Several years ago on an old blog I ran a little series called “Ask a ___ person.” SO, you could ask a bossy person/a creative person/a chronically ill person/etc. questions you might have. I was ahead of my time, or else simply unaware of Reddit’s AMA (Ask Me Anything) — and to be honest, there weren’t many questions asked. It was really more a chance for people to write about some aspect of their identity to let others know what it’s like to be that.
I didn’t, but totally could’ve written one called “Ask Me How to Adjust.” I am not just Queen of the Pillbugs, I am also queen of adjusting. I’ve yet to meet someone who has moved more times than I have, though I am on my metaphorical knees begging the universe for this to be the last move. Adjusting is such an invisible process to me it wouldn’t even occur to me to notice it, but I am watching another woman adjust to her move, from the Catskills back to Queens, after living here for 8(-ish) years, and it’s reminding me of the process.
One really great aspect of social media is how quickly it allows you to get a sense of a place. When I learned we were moving to the Catskills, I scoured Instagram for accounts focusing on the Catskills and the Hudson Valley, and subscribed to them if they showed me around, introduced me to new places and experiences. Through FB, I scoured the upcoming events looking for pages that would bring me news of the area, and post all kinds of events — literary, cultural, music, outdoors, learning. Since I am in such a rural setting (I don’t even live in a village; I live in a hamlet [“a small human settlement”], which is one of twelve hamlets collected into a town called Shandaken, although I have yet to find actual Shandaken…), having access to town news via FB is really helpful.
So as I subscribed to all the pages and sites affiliated with my new home, I also unsubscribed from pages and sites affiliated with my old home. I unsubscribed from sites that list events happening in Austin, and from politics (especially since my friends will keep me posted on that dread front). I kept an occasional subscription if it featured photographs of Texas, since I am a Texan no matter where I am, and find so much beauty in the geography of the place, but I started snipping those ties. Of course I kept all my friends, for friends they will be as long as we care for each other, but the others are let go. It’s too big a job to unsubscribe all at once, so as they come up, I just unsubscribe and move on.
The other woman who is adjusting continues to be heavily involved in her connection to the goings-on of this area — which, of course, is just absolutely fine, her right to adjust however she sees fit! For me, though, clinging to a place I no longer live feels good at first, because it’s familiar and my attachment allows me to still feel anchored . . . until it doesn’t. Until I realize that I’m not going to those events, they aren’t for me, and then suddenly I realize I am gone from there, and not connected anywhere. For me, adjusting means looking in front of me.
Unless you move to a very similar place — big city to big city, Chicago to NYC perhaps — there will be deeper adjustments, too. Training your eyes to see, training your longings to adjust, training your interests to expand. When I lived in Austin, it was never on my radar (or anywhere in my sphere of interest) to take a hike with an expert mushroom guy, to learn all about them, and maybe even to learn how to cultivate them. To learn how to care a lot about getting rid of a specific grass that’s about to seed, because it’s choking out wild mushrooms in the area. Now I see all kinds of opportunities to learn a bunch of new stuff, to learn the specific names of things, to get good at a new range of interests and activities. To learn a whole new history — natural and human — and to do it in a solitary way. I find it very easy to slip right into nostalgia and happiness when I think about my wonderful poetry group in Austin, those beautiful people who shared words and care in my living room for five years, but not to cling to it because it won’t be that, here. This life will be so different, and I’ve had so many very different lives that I’m curious about the experience of this one.
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So many crossing, parallel lines, so many coming-back-tos, it can be dizzying once you start noticing them. When I left New York in November, 2012, after a couple of weeks in Austin I had to fly back to NYC to pack up my books and ship them to Austin. I was sorry to leave my cozy new place that was still in pupa form, really, not fully created, not fully settled, not all the way mine yet, to return to a painful place that I had painfully left.
The emotion isn’t the same, at all, but I’ve been here a couple of weeks and today I fly back to Austin to retrieve my car — and I’m sorry to leave my cozy new place that is still in pupa form, really, not fully created, not fully settled, not all the way mine yet. The only difference is that I didn’t painfully leave Austin, except for the pain of parting.
