Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Glad and Sorry: A Goodbye to Utah.

Thank you kindly

For thinking of me.
If I'm not smiling
I'm just thinking.
Glad and sorry
Happy or sad
When all is done and spoken
You're up or I'm down
Can you show me a dream?
Can you show me one that's better than mine?
Can you stand it in the cold light of day?
Neither can I.

"Glad and Sorry", Faces

*   *   *
Sometimes you hate a place so very much you're blinded to its beauty until the moment you know you don't have to stay there anymore.  Sometimes it takes that kind of release to unleash it.  The beauty.  And the place.  
Sometimes the place is objectively pretty awful on some very basic points.  Sometimes it's just subjectively awful.  But that doesn't change that you found it awful, that you hated it and regretted it and wanted it to disappear and hoped the mountains would become an ocean and the strangers turn into friends and the awful restaurants into amazing, delicious doors of discovery rather than regret after regret after regret.  
But at least when it is unleashed - the place - you start to see the humanity, the interesting imperfections, the familiarity that has crept up on you, warm and unbeknownst.  You start to see the smiles in the faces that once were strangers and no longer are.  You understand the rhythms of the place - the blown-up-colorful skies floating like the mismatched upper-half of a painting above a town that never makes noise and never looks anything but that boring generic-brand-vanilla-ice-cream, at the base of mountains so close it seems absurd you've never been to the top of any of them.  Quiet sunny Sundays of white church shirts and ties followed by weeks riddled with predictable routine: half-day Wednesdays, Boy-Scout-Thursdays at the "wrong" church (you and all the other Papists eating Brats and drinking beer at every function), Fridays that never start or end soon enough with nowhere to go and no one to go with (Henry Wadsworth and his mistress keep you company as you play pool on a bankrupt table that always belonged in someone else's unnecessary-hobby-basement).  Weekends are escapes.  Them in their RVs with their toys and tvs and laser-lightery-shows for the campground...and you in your car with lots of coffee and cranky kids (because they're watching Care Bears for the third time that trip), planning your next escape.  You escape on weekends because Nature is the only escape from the odd mix of boring self-importance and unsophisticated-alternative-leanings in a place where purple-haired-people legitimately think New York's got nothing on their cumin-riddled Calzones.  (New York's probably a little too proud of its food anyway, they blaspheme, as you gag.)  Still, you escape into places so pristine, so hidden from the rest of the world that you feel you're in a special club of people  because you get to see them, because you made the effort to find them, and savor them - outside of Instagram photographs and ideological journalism on the latest reason to hate the president.  And you keep escaping and escaping and escaping, because your house doesn't feel like it's yours...until it won't be anymore, and then suddenly you don't really want to escape anymore.
And so the beauty is unleashed.  You stop hopping from state to state and stop to explore the little canyons and winding roads in your own neighborhood, your little town with no businesses and more parks than it needs.  Tiny cattle farms and home-grown orchards pruned with generational dedication, deceptively neat trees that only tell their tale in late summer days.  Daily mountain walks with wagons and balance bikes and little hands stashing pinecones ("coconuts") in the cup holders, and little feet chasing to see the families of quails that live in the neighbor's yard; these make the quotidian monotony more bearable (and almost allow you to forgive the 2-hour 2-times a week rule at the preschool - almost).  Buckets of cherry-plums, jammy grapes, never ending blackberries on the corner of the street, missionaries waving and smiling as they walk up the 45-degree incline on the street in the snow or heat - you'd never have a conversation with them, but they seem to complete the picture somehow.  Doorbells ringing, little noses smudging against your front windows, wild hair and muddy shoes and kids throwing rocks into the stream - building dams and chasing birds, secret agents amidst the scrub oak, plastic lawn mowers cutting grass (or blowing snow) and someone always stealing sweet peas from your garden.  Chess on the porch with martinis and peonies for miles.  Trampolines and fire pits everywhere, mostly never getting used, unless there's Italian pop and Prosecco involved (at your house anyway). Prime beef and lobster tails for at-home dates that make those Friday nights more bearable, with your one best friend across the table shaking his head and wondering how you ended up there in the first place...but at least you're there together, laughing, warm. Living and in love.
And the resignation only had to last a little while, anyway.  Because - we are men of action! Lies do not become us.  But by then, you knew where you were: the trees, the roads, the seasons.  You were waiting for the neighbor's allium to grow back, concerned that another's concrete meerkat family had fallen over in the heavy snow of winter.  The cows had their calves and you somehow regret you won't get to see that new house's landscape come into its own.  The Norwegian Weeping Spruces are looking good, actually.  Even the pediatrician seems shocked you're leaving, and you in turn are shocked he's shocked (were you friends?) but then, why wouldn't he be?  He loves it there - just like everyone else.  But you.
Glad and Sorry.  It's not the place for you.  But it's bitterbittersweet to leave a place - any place.  And now, especially one with so many memories, moments of growth and realization, and so much life lived there for you.  Snapshot after snapshot.  Clouds and mountains, mountains and clouds, a Great Lake.  Paintings waiting in your head.  It's hard not to be sorry that it didn't work out - unrequited love at its best.  Glad you're leaving.  Glad you can. Sorry you didn't love it, but not sorry you came.  Never sorry for that.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Life These Days.

