Where is Here?

12 09 2016

Back in the mid 90’s, my ex-fiancé and I lived in a little bungalow in the flats of Berkeley. It was a sweet little two bedroom one and a quarter bath craftsman walking distance to North Berkeley shops and restaurants. Aside from it being smack dab in the fog belt, I enjoyed the space.

The house was owned by one of Daniel’s co-workers, a fellow stock trader, who had bought the house with his then girlfriend, Polly, back when they were students at Cal. You could tell a lot about Polly just by stepping into the house. There wasn’t a wall that hadn’t been stenciled. There were flowers, suns, vines on every vertical surface, and you could tell that they were done with a lot of passion, if not a lot of skill. I don’t remember the husband’s name, but what I do remember is that Polly seemed to be an ethereal type. She was tall and thin, had strawberry blonde hair and unremarkable blue eyes. She was the type of woman to wear overalls and big sun hat. They had moved out of the house because her husband had been riding the ranks at Montgomery Securities, and they were able to afford a house with acreage on a hilltop in Ross. I spoke with Polly once (she came for a routine inspection of the Berkeley house — and seemed particularly concerned about the condition of her stenciling) about how she spent her days. She said she spent them walking the hillside with her dogs and working on various art projects. I was so envious of her. She could live exactly how she wanted, and she had a partner who knew and understood her and was able to provide for the both of them so that it seemed Polly never had to worry about making a contribution to the marriage other than her own bliss. Part of me aspired to be Polly one day, but I was still locked into my ambition of becoming a successful writer and college professor.

Yesterday marked one year since we started living here on Love Creek. This past year, while both the kids were still in school in Palo Alto, I had nothing but time. Once construction projects were finished, I spun my wheels. Good days once in a while when I would put in many hours working on a house project, but most days I would spend hiding behind my computer screen or running errands just to get away from what we had worked so hard to get to.

I even spent most of the summer happy to be away. On the road trip to and from seeing my dad in Connecticut, I would look at places as various as Tampa, Santa Fe, even Waco as places that maybe we could run away to — buy a cheaper “finished” house and just get back to living again (everybody’s perpetual Portland escape fantasy). Then we went to Hawaii and I became convinced we should try to move there. Danae was exhausted by my suggestions, but never once silenced me in my process of talking things out.

Once we returned home from summer travel, I was rested enough and had enough distance perspective to make some changes and get going again on the things that need to be finished. Our first night home, I asked Danae to go out to the hot tub with me. It had been almost ten days since we’d logged any hot tub time. We sat with a glass of wine looking up at the redwoods, steam ascending from the swirling hot water around us. Holy shit, this was home and suddenly I was in love again. Since then I have not looked outward for the next “here”. We are here, and I am loving it.

We have so much to project our dreams onto, and I have learned that it just takes time, lots of time, to bring those dreams to fruition. Our neighbors (and now friends) have been at their house since 2001. They own more than 100 acres? 200? (I can’t keep track of who owns what around here — I only know we are the puny parcel at 5.2 acres) and have spent their time and money getting systems into place and developing the land into a wonderful retreat center. Only now are they beginning the process of updating the main house for themselves. It just takes time. A lot of money and time.

I had really hoped and imagined that by now we would be living a happily ever after with all projects completed and just maintenance on our plate. I couldn’t have been more wrong in the time projection. We are coming up on rainy season again (October 10th is the date to have projects buttoned up) and so the hilltop will have to wait. The creekside dreams will have to wait. We can just enjoy what is and leave the rest to unfold at a later time.

When I think about the difference between my life here and my life before here, my life here is by far more interesting. My drive to and from anywhere might present me with turkeys, quail, deer or the occasional fox. I drive in the trees, along the ocean, the air I breathe always smells like camping. My kids are in love with our neighbors and, just yesterday, puppy sat for them so that they could go out and see a play. We’ve been to Noel and Jody’s twice for dinner now and have had an amazing time both visits. It is definitely our turn to return the favor, but we have just come to learn that Noel’s specialty is cooking Indian food, so now we have another invitation on our plates to enjoy Noel and Jody’s hospitality (and to help empty Noel’s wine cellar). We are determined, however, to have our neighbors over and to show them all the changes we’ve made to what was once a weird, rustic DIY mountain cabin, but is now a comfortable fairly contemporary home.

I have a freedom here. I think the city has fallen away from me. The noise, the crowds, the pollution, the unbridled ambition and the voices — not necessarily those of others, but rather the ones inside my head that used to tell me that who I was and what I was doing wasn’t enough. This life is no longer for others, there is nothing to prove here for status, there is just being. The freedom is from the pressure I felt to be something I am not. And not that anyone was actively putting that pressure on me, but I lived my life over the hill in a constant state of comparison, something I no longer want or feel.

Monday, Wednesday and Friday I spend working on things at home. House projects, cleaning, grocery shopping, Faerie Goatmother. Tuesdays and Thursdays are for me. I go for a four mile walk at Rio Del Mar, then eat my lunch on the beach before picking Gwen up from school. If I enjoy my walk, and if I get my feet in the sand while I eat, it has been a successful day. I feel in balance and have started to feel creative and open again for the first time in years. I realize that my gifts reside in my ability to synthesize information whether writing poetry, coming up with systems and solutions on the property, or being able to listen and be a good friend. Never mind the demands of parenting a teenage girl or a tweening boy. So much listening, patience and interpretation are necessary in order to be truly present for them. These are things that I cannot do well when my mind is cluttered and overwhelmed.

Last week I had to make two deliveries up to San Francisco. This took me out of my routine, but that was fine. What wasn’t fine was the traffic, the ego driving, the almost getting into four accidents within the 30 minutes between highway 92 and getting off the freeway in San Francisco. I was so flustered. I used to adore deliveries to the City — a stop in at the Ferry Building for lunch, a little shopping on the Haight, dropping by old haunts — but now I couldn’t wait to get home. I was so flustered, I made the second delivery to the wrong address, causing my customer great stress. I couldn’t get the F back to the mountains fast enough.

Here my mind has time to wander and I have enough silence. I have dreams to grow into, but one decades old dream that I think I have finally realized: minus the stenciling — I have achieved a life like Polly’s. And while having a partner that supports and takes care of a sensitive, creative soul is wonderful, getting rid of those judgmental voices in my head has been even better.

I get it now. Polly loved the stencil work in her home, no matter what anyone else thought of it. She had a freedom about her. And, while I’ll leave the overalls back in the 90’s, it might not be such a coincidence that you can find me any Tuesday or Thursday, toes in the sand, poem ideas running through my head, which is covered in a big-brimmed sunhat.

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