And most disappointing, I’m only going to be in Austin for one full day (with a night on either side) and I won’t have a spare moment to see any of my beloveds except for Katie and family….so grateful to see them of course, and to spend as many hours with them, with Lucy and Oliver, as I possibly can. I am sorry I won’t get to see friends, and I will hold space the next time I come to Austin for a get-together. Since I just made the 2000-mile trip, making it again is just kind of mind-numbing, so I’m taking a different route for two reasons: first, to take a different route because for heaven’s sake; and second, to make a pit stop in Chicago to see Marnie and family, which will allow me to soak up a little Ilan and break the trip in half. All in all I will be gone a week, arriving late on Monday night back at Heaventree.
I’m sad to leave this beautiful place so quickly, and I’m so looking forward to hugging and kissing and soaking up babies, and to seeing my daughters and their husbands, and to spending one night with my dear Dixie, and to seeing a different part of the country — up and over to the right, instead of across to the right and then up. But then, when I finally make it back home, all my stuff will be in one place. Whatever I want, it will be available. There’s still some stuff at the apartment in the city, my big Nikon camera and a bunch of baking gear, but Marc will bring that or I’ll fetch it at an upcoming trip. My stepdaughter is coming to the city at the end of July so I’ll drive down for that weekend.
But y’all. Home. Quiet, beautiful home. Since I learned I would be moving here, I started following as many Catskills-related Instagram and FB pages as I could find, and yesterday a caption on an IG photo talked about how lucky the person feels to live in such a beautiful place — still, after all these years — even though it isn’t always an easy place to live. And it isn’t, I can tell already, for all kinds of reasons. I don’t even yet know what winter is going to be like, and I feel all Game of Thrones-ish about it (Winter is coming!!!!). I mean, if you do a Google Image search for ‘winter in the Catskills, you get shots like this, and I somehow think it’s gonna be harder than this great picture suggests:
So today is fly day, and I remember that other fly day when my heart was crushed and my bones felt too heavy to keep moving, and I’m so grateful that today my heart is light and my bones are eager to fly, even though I will miss my sweet home.
* * *
A couple of PS points:
Thank you for your extraordinary kindnesses to me in response to my last post. I wasn’t expecting it, for some reason, even though I know you are always so kind and generous to me. Maybe the “Lori who?” made me feel so small and invisible that I had forgotten that others know me. I don’t know. Anyway. Thank you for all the love and beautiful words (that I insist mean much more about who you are than who I am), and for the big-hearted and very wise advice I got. I’m OK. It’s not echoing in my heart any more. xoxoxox
SO! You know how I’ve talked about bears up here, but I hadn’t seen one yet. There is a house at the tail end of the private road I’m on, and we were invited to a picnic there on Saturday, something they organize every year. It was nice to meet them (excellent politics one and all, including some old red diaper baby connections). At the moment they are just here on weekends, but in a year or so they’ll be moving here permanently. They have a webcam on their house and they frequently catch wildlife on it, including this great shot of “the local big fella”:
I won’t be posting anywhere until I get back to Heaventree, but I’ll be around FB and IG once in a while, probably with pictures of grandbabies and daughters, knowing me. You know. 🙂
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Moving into this house has been complicated by the fact that everything had to be unloaded into the basement, since the former owners were still living in the house. While it was a relief to be able to do that, instead of renting a storage unit (especially since they left three days later), it means that everything is in the basement. I want the empty boxes to be there instead of in the living space, and the boxes are kind of heavy (especially after the first couple), so this means that I go downstairs into the basement, collect a giant armload of stuff, walk up the basement stairs, and for all the bedroom and bathroom stuff, then also up the stairs to the second floor. It doesn’t take long to put away an armload of stuff, so a few minutes later I walk down two flights of stairs, and repeat.
This is obviously good for glutes and thigh muscles. And exhausting. Yesterday I think I made 7.3K trips, and boy did I sleep well last night. So there are two added bonuses to life at Heaventree, right off the bat. Lemonade!