The Grand Tetons

It feels like life these days is a series of snapshots, moments, that I play back in my mind, looking back and wondering how in the world it is that it goes by so quickly in the long-run, and yet so slowly in the moment.  The rollercoaster of daily chores, the beastlings, the random outings and busy-ness we create for ourselves revolve around routine meals interspersed with playtime and children's shows.  If Matt and I can get in a good conversation, have a laugh, a drink and get in an episode of a fun show, I call the day a success.  This is not the wild adventurous life I imagined for myself, in plain terms.  It is intense in very different ways than I'd thought it would be (everyone chronically underestimates the utter madness and reciprocating joy of parenthood).  But it's wonderful.  Better in so many ways than I ever thought.

Despite this, up until about six months ago, I clung to the absurd tendency to construct my views of what my life should be like based on the idealized life of 26-year-old-me: newly married, adventurous, unfettered and with decent amounts of disposable income to fulfill my dreams and whims (generally interchangeable).  So many of those things are no longer true, sadly in two cases and happily in all the others:
- I'm so glad to no longer be a newlywed despite the happy expectation, promise of that time period in my life.  
- I'm still adventurous despite having very different outlets for that personality trait than I did ten years ago.  
- I am quite fettered - this we know, and we love (though they may drive me crazy half the time).  
- And the disposable income, while not overrated in its ability to add to the quality of life, it is neither here nor there in this rumination, really (except that I will say that it is shockingly expensive to raise three kids).  

Six months ago a bubble burst.  I had to redefine those stubborn, outdated "perfect life" terms as something more realistic based on what I needed, and not necessarily what I wanted.  That didn't sit well with me and I fought it, with frustration, desperation, jealousy, annoyance and denial.  There were so many things I wanted - and why shouldn't I have them?  

- I wanted to travel as much as 26-year-old me.  I can't. Not yet anyway. 
- I wanted to live in a very specific beautiful place that I love - my living, breathing watercolor, as I like to think of it; a place that inspires me daily, despite my husband having little chance of finding a good / fulfilling job in that place, and despite it being a somewhat arbitrary obsession.  I can't.  
- I wanted to be independent, not have to lean on people like family or friends.  I can't.  
I desperately need the support of my family and people I care about, in ways I never knew or admitted before.  And it seems that for ten years I've refused to admit that until that need literally grabbed me and shook me and looked me in the eye and said, "Why are you still pretending you're not desperate to go home? Why are you still pretending you don't know where home is?"

I don't know.  I don't know why I do that.  It makes no sense.  And so this impending manifest destiny leading me home has washed over me like a warm, unstoppable wave.  At first I was dragged, kicking and screaming, until I saw that it was inevitable.  Suddenly, the reality became a positive one; rather than fighting the current, I went with it and actually found I was excited.  Right now, I'm at the crest of the wave, happy but impatient because I am waiting to crash down into a whirlpool of change and upheaval, with only the promise of landing on a distant but familiar shore at the end.  At lease there will be many familiar hands waiting to lift me up when I do, unlike every other time I've ever crashed into a new life.

I am trying to enjoy the view, enjoy the feeling of being suspended in the air, on a beautiful ride.  I'm looking around, trying to absorb what I see and experience and feel from this perspective that will soon be gone.  It feels good to accept this new reality, finally.  There's not much to let go of, practically speaking, here in Utah.  And there is charm and magic in suddenly taking on an adventure I never foresaw wanting to take on.  But it's hard and it's frightening and I oscillate between excitement and being overwhelmed. One day I'll look back on this first voyage of my life as grown-up-me and think how beautiful it was, with all its stops and wanderings, and amazing discoveries (no matter how much I hated or complained about them in the moment).  I'll think of all the interesting things we did, and how lucky we were to do them.  Because one day soon, I'll be in my cozy new house on that new shore, finding new things to be inspired by.  But this time, I won't be on an island.  I'll be surrounded by familiarity and people and that will make all the difference.  Because a life worth living is a life shared with those you love.  It is neither here nor there - it's not any "where."  It is in the moments and memories and happiness suspended between you and the many souls that love you - an invisible tie that doesn't bind.

*  *  *

Here are some impressions of life over the past six months in random order.  It has been busy and beautiful but I'm ready to leave Utah when the time comes!

Antelope Island views

Sparkly little birthday boy.

Impressionistic Bison.

Ogden Valley sunsets never get old.

Needs, not wants.

The world did not end that day.


Hygge Home.

Frozen salt flats.

Snow swimming.

Peachy porch time.

Millions of peaches.  Peaches for me.

Unidentified beautiful sky.

The serendipitous discovery of pop cream / ice corn at the zoo.

Big western sunrises too.


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