I started this post almost 3 weeks ago. Proof positive is that my original starting sentence was “I look out my window, and there are mounds of snow lining every street. I walk out my front door, and onto an inch-thick sheet of ice, and through a complex obstacle course of ruts and banks everywhere I go.” Since then, I moved out of our empty apartment and in with a friend, and a few warm days melted most of the snow and ice. Over 20 years of experience says that Boston will have more snow before spring arrives, but I won’t be there for it. I won’t miss the shoveling, wrenching my shoulder slipping on the ice, or getting $100 tickets for parking on the wrong side of the street during a snow emergency.
Channel 13 says that we’re now over Albany. We took off from Logan, and I was rewarded by a view of the skyline with Venus shining overhead, bright in a dark blue sky. We flew past the Zakim Bridge, and I could see the Citgo sign reflecting off the Charles. I first arrived in Boston in 1979, when my dad brought our family up from Cleveland while he was on sabbatical. I attended kindergarten and first grade in the same year – one in the morning, and the other in the afternoon. We moved back to Cleveland, but my mom had started going to school to get her Masters degree from the New England Conservatory of Music, and spent the next 4 years commuting back and forth as she finished the degree and then became staff and started a private practice. I returned to Boston in 1984 to live with my mom, and my dad started being the one to commute, never being able to find a faculty position of his own. In 1989, my mom and I moved back to Cleveland just as my senior year had started, due to her rapid decline in health. I moved back a year later for college, and at the end of my first year I went to work rather than go into debt putting myself through school. I left for DC in 1995 and remained there 3 years before moving back again in 1998, bouncing back as if Boston was the bridge that I’d tied my bungee to. Just over 10 years later, I’m now flying over Toronto towards our new home on the west coast, stretching that cord farther than it has ever been. Will it snap back after a few years, returning us to Boston again? Or will it break as we find that we like California too much? Neither of us knows, but we look forward to finding out.
As the man who sails around his soul, I have learned to navigate the waters of life. My awakening during the last several years has increased my awareness such that I can sail farther out from sight of familiar lands. Technology has made communication trivial, bringing everyone within easy reach. It wasn’t that long ago that to move out west meant packing the family into a wagon and finding a caravan – just 164 years. Today, we can pack our stuff into a truck and fly out to meet it. Keeping tabs with anyone meant writing letters and waiting weeks for a reply. Today, we can have an up-to-the-minute record of what everyone we do and don’t know are up to. However, all of the conveniences of the 21st century don’t take away the uncertainty and complexity of sailing uncharted waters. Sometimes you have control over where you go, being able to use the winds and currents to your advantage, and sometimes you are overtaken by a storm, and forced where it takes you.
Like Christopher Columbus, we set our sights on the west, risking the unknown for the excitement of exploration and untold riches. We steered ourselves into storms and dragons, testing our ingenuity and determination. Nothing in this move has gone according to plan. Cats were turned away at the airport for improper paperwork, our truck arrived 4 days late, erroneous checks needed replacing, a beloved scarf was stolen, a vehicle has yet to be sold, employment is uncertain, rental records were lost, costs were higher than expected, we lived on separate coasts for 3 weeks, and despite months of culling we still moved too much stuff.
And yet now, over Lake Michigan, I can finally relax. What’s done is done, and in a few hours my wife and I will be reunited, with a half hour of Valentines Day left to spare. Whatever difficulties there are left to face, we can do so together, and that will make all the difference.
The last several weeks have been odd in a number of ways, almost a dream. While I’ve seen our new home, it was devoid of our stuff – the truck arrived the day after I returned to Boston. Since then, goat has been there, surrounded by boxes, while I have been living out of two suitcases. My first week was spent in our empty apartment, sleeping on a sagging air mattress, and surrounded by random stuff that hadn’t made it onto the truck. It was a new experience for me, methodically cleaning, packing, and throwing stuff out, slowly emptying the home that I’d found and we’d shared of any trace of our existence. It was much more depressing than I would have expected. As the life and character drained out of the apartment, as things got boxed up or thrown out, I felt the life draining out of me as well. In all my previous moves, the place that I’d moved out of had other people’s stuff in it, but this time, I was erasing a picture with me in the center of it, leaving just me, and then finally, I left too. It was lonely.
The last two weeks were a little better, when I moved into heliopsis‘ attic. A bed, even though it had just a thin foam mattress, made a huge difference. So too did having company and a furnished home that was lived-in. It was still lonely, but without the cold echoes that I’d lived with for a week. I got a chance to see people and say goodbye. Folks at work took me out for drinks on Thursday, and afterwards I had a very surprise dinner with so many unexpected faces wishing me well and letting us know that the fires of our tribe will keep burning for us until we come back. I saw music with an old friend, and a new one. Last night I had a final chance to say goodbye in style, attending a recurring party that I’ve been to for many of the last 15 years, eating fine chocolate and playing Mars Attacks one last time.
While we still have too much stuff, we did get rid of a lot. Many clothes went to good will, books went to a friend or to the library, furniture went to people moving in as we were moving out. Papers were recycled, and china was given away. One sad moment for me was selling my car that I’d bought new in late 1995, and my first motorcycle, taking the plates off and sending them back to the insurance company. Letting them go was made easier by selling them to friends, knowing that they would be in good hands.
After flying over America for 6 hours, cutting the time of the settlers down from 6 months, we finally approached the Bay Area from the north. We flew over the San Rafael bridge, past Richmond and Berkeley. We flew right over Treasure and Yerba Buena Islands and the Bay Bridge. I could see downtown Oakland, Lake Merritt, and even down Fruitvale Avenue as we flew past Alameda. I was overjoyed to see my love in the airport, and to go, finally, to our new home.
One of the last things that I took down was my collection of fortune cookie fortunes. I had put many of them in the kitchen cabinets before my housewarming as conversation pieces, and there they remained. I hadn’t realized quite how many I’ve collected over the years, but one night I took them down and read over them, gleaning what wisdom I could from them;
In particular, one of them stood out;