Another added bonus is that it’s critical that I am mindful, here. It’s critical that I not just dash around with a distracted or unfocused mind, because I am here all alone, in a remote and rural place. I am alone in this house, and if I am out of the house, I couldn’t call for help. I am kind of a weirdo on stairs — worse going up them — because my foot plans to take one step at a time and my brain says, “No! Take them two at a time!” so my foot gets confused and strikes the riser between the stairs, and I stumble. The basement stairs are wooden steps, and I am afraid of heights so seeing between them, as I get nearer the top, always produces a kind of scared paralysis in me, also not good. This combo could obviously be bad news, especially if I were to fall into the cold basement . . . and especially if I didn’t have my phone on me.
It’s critical that I pay attention and be present, and how wonderful is that? I’ve gotten so far off my mindful track, ever since the dreadful election and the ensuing chaos and trauma of life under this nightmare administration, and what I’ve needed most was the ability to return to myself, to stay present, to be. And now I live in a place that both makes it a necessity, and provides me the most beautiful sanctuary (thank you for that word, Dixie, you’re so right) in which to do it. So when I am ‘forced’ to be present, what I see is beauty, what I feel is peace, what I hear is nature, what I feel is the quiet brilliance that surrounds me.
This doesn’t feel at all like making lemonade out of lemons — it feels like the biggest gift I ever could’ve received. Sometimes life is like that. Once in a while, more often than a blue moon but not so often that you take it for granted.
It’s Friday, which means that Marc will head to Heaventree after he sees his last patient for the day, and he’ll be here until we leave Tuesday morning for the airport. I have the kitchen fully unpacked now, so cooking will be less stressful for us both (“Honey, do you have X?” “I do honey, but it’s not unpacked yet.” [said for the millionth time] “Sweetie, where is the X?” “It’s not unpacked yet sweetheart.” [said for the millionth time]). He’s bringing a cooler full of food, stuff that’s more expensive to buy here than in NYC, and my little 3-day period of complete silence means I welcome his conversation with eager anticipation. Happy Friday y’all, I hope you are happy today. xoxox
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Oh Lordy am I eager to get moved in. To be one with my stuff again, and to have my stuff unpacked and settled in. It’s going to be a while, since I have to make that trip back to Texas, and then the long drive back, but I really cannot wait.
I started packing in Austin a long time ago — the stuff that could easily be packed, spare closets, books, stuff off the walls, various storage — so I’ve been living amid boxes and clutter for weeks. And in NYC, bless his heart, my husband doesn’t even seem to notice clutter. Every flat surface gets covered with STUFF, and I don’t like that. It makes me feel suffocated and panicky. And now, in preparation for heading upstate to the house today, he has been gathering all sorts of stuff to take up there (“Honey, do you have coconut milk? Honey, do you have an extremely large bowl? Honey, let’s go to Chinatown to get a gigantic wok for the gigantic burner! Honey, maybe I should bring fish sauce/olive oil/shrimp paste/medicines/bulk spices/glass canisters/a meditation pillow/etc etc etc”) and it’s all sitting on the countertops and table and coffee table and floor. All this individual stuff. And there’s my suitcase and toiletry bag and backpack and purse, and he wants to bring the kaffir lime tree and some cuttings of Thai basil, and how will it all fit into his extremely messy car, anyway?
I just kind of feel like screaming. I want peace and order. Harmony and neatness. Absence of clutter. A place for everything, and everything in its place. I want jobs finished, not done to the 95% mark and then abandoned. I want my cozy bed, I miss my wonderful couch, I want my neat kitchen.
And it’s just going to be a while. It is. I have to be patient, and at a time I feel like my patience is on the v-e-r-y thin side. He and I will be in the new house together over the weekend, and he’ll come back into the city Tuesday afternoon…….and then I will be all alone in the house for three glorious days. Three days of quiet. Three days to do some settling-in. I won’t have a car, so I will be completely house-bound, but at this moment that sounds better than anything else could ever sound. Solitude. In my own house, to put things where I want to put them. To make those decisions because they make sense to me.
Then he’ll come back Friday evening, and we’ll spend the next weekend doing more unpacking — then he’ll take me to the airport on Tuesday July 11. So really, the three glorious days next week will be my shot. I can’t wait.
