
of shelf ice

To walk along Lake Michigan
in the bitter grip of winter
is a ritual performed
the way one wakes early to tend a farm
without weighing the pleasure of sunrise
nor the pity of those last hours’ sleep, lost

 

The Sweetness of Morning

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On mornings when the wind
drums up the fetch of the lake from the south
the beach air is laced with the sugared scent of baking
chocolate chip cookies, or maybe waffle cones
some discordant note of warmth
from a factory unseen
clanging across the icy blue
of rugged winter shores

I remember those first high desert mornings
where the cream soda balm of ponderosa pines
snaked through open windows
coaxing me down unfamiliar streets
to the hem of a forest
parched air choked with amber dust
swimming with the disparate
and heady perfume
of maple

The sweetness of morning has followed me
from shore to mountain
the dislocation of candied aromas
wafting over wilder climes
softening the slap and spit of waves
and the cragged peaks of granite
enfolding me in the familiar
the nostalgia of childhood kitchens
and Sunday morning pancakes
like a loyal specter, always at the heels
to ease the scrape of waking
and walking through these untamed lands

 

Prescott, Returned

The Natural Order

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In the three weeks I’ve been gone
new trails have been forged through the park
darkened by the dampness of freshly turned soil
and lingering winter rain
They are lined with the detritus
of unearthed rocks, still caked in ochre dust
and piles of sundered branches
verdant with patchwork lichen
I stop to inspect the alligator junipers
drawn by the startling orange of their phloem
exposed where branches have been hewn
to make way for passage
Crystalline sap bleeds from the wounds
hardening against reptilian bark
dripping from the branches
like wintry strings of icicles
luminous even in the diffuse light
of cloudy skies

I ramble through these scars
carved across the land
by the heedlessness of human hands
and can’t help but wonder, why?
When one trail will do
two seems an abundance
three, an overindulgence
four, the glut of human greed
In viewing nature, first
we view our own desire
then form land to vision
never questioning the irony
of nature man-made

 

Arizona Winter

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Yesterday, I strode beside the creek
exalting in the warmth of Arizona winter
sunlight skittering across the slow trickle of water
catching the sheen of sweat wrung from my brow
sleeves pushed back, wan arms exposed
in the hopes that they might warm and brown
like the dried leaves, now ground to chaff
gathered between the cottonwood roots

Today, the sky will not shake the grey pallor of morning
though the sun has crested the mountains
and it’s nearly noon
and lucent droplets seed the trees
crystal beads stitched upon the branches
their silver gleam effulgent
against the dreary brown of winter grass
Below, the tawny earth has paled
beneath a feeble patchwork of snow
already dampening to slush as light strains
against the sterling veil of clouds
and the air hovers
just shy of freezing

 

Ebb and Flow

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Sick in bed for days
I subsisted on the alchemy
of water and flour, rationed
from the freezer’s store
and poured over the sizzle
of cast iron pan

Beyond window slats
snow gathered on the hill
like rumpled sheaths of batting
its cotton bulk settled
upon the porch one day
come noon the next
melted inch by inch

Today I shook loose
the fetter of tangled sheets
and eased open the door
to greet the slap of fresh air
rousing capillaries
across my sallow cheeks

The creek had frozen
in the cottonwoods’ shade
fogged carapace of ice
water welling at the fractured brim
but where the sun
had skirted trees to strike the creek
it drew a deft line
snow melt trickling
from beneath the lip of ice
thin rivulets, at first
caroming between worn fists of granite
catching light on rippled crests
then, cohering to a steady surge
burbling below the slatted span of bridge
before pooling in the morass
of creek bed carved too deep for passage
its surface broken only
by the metronomic drip
from trusses overhead

How fine the balance
between surge and stagnation
a ray of light, a cut too deep
the careless rush of doing
before the ache of illness
settles in

 

The Grind

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Standing before the kitchen sink
scrubbing the burnt caramel of molasses
from the heft of a cast iron pan
Overhead the thwack, thwack of the dryer
drums a steady beat through the floorboards
and from the corner of my eye
I spot the heave of raven’s wings
in the red gleam of a kitchen stool

My eyes flicker to the window
to catch it as it crests the lip
of faux adobe brick along the patio
and threads the needled arms of pines
before blinking into cobalt ether

The tap water runs warm
against the ache of chapped hands
as I let my mind drift, untethered
towards the lofty heights of a life
bereft of the terrestrial grinds
of coffee eddying toward the drain
before the sound of the dryer’s buzz
sinks its teeth through the image
like a saw, I think
the hedge out front
needs pruning

 

 

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Fish Out Of Water

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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.

