There are actually an awful lot of people in California that I'm going to miss this year, but if I start listing them all, I will get terribly maudlin and pathetic and weepy, and since I'm writing this in the campus computer lab, that doesn't seem like such a good idea.
Partial Eclipse, with CatThree days a week, I rise
before light wakes the mountains;
ride the bus with chai churning
in my stomach, tired eyes,
loose muscles. A stranger
walks a yippy white dog.
He asks this morning, "Did you
see the eclipse?" I take two steps
back with him and see the moon
pale and white and wondrous,
partially obscured. "That's something,
ain't it?" "Yes." He smiles
and walks away. The moon
fills me, until fur brushes
my bare leg. A stranger cat,
white, eyes blue like his,
purrs impatiently until I
take it in my arms, bury
my face in that impossible
warm softness. I am unusually
inclined to look for omens
these days. My heart works
harder in this thin air --
I get so tired. But the cats
were never so friendly
in Chicago, Philly, Oakland;
the moon shines bright,
though partially obscured.
Y'know, I love being in a new place, especially a new city. It's funny -- I never thought of myself as a city girl. I tend to live quietly a lot of the time, and the things I do aren't particularly big city things. But I really appreciate having lots of options for my activities, and I love the fact that in a decent big city, you can probably find lots of people who like doing the kind of things you do -- in fact, they've probably organized a couple of clubs around it. I like the different characters of the cities too...and the fact that it's going to vary based on who you are. My Philly is not David's Philly. My Chicago is not Lisette's Chicago. (In fact, my Chicago is mostly Hyde Park).
Learning a city; finding the best cafes (I still miss that little one in Seattle, where Alex and I used to go early mornings at Clarion -- they had good orange juice and muffins, and it was so peaceful there), good places to find cheap clothes (Karen and I wandering through the vintage/used clothes in the Rockridge area, finding the perfect pieces for each other, and persuading each other to push the budget a little, because we really can't give up that fabulous silk skirt or fuzzy sweater) or books (Powell's in Hyde Park, which was open to eleven p.m. and didn't mind if you sat down in the basement for hours, reading science fiction on the concrete, when you were lonely, new to college, far from everyone and everything familiar), tasting new food at new restaurants (eating Indian food in Edinburgh -- an odd disjunction, talking music and travel and home with Freddy, a fiddler I'd just met a few days before)....
I started wanting to be rooted, when I was in California. I started thinking, "Gods, I love the Bay Area. I love living in Oakland. Maybe this is where I want to settle down."
But I'm not ready to settle yet. Someday. So far, the Bay Area definitely seems the place most likely to be a permanent home. But I need to spend more time in London. I barely saw Edinburgh. I've never lived in New York, or Boston, or Minneapolis/St. Paul, or L.A. There are so many foreign countries -- wouldn't it be amazing spending six months in Melbourne? And Salt Lake -- well, it wouldn't have made it onto my top ten list before, but there are the mountains, and a different culture -- in some ways far more foreign than I can find in most major U.S. cities (all of the Callihoo! members are Mormons or ex-Mormons). People here are amazingly friendly (I've actually heard of bus drivers driving *off their routes* to help someone out), and really seem sincere about it, even though they clearly think I'm a little weird. ("She's not from around here, is she?" "Nope.")
(Quick digression, because I told this story to somebody and they insisted I put it in the journal, and it illustrates the foreignness. I was leaving the grocery store, and had a cart with some food in it. Probably a bunch of ramen to restock, a pile of salad stuff, maybe juice. A little old lady walks by, stops, and looks in my cart.
She says: "Now, that doesn't look very healthy. Your
children can't eat that."
I say, bewildered: "I don't have children."
And she just looks at me a minute, and then says: "Why don't you have children??"
I had no idea what to say. I think I apologized for not having children. Or something. Serious cognitive dissonance. I guess everyone has children around here...)
The point of all this is that I think I was stagnating a bit in Oakland. Once I finished my degree, except for starting Clean Sheets, I mostly flailed. Tried various things, didn't quite know what I wanted to do, was often vaguely distressed but didn't know why...it was very comfortable living there, surrounded by friends, but comfort wasn't satisfying me. My writing started doing well again -- but mostly when I was in Salt Lake. The isolation? The newness? The mountains? Who knows...
Teaching has been marvelous this summer. I've gotten really excited about it, and despite having to get up at five, often on very little sleep, I've never wanted to cancel class. Contrast that with the many many mornings when I dragged myself out of bed at seven, trying to convince myself that I really did need the money from that temp job, and that a headache was insufficient reason for calling in sick (sometimes I convinced myself; sometimes I didn't).
I'm really uncertain about a lot of this -- I'd probably go so far as to say that I'm actually scared. Living alone -- meep! And almost everyone is so far away...
But maybe living is like writing: you do your best work when you're terrified.
It's a theory, anyway.