We leave today after he sees his final patient, so 1:15pm. It’s a holiday weekend so we imagine the drive upstate might be crazy. Everything is in the basement, so we’ll need to either move the mattresses upstairs or just unpack the inflatable mattress and get the bedding and shower curtain and towels, which I (very smartly, I might add) packed in a giant black trash bag so they would be easily spotted and grabbed, like a kit. A “here you go, your first night” kit. And my Chemex coffee pot and filters are in another bag ready to go, along with coffee and a bean grinder.
For more than 4.5 years I’ve lived betwixt and between, and like a divorced kid whatever I needed was at the other house. Half of the month I’d have whatever I could carry, and stuff I wanted was always back in Austin. I just can’t wait to be settled. To be in the position where “uprooted” means I’ve driven into the city for a few days, that’s all — and I’ll be driving, so I can take whatever I want in my car and not have to worry about airline restrictions.
Wah wah wah. Poor me. I’m tired, y’all. Just like your immune system keeps working while you’re under stress and then crashes when the stress ends, and just like I had all the energy and focus I needed for the long trip from Austin to NYC and then crashed when I got here, I think my stamina for the betwixt-and-between is crashing now that it’s almost over.
It’s almost over. It’s almost over. Tonight I will sleep in my own home. My name is on the deed, I can’t be asked to leave. I don’t have a landlord who tells me what I can and can’t do. It’s my home. Tonight. Hallelujah.
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It was hard not to think of the collection of events last Friday as a sign, or an omen, especially as they kept accumulating. Friday was to be a long day: I had to finish cleaning my old place, spend time with Katie and family, and then pick up Marc at 11:45 pm at the Austin airport and we were going to start driving. Our planned stop would’ve been around 3:30am, and that after a full day of working for both of us.
But as I was leaving Katie’s house to head to my old place, to get the day underway, an old man in a pick-up truck crashed into my car. He came from behind, turning into me, so he hit the back and scraped all along the passenger side until he sheared off my passenger mirror and severely crumpled the front passenger door and front fender. When he jumped out of the car, his first words were that he’d just been in a wreck a week or two earlier. (“Not my problem!” I yelled at him. “I am driving to NY tonight!” He shrugged in an old hippie way and said, “Boy, that’s tough.” I wanted him to be more upset about it.)
My thought was that I had to find a way to get the mirror replaced within just a couple of hours, which seemed unlikely — and I also had a LOT to get done, so the odds I could get it done immediately and get my work done were impossible. At the car repair place my insurance company sent me to, I was told the car wasn’t driveable for that long a distance, because the way the bumper was crumpled, if I were to hit a pothole the tire could be shredded.
Time for a very quick Plan B: Marc and I would drive the truck together and I’d just fly back to get the car when it was fixed in a couple of weeks. I got a rental car, and I’d just turn it in at the airport when I picked him up at 11:45, OK.
Plan C: His flight was coming from Boston and it couldn’t get out of Boston to get to NYC….so he changed flights and grabbed a plane to Dallas. OK, but I had this rental car to drop off at the Austin airport, so I took it to the airport and then took a cab back to my place, and then I’d just drive to Dallas and pick him up . . . in a 16′ Penske truck, and they don’t like big panel trucks at airports and DFW is a nightmare in the best of circumstances, but we’d figure it out. As I was driving toward Dallas, the sky was a constant electrical storm, frightening to me in a deep, deep way; I kept telling myself to think about it like the Northern Lights in an attempt to calm myself a little but that didn’t help. I kept feeling like I was about to lose my nerve for driving the giant truck filled with stuff, like it was taking all my focus and nerve and courage and everything else to keep pressing on the accelerator. And then, just as I was in Fort Worth, I noticed that his flight had been diverted to Oklahoma City. Was I going to have to keep driving on, now, to OKC? I was completely exhausted in every possible way. It was 1am-ish, and OKC was a good 3.5 hours away. Plan D?