Travelogue (Or, You REALLY Don’t Have To Read This)

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My best friend (my rock, my soulmate, the light of my life, my long-suffering, one-woman, support system etc.), Lauren, and I arrived in Phoenix after a harrowing flight spent trying to ignore the chaos unfolding in the row behind us. There was a baby screaming, a young child kneading her shoes into my spine, undeterred by the return blows I delivered to the seat-back in an, admittedly, immature fit of frustration, and a mom intent on playing both good cop and bad cop at a rapid-fire volley that would have left the Williams sisters’ heads spinning. It’s unclear to me why dogs are made to ride in the cargo hold, but children get a pass. They’re roughly the same size and children are undoubtedly of a poorer temperament.

After countless hours—perhaps several sunlit days, I can’t be sure—our plane landed and we were off to retrieve our rental car. It was cute, sporty, and cherry red, but no amount of aesthetic appeal could disguise the fact that the dashboard was flashing a temperature of 110 degrees. Welcome to Phoenix. The temperature climbed to 115 as we hit the road in the midst of a record-breaking heatwave and we watched the world shimmer beneath a blazing sun from the comfort of our air-conditioned car. We drove through rocks, bluffs, and vast tracts of desert in earthen hues of rust and sand. The landscape was dotted with an endless sea of saguaro cacti, tall and stout, waving us on through the valley with impossibly robust arms. As we climbed toward Prescott, the desert gave way to denser vegetation and the saguaro were replaced with stands of alligator juniper and ponderosa pine. Soon, I began to recognize road signs and store fronts from countless hours spent driving the town’s streets on Google Maps.

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After two hours on the road, we arrived at our French-themed vacation rental in a complex just south of the town’s center. It was charming, if not exactly my taste, but I certainly appreciated the extravagant attention to detail—there were decorations EVERYWHERE. This made the condo’s immaculate condition all the more impressive and, after giving our digs the seal of approval, we headed back out to check out Sprouts Farmers Market and pick up some groceries. There’s something soothing about visiting a grocery store in a new town. Walking through the doors feels like a home-coming—seeing all those familiar items and creature comforts in a strange, new place. And Sprouts has Whole Foods beat by a mile. We couldn’t quite put our finger on it, but we both acknowledged that it was just better. It had everything you could want, and few things you didn’t, making grocery shopping a (costly) pleasure. We stocked up on fresh produce, oatmeal, soups, snacks, soy milk, hummus, and expensive, imported chocolate stouts. We would later find that, despite being a small town, Prescott has all the goods a crunchy, vegan, baking-obsessed girl could want, with two natural food stores and a liquor store carrying my favorite local, imported, and organic brands. Much to my delight, I even found the new Samuel Smith pear cider I had been hunting for, though, given then heat and aridity, I could only make it through half a bottle before my light-weight self was down for the count. (Lauren can attest to this as she witnessed my eyes roll back in my head after about ten sips.)

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After settling in, we decided to hit the town and took advantage of a small, creek-side path our rental property owner had recommended that tumbled out of the creek bed right next to Courthouse Square. The creek was dry, but the dusty path had a certain charm and we stopped to admire the riparian flora—fuchsia sweet-peas and patches of wild squash—before drawing up short at the sight of a long-haired skunk picking its way across the rocks. We tracked its progress from a distance, watching it amble into a cut-out in the stone wall, chatting loudly all the while so as not to startle it. Its furry, white tail had just disappeared beneath the tall grass when a swatch of blue fabric caught my eye—that’s when I noticed the body. I turned to Lauren, who had already spotted it but was carrying on the conversation so as not to raise alarm while she tried to figure out what to do. We whispered back and forth—Do we get closer? See if he’s sleeping? Heat-stroked? Passed out drunk? ODed? Dead?! We debated about calling the non-emergency police before deciding the man had likely lain down to “sleep it off” (whatever “it” was, we weren’t sure) due to the intentional positioning of his arms. We settled on beating a hasty retreat and hopping on the main road to town, instead. Our decision was later rewarded when, on the way home, we saw the same man staggering down the street before us and ducking into the yard of his house, just beside the creek. He made one hell of a greeting committee.

