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.