I pulled the truck over and texted Marc that I knew his flight was diverted, and saw that he was about to land so I just parked and waited to hear from him. This is how dire he knew the situation was: he said, “Just get a hotel room somewhere it doesn’t matter how much it costs, don’t even worry about how much it costs.” (!!! You’d have to know him to appreciate that.) And I was so exhausted I didn’t even argue with him. I found a nearby nice hotel, parked the truck, and fell into bed at 1:45, not knowing how the rest would unfold. The airline offered him a hotel room for the night and a flight to Dallas the next day, leaving at 12:30, or a bus to Dallas. He and some other passengers organized an Uber. Finally I told him just to take the hotel room, and I’d leave at 6 and pick him up at his hotel. He finally got to his hotel room around 2:30 (families with kids were arranged first), and around 2:45-ish, I finally fell asleep and was woken up constantly by pounding rain and thunder and cracks of lightning.
At 6am, it was still pouring rain and crackling with lightning, and the weather radar showed that it was going to keep doing that until well after noon, but that the band of storms was basically hovering over the Dallas Fort Worth area. So I took a very hot shower, brushed my teeth, and ran to the truck. We had to be at the new house Monday morning, there was nothing else to do. It was Saturday morning and we had 1800 miles to drive (though by the time it was all done, I drove Austin to OKC [382mi], OKC to Knoxville TN [856mi], Knoxville to Newark airport [696 mi], Newark to Newburgh [72mi], and finally Newburgh to the house [66mi], for a total of 2,072 miles in 47 hours. I slept 3 hours in Fort Worth, 3 hours in Knoxville, and 3 hours in Newburgh).
So, Plan D: I would just drive on to OKC and hope for the very best. It was often raining so hard I couldn’t see the front end of my own truck. And lightning was flashing all around. My shoulders were up by my ears the whole time. I got gas before I left, and thought it would be an hour in the rain. The rain was so intense, and had been so intense, that there were giant lakes on the highway; in fact, coming in the other direction there was so much water standing on the highway near the Trinity River that police were escorting cars and trucks through, one at a time, backing up traffic for miles. I kept losing my nerve, over and over, and I realized constantly that I was holding my breath and squeezing my shoulders up by my ears but there was nothing to do but keep going. That’s all there was to do. And I know how to do that. I know how to keep going when it’s all there is to do. I know how to make it through, half a minute at a time.
Finally, 2.5 hours after I left Fort Worth, the rain stopped and the sky was blue. I felt like I’d aged 10 years within that last 24 hours. An hour later I pulled into the parking lot where Marc was staying and he practically raced toward me and threw his arms around me. He just kept hugging me and telling me how sorry he was about how it all had gone, but not to worry, he would drive. That actually worried me a LOT, because he doesn’t have the experience I have doing this kind of thing. I’ve moved so many times and driven these trucks so many times, and moved across the country, and he just hasn’t had that kind of life. Plus, he has a hard time multitasking and driving is multitasking, for him. So I drove us another tank of gas, and then he took over, and he was absolutely wonderful, it turned out. He drove most of the day on Saturday, the longest drive of our trip.
We never stopped to eat, only to fill up the truck with gas. We had food in the truck (Marc brought his wonderful sandwiches he makes when we go on vacation), and since we’d planned to have my car to hold a bunch of stuff, a lot of it was crammed into the cab with us. We were crowded, exhausted, stressed out, and under the gun — but we had such a good time together. Our taste in music couldn’t be more different, so listening to music was tough (and the truck was noisy), but we tried. And much of the drive was through beautiful country. Truck traffic was heavy across Arkansas, of course, but driving across the south was beautiful, with gorgeous weather.
could be anywhere really
somewhere in Tennessee east of Nashville
I haven’t been in the south in a VERY long time and I had forgotten/was dumbstruck by the extent to which it’s a hardcore Christian and gun culture. Vans from churches everywhere, billboards everywhere (“Spare the rod and destroy your children!”), crosses everywhere, billboards about guns (“GUNRUNNERS” with giant pictures of AK47s), such a bizarre world. Living in Austin and NYC, I had forgotten what that world is like, what a backwards and horrible reality it is. I know people who are Christians and they aren’t that kind of Christian.