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The town square is charming, with a beautiful, grassy park in the middle surrounding the town’s historic courthouse, but it’s somewhat reminiscent of a poor man’s Santa Fe. Its streets are lined with tourist shops selling western wear and Native American jewelry, antique stores (my favorite being Mid Century Madness), the usual smattering of restaurants and cafes, and a series of dank, cavernous bars, each more dive-y than the next, with cheap beer and little decoration save for bargain furniture scattered across concrete floors and the usual haze of neon lights. The bar clientele appeared to be comprised mostly of bleach blondes in stacked heels and rompers and old men with scraggly, greying mustaches, wearing Tommy Bahama shirts with a few too many buttons undone, and, of course, the occasional cowboy hat and boots–to be expected out here in the West. But the general makeup of the town is, thankfully, surprisingly diverse in all areas–race, class, age, political affiliation, personal style, etc. There were conservative retirees done up in makeup and sweater sets, young hippies with bare feet and tie-dyed skirts, students on skateboards, dog-walkers, runners, leather-clad bikers, pick-up truck drivers, and soccer moms. One day we passed a group of protestors at one corner of the square brandishing horrifying pro-Trump signs before before making our way to the next corner where we were relieved to find their counterpoint–a group of activists with signs supporting immigration, equality, and general human decency. Much like the town’s people, the town itself is a haphazard collection of every conceivable manner of living–small, well-kept victorians, shotgun houses in varying states of adorableness or disrepair, trailer parks, luxurious retirement homes, lush lawns and wildflower gardens, dirt lots and rusted car parts, expensive boutiques and second-hand stores—all within a stone’s throw of each other with no real sense of organization or demarcation.

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I discovered much of this on my early morning runs. I never did adjust to the time change and woke around 4:00 or 5:00 every morning, getting things done around the condo before heading out at 5:30 or 6:00 for a trail run on the soon-to-be beloved creek-side trail (despite its questionable first impression), followed by meandering explorations of the town in the quiet hush of dawn. I scouted quite a few rental properties this way, scoping out the neighborhoods and adding them to, or knocking them off the list accordingly. I always ended in the square, nearly deserted save for a few early risers and the enormous, Hitchcockian crows that cawed menacingly from their perches on building eves and atop street lamps.

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The post-breakfast mornings were spent hiking and paddle boarding on Prescott’s stunning lakes and trails. In our short and busy stay we managed to hit Watson Lake, Goldwater Lake, and Thumb Butte, hiking at each in both the morning, and then again in the afternoon. We were determined to get our money from our daily parking passes and soak up the beautiful scenery amidst the chaos of school tours and apartment viewings. We admired the arresting geological formations at Watson Lake—smooth, undulating boulders of granite in dribbles and dollops, like life-sized, drip-style sand castles formed from the fists of giants. We inhaled the sweet scent of ponderosa pine bark at Goldwater Lake—a smell I once described as marshmallows and vanilla, but have since amended to cream soda after Lauren pointed out the incredible likeness. We huffed and puffed up the steep trail at Thumb Butte, drinking in the sweeping vistas of Granite Mountain to the north and the sprawl of the town of Prescott to the south, below. There were prickly pear cacti sporting vivid yellow flowers and countless more ponderosa pine to stop and sniff along the way. These adventures were the highlights of what was otherwise a very stressful trip—what can I say, I’m terrible at decision making.

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And that’s really what this trip was about—making decisions. Is Prescott the right town for me? Can I really see myself at this school? Is this terrifying life change worth all the agony and upheaval? Ultimately, the answer to all three of those questions was yes—but I took my sweet time getting there. Accepted Student Day at Prescott College was a rollercoaster of emotions. After each discussion, each sample class and section of the tour, my mind flipped and flopped in a dizzying feat of acrobatics: I can’t stand this—why did I think I wanted to go back to school? This place is amazing! I can’t believe it exists! I just can’t imagine myself here, it’s clearly not a good fit. This place has everything I could want in a school—look at all the opportunities it will afford me! After a series of exhaustive discussions with Lauren on the walk home, with myself under the spray of a cold shower back at our condo, and with my Mom in an hour long video chat, I finally came to the conclusion that this adventure is worth the risk. It’s time to break out of my comfort zone and attempt something new and exciting. After years of comfortable boredom, I owe myself that much, at least.