Marc has the most amazing mind for music — he can sing one song while another is playing (I can’t do that!) and he can just summon a lyric from the middle of a song. My mind for music is organized contextually, usually associated with a specific memory or emotion, but he can pull up anything anytime for any reason. So as we approached Nashville, he asked me to play Nashville Cats by The Lovin’ Spoonful — which he then sang, and he did the most hilarious southern accent (“Mountain Dew-ew!”) it had me rolling around in my seat.
Whenever we saw a highway sign for a city or place that had a song, he would ask me to find it so we could listen. “Honey, get ’24 Hours from Tulsa’ by Gene Pitney!” I really had such a good time on the trip with him.
The scariest part of the drive (other than the first day) was the NJ part. Marc had parked his car in long-term parking at the Newark airport, and we had to get there and drop him off so he could get his car and follow the truck to the house. They don’t like trucks anywhere near airports, so when we pulled up outside the long-term parking area, a security guard came running over and hurried us out — which meant suddenly Marc was out of the truck and suddenly I just had to leave the airport. If you’ve driven around Newark airport, you might have a sense of this. Cloverleafs. Lots of highways and turnpikes feeding in/out. Toll booths (and me with no EZPass of course) funneling lanes in and then fanning out dramatically, and me needing to be in a lane far away from the sole cash lane, in a big truck. And then the trip to Newburgh took me up 17 (if you are from here you know what that means, the horror)…..right past where Will and I lived together so that was a hard punch square in my heart.
But as I crossed the NJ/NY border, in the deep blue dark, Google Maps said, “Welcome to New York” and I broke down crying. It had done the same thing as we crossed the Mississippi River into Tennessee, but at no other state crossings. I don’t know why it did some and not others, but that “Welcome to New York” sure made me cry. Back home.
When I got to the hotel in Newburgh Marc hadn’t arrived yet so I went in to check us into the hotel, and when I came out, Marc was running toward me with agony all over his face. He was almost crying. He threw his arms around me and said he’d been so terrified, he kept expecting to see the truck mangled on the side of the road. He just kept hugging me and patting me.
So we were scheduled to meet the guys who’d unload the truck at 8:30, and I’d been dreading that so much. My own childhood scars always make me fear being told I’m wrong, bad, too much, and I expected the movers to say something like that about the amount of stuff in the truck. Plus, we were meeting the people we bought the house from, and both Marc and I have such severe social anxiety that we were dreading that. But of course it all went perfectly and smoothly, and while it took 3+ hours to load the truck, the three young men unloaded it all into the basement in 45 minutes. No one said a word about it being too much. OF COURSE.
And then the best news, the previous owners are moving out on Friday, so we can drive up Friday after Marc finishes work and start the process of bringing everything up from the basement.
I named our home Heaventree. My favorite passage in English is from Ulysses: “the heaventree of stars hung with humid nightblue fruit.” That describes the night sky, of course, but on its own it seems to describe our new home in the forest and mountains.
I am so glad that trip is behind us. It was so so hard. It required all my mental, emotional, and physical strength. It was more fun doing it with Marc than I imagined it would be. I still have to fly back to Austin and make the trip again, by myself this time, but that’s in a couple of weeks. For now, no driving.
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Oh gosh. How many times can I say goodbye to Texas. This is the third and, I hope, last time I say farewell to Texas. (“I wish I could quit you.”) I left first in 1987 when I was 28, when Jerry and I and our three kids moved to Connecticut; second, when I finished graduate school in 2003 and moved to Rochester, with Will; and this time, all alone, as I am en route to Big Indian, NY, 58 years old, thirty years after my first leaving. This will be the 82nd move of my life (they say the 82nd time’s the charm! I swear!), although honestly it could be more; I counted conservatively, because lots of those years are a blur and I just counted “homeless” as one move. None of the other leavings felt so heavy, so filled with something worth noting. I stupidly skipped away from New Britain, CT, without realizing that I’d meant something to people; away from Fredericksburg, VA, with my eyes only on the next place; away from Huntsville, AL, with regrets for leaving deep friends and losing my much-needed full scholarship, but with hope for my education; away from Fayetteville, AR, with anticipation of graduate school and a PhD; away from Rochester with excitement of a new career in publishing; away from NYC with the shattering of my whole life. So they were various degrees of easy or hard, but they didn’t feel so momentous and noteworthy and heavy as my leavings from Texas. I realized I have such a literal idea that my bones are made of Texas dirt, as if I think they are just compressed caliche, shaped into bone shapes. Old timey Texans can understand that. When I die, I want some portion of my ashes to be mixed back into the caliche. Sprinkled over bluebonnets. Drifted over a Texas river.
Thank you, everyone I met in Austin. Thank you for seeing me through. Thank you for picking me up and holding me while I learned a whole new way of being. Thank you for your openness to meeting this new person who was so shattered, to sticking it out with me until I wasn’t. Thank you for the friendship, the happy hours, the evenings in your homes, the times spent laughing in restaurants. Thank you for holding my hand when I needed it. Thank you for all the ways you let me know that you saw me, that you were here for me. Thank you for trying to right my vision. Thank you for offering me hope and your friendship.
Thank you, dear Trey, for everything. I will always remember all you did for me, always and forever. Always. Forever. Your quiet strength and care. Always.
I just can’t name people individually because it will be too hard and I’ll cry too much—but I hope you recognize yourself in these words:
Thank you, friends who passed through my life for a season. You gave me so much and I will remember you with happiness, even if our friendship had its time and moved on.
Thank you, true friends who saw me through all my ups and downs. Who listened to me. Who cared for me. Who made time for me. Who allowed me into your lives and shared yourselves with me, what a gift you have been. Who held my hand when my hand needed to be held. Who sat hard next to me when I was in trouble. Who laughed with me when I wasn’t. Who waited with me through the anxiety of the births of Oliver and Lucy, and shared and celebrated that tremendous relief and joy — and the simpler joy of Ilan’s birth. Who helped me even when perhaps you didn’t understand why I was wrecked by something, like the frightening reappearance of my brother. I’m thinking of you individually as I write these words, seeing your faces, feeling your hands, your arms around me, hearing your laughs and seeing your beautiful smiles. Thank you John Fivecoats for being the very first friend in Austin who gave me hope and deep kindness, and thank you Karan Shirk for being my last-made but not least important friend — my sister. Thank you all for the beautiful gift of yourselves.
Thank you, friends who were in various book clubs, poetry groups, cheese groups, and Meetup groups with me. You delighted me so much in our shared pleasures, and I truly hope you know just what you gave me in those contexts. I think of every meeting with a glad and light heart, and I see your faces with the joy of remembrance.
Thank you, dear sisters I met in the resistance; it was my tremendous pleasure to fight alongside you. You gave me hope, and that was the most precious thing. I will remember you with a tremendous jolt of strength, and we will keep fighting until we win. I will support your hard fight from NY, and I will share my fight with you.
Thank you, Nancy, for . . . your quirt. I can’t say more because I can’t even see the screen, my eyes are too filled with tears.
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People outside Texas who don’t know about Austin often have the worst idea about us — our politics, our nightmare politicians, just so horrible. But I know you. I will carry every single one of you in my heart. I will talk about you, tell people who Texans really are, Texans with big generous hearts and good values, Texans who care about each other, watch out for each other, take in strays . . . and I was certainly a stray. You took me in, and forever, now, you will be part of my life and the stories I have to tell.
So I pull away from the curb tonight to drive off to my next adventure, away from you geographically but not away from you in my heart. You meant so much to me, more than you probably know, and will remain ever with me (for after all, you know how I do go on and on about things, and people and places from my life). You were my home, my life raft, my joy, my pleasure, my friends. If we are friends still, friends we shall be no matter where I roam. You have a standing invitation to stay with me at the Big Indian Palace of the Queen of the Pillbugs. We’ll sit on my back deck. We’ll drink coffee, wine, beer. We’ll make some delicious food, we’ll hike or snowshoe or toodle around the Catskills. Mi casa will always be su casa.