7

You’d think getting that monumental decision out of the way would be a huge weight off my shoulders, but it was here that the real trouble began. Attending school means moving to Prescott. And moving as an adult, rather than a traditional college student, means finding a rental property, and let me tell you—it’s a seller’s market. There were stained carpets and peeling linoleum, leaky skylights and popcorn ceilings, weird smells and cabinet doors dangling from broken hinges—all at exorbitant rates that left me reeling with disgust and the sticker shock of having lived in a lovely apartment with a fixed rental rate for the past seven years. As I embarked on this torturous process, the first two apartments I saw–and that I was sure would be winners–were a real slap to the face. One was in poor shape with a funny smell and a gruff landlord who was the very embodiment of disinterest. After a dispiriting start, we traipsed back through town, stopping in at a beautiful, mercifully air conditioned, store and museum with exquisite Native American art and jewelry and, much to our relief, a water fountain and unreasonably cute bathroom (there are few things I appreciate more than a nice public bathroom). When we had revived ourselves enough to continue on, we headed out for the next showing—a small stand-alone house that turned out to be a long, hot, and dusty walk from the town square along a busy highway in what the owner herself described as one of Prescott’s lowest-income neighborhoods. We passed behind mechanic’s shops and a ramshackle store announcing BATTERIES, BATTERIES, BATTERIES! before arriving at the house, parched, dripping sweat, and sagging with disappointment.

After the showing we shuffled home with all the élan of the walking dead, heads hung low, fearing heat exhaustion might finally get the better of us and they would soon be scraping our charred bodies off the pavement like seared meat off a grill. Just when we thought we couldn’t go on, we spotted Sprouts ahead and our eyes lit up as though happening upon an oasis in the middle of the Sahara desert. We stumbled into the air conditioning and spent nearly an hour wandering the aisles, where a new love was born—a love of expensive fruit and vegetable juices. Normally I don’t purchase juice, or drinks of any kind, because water is free and a I’m a cheap bastard, but desperation and heat stroke will make you do crazy things. This would soon become our favorite routine—sweltering hikes and walks about town followed by the nirvana that is ice cold, four dollar bottles of bourgeoise, cold-pressed juice. Nothing else has ever inspired in me such simultaneous feelings of joy and shame.

6

Sadly, the next day’s viewings were no better, and after a series of frantic phone calls with my parents, they generously suggested I nudge the upper limits of my budget a bit in the hopes of finding somewhere decent to live before we had to catch our flight back to Chicago. This incredible kindness on their part opened up a few more options, and the next day, after jumping through a series of costly, bureaucratic hoops (a thirty minute drive to a rental agency in the valley, nearly a hundred dollars in application fees, the amassing of documents both provided on the spot and sent in from Chicago), I secured a showing for a promising townhouse I had run by earlier that morning. This was to be my last showing and by the time I arrived at the property I was a seething mess of desperation. I had just come from viewing a condo in the same complex we were staying at that was identical to our charming rental in terms of floor-plan, but was unrecognizable in every other way. It was water-damaged, outdated, and filthy, having been inhabited by a number of college boys whom I envision as a pack of wolves based on the condition of their bathrooms, kitchen, and the hunk of raw meat left rotting in their fridge.

Trying to push the distaste of the previous viewing from my mind, Lauren and I wandered the neighborhood, my spirits lifting at the sight of the surrounding pine trees and adorable, well-tended houses on the small stretch of private road. Soon, a car pulled into the townhouse’s garage and we were greeted by an incredibly gracious, warm, and well-coiffed midwestern couple who were renting the house while waiting for construction on their Yavapai Hills home to be completed. Before the rental agent had even arrived they invited us in and started in on the grand tour. The moment I walked through the door I nearly burst into tears—it was BEAUTIFUL. It was immaculately kept, well-finished, and beyond endearing with quirky spaces, octagonal windows, and not one, not two, but three balconies and patios—two of them overlooking a wooded lot where the cream soda scent of ponderosa pines drifted through the trees. The renters told us deer could often be spotted out there in the mornings. The kitchen was incredibly well-appointed—of the utmost importance to someone who bakes breads on a weekly basis and has just discovered an obsession with homemade ravioli—and there was the unexpected saving grace of the washer and dryer being included with the property. (I had been told there were only hook ups.) At the end of the tour I turned to the rental agent and nearly screamed, “I’LL TAKE IT!!!” before floating out the front door on cloud nine with an enormous, shit-eating grin on my face.

8

With that, our whirlwind of a trip was over, and we headed back to the airport the next morning in our trusty, red car–the dashboard now reading 119 degrees–stopping along the way for one last hike and to drop off a deposit at the rental agency. Now I’m back in Chicago with only six weeks left until the big move, trying to remind myself that this decision was a hard-fought battle, and that I spent the requisite time and energy making sure this was the right choice for me. I guess I won’t truly know until I get there, but between packing, moving out of my apartment, planning a road trip, setting up utilities, banking and healthcare, and sparing a few thoughts for the impetus of the move—this whole higher education business—there’s nary a moment to second-guess myself. So for now, I’m still fighting my way through that ever-growing to-do list and trying not to panic. When the dust settles, I’ll let you know what it’s like on the other side.