I’ll let this picture stand as my last picture in Texas — the last one that isn’t with tears in my eyes, the last one that’s just me and not me with my extraordinary grandkids, or me with any one of you exceptional people. I hope you remember me smiling at you. That’s what I’ll carry with me on the long trip, and when I find myself alone in the Big Indian Wilderness; I’ll carry your beautiful smiles, looking at me. xoxoxoxoxox
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The first time I left Texas for New York was April 2003. I had a job in Rochester, New York, with my new PhD. I’d fly back to defend my dissertation, a necessary formality, but I was finished. Graduate school was behind me, and a professional job waited for me in a place I’d never imagined. My first real professional job. I was 44 at the time, Katie was in college at the University of Texas, Marnie was at Smith College, and Will was living with his dad. I left on a really beautiful spring morning, very early, and how filled I was with hope and excitement. I had done this very hard thing, earned a doctorate, unfathomable, and everything waited for me. I’d made a CD full of songs I really loved, and as I headed up IH-35, and at the exact moment I drove past the apartment complex where my beloved Katie lived, Billy Joel’s song “New York State of Mind” came on. I started laugh-sobbing.
I remember such intense feelings, in two irreconcilable directions, one pulling me to stop, to stay, and the other urging me forward: almost unbearable pain at driving away and leaving my Katie behind, there in her little apartment and without me in town, and almost unbearable joy. NEW YORK. Never mind that it was Rochester; little old me, from where I was from, I had a PhD and I was moving to New York.
I think I pulled my cheek muscles on that long road trip from grinning. My favorite Spice Girls song came up and I started laughing almost hysterically. I think I called one of the girls, laughing like a maniac. I remember laughing out loud again and again, just out of the audacity of my life. My car had a bumper sticker “Bush is a Punk-Ass Chump” which I didn’t really think about, until I crossed into Ohio and more than once was threatened by a scary guy in a pick-up with a gun rack, trying to run me off the road, and red-faced screaming as he shook his fist at me. I should’ve thought about it, since upon crossing into that state the highways were lined with flags, and they hung on every overpass. (What? I wondered. This is the north, they aren’t ignorant here!)
Flash forward 14 years, and here I am about to make almost the same trip, from Austin to Big Indian instead of Rochester. This time, I also have an apartment on the Upper West Side, the most unimaginable thing ever ever ever. This time, I’m not leaving my beloved Katie alone in a small apartment; I’m leaving her behind with her husband and two precious children in their own sweet home. She is a wonderful, solid, loving mama and wife. This time, she heads a family. This time, when I listen to “New York State of Mind,” I have intimate knowledge of the things he references — the Hudson River Line, the NYT, the Daily News, Chinatown where Marc buys good food for us and where we eat at Nha Trang II (not I, II is better), Riverside, my beloved, beloved Riverside. It’s not just a song anymore. This time, a whole new ‘everything’ waits for me, urging me forward.
And so my mind turns toward the soundtrack for my upcoming road trip. Of course Spice Girls will be on it, and Donna Summer, and Light & Day, and some John Prine and some Nina Simone, and KC & the Sunshine Band OF COURSE, and local goodies like Jerry Jeff Walker and Bob Schneider, but I think the song I’ll play as I’m pulling the truck away from the house will be an old Texas song, since I’ve been busy touching the old version of Texas I used to know, that used to exist. The old Texas dirt that my very bones are made of. The old Texas swing that pushes my blood along through my veins. I think I’ll pull out of town to Bob Wills & the Texas Playboys singing “Deep in the Heart of Texas.” It will be after midnight, so I will indeed see the big, bright stars in the sky, deep in the heart of Texas.
That high wailed a-ha! that he does is SO FAMILIAR. It’s as familiar as the grim old hymns we sang at the Loving Highway Church of Christ. Might need some Patsy Cline too, now that I think about it. And a whole bunch of bluegrass. And some yodeling, just for fun. It’s a 27+ hour drive, after all, so I can load up as many of the songs that have played on the soundtrack of my years as my phone will hold.
Now and then I want to get a map and just draw a line of my 82 moves, and see what it looks like, a God’s eye view of me moving around on the face of the earth. Sometimes when I’m driving on a long road trip, I kind of imagine that, I imagine God watching me toodling along on the face of his earth (so funny for me to be talking this way, I don’t even really believe it but still I kind of do), knowing that I feel grateful and happy.
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