I never really came back. The ties that bound me here were neatly unraveled and cast to the four winds before I left. After twenty-five years in the same place--a place, I might add, that I have loved and considered home--I packed up, said my goodbyes, and boarded a plane to destinations unknown with nothing but my camera, computer, some clothes, and a small savings. As I started to find my rhythm again on the road (it takes a couple of months to slide into and it had been a long time) and I was locating those cities, people, and organizations I wanted to be affiliated with, I was pulled back by those unseen forces that defy logic a year later (or thereabouts). I am here, but seemingly a ghost that only a few can see now, holed up in my burrow, awaiting my next departure. Neither here nor there, all dressed up with nowhere to go.
There were reasons to come back. I didn't know them then, but they revealed themselves fairly quickly to me and I have no regrets on the decision to fly back across an ocean to be here. On the contrary, I'm grateful for the tides that pulled me in because I needed to be here for things that were taking shape, unbeknownst to me at the time. Life is funny that way, particularly when a knowing is just under the surface and one's decision doesn't quite have the factual backing to warrant the choice. Truth be told, I've lived a lot of my life that way, but it's been a while since it involved moving and I suppose I've forgotten the feeling of it. Twenty-five years is a long time. In fact, it's longer than the lifetime of my kids, who are the primary reason I stayed here as long as I did.
I've learned so much here. I am a very different woman than I was when I first stumbled into town, not knowing a soul but had been compelled to come during another of these "knowings." I left New York that time, when I knew it was time to leave everything and everyone familiar in order to journey to an, as yet, unknown location. I followed the "signs" and they led me to this place. This place. I miss many of the basic things I almost take for granted here when I leave: access to good, local food (that we can grow ourselves--and most of us do in some capacity), water (and lots of it), a social and global intelligence that even our kids possess. We, here in this valley, lead the country in breaking down archaic structures and systems of control, and yet a monocultural vacuum has been created where all these beautiful, systems-changing successes feel forced into a very constrained channel, or mode, of expression. And like most places in this part of the country, the average citizen, artist, or magician is being priced out. The city gave massive tax breaks to huge corporate entities to build here in the hopes of overcoming a serious housing shortage a few years ago, and build they did--for the thousands of out-of-state students flooding into town to attend school here. The hundreds of new apartments go for upwards of $1,000 a bedroom, so you do the math. A single mom with two kids living on $2,500 a month is, to use an old phrase, shit out of luck in the new financial climate of this fair valley.
When I moved here, I paid $145 for a one bedroom flat. Yes, you read that right and, yes, even for this place that was a seriously good deal, but deals could be found then. It rained from mid-October through mid-June, which was a deterrent for any but those who really loved what this place had to offer. Trust me, that first winter was tough, but the payoff was that period between the summer solstice and mid-October when we didn't see a drop of the wet stuff. Our weather is changing rapidly and it has become more like northern California, back before it started to feel like southern California; undoubtedly, climate change contributes to the massive influx from our southern neighbor.
Liminal spaces are always unsettling. Both exciting and terrifying depending on the moment, this place I've been inhabiting has, nonetheless, caught me off-guard because I didn't expect to be so utterly severed from a place I've lived for so long. I assumed I'd just come back and, I guess, pick up where I left off. But those ties I let go of a year ago really were for keeps. Those people I have been closest to don't seem to be connected to me any longer and I stand alone now. That's a mixed bag emotionally speaking.
It excites me on the one hand because it reminds me that I am actually moving into a new chapter, albeit a little more slowly that I had hoped. It's also quite unsettling as I realize just how fleeting personal connections can be. We never lose a heart's memory, but we do lose the trusted immediacy of them. Not that it's a surprise really, but it happened faster than I had expected after so many years' bond. This place has taught me that closeness is a gossamer dream, easily eclipsed by the winds of change, cherished and remembered but never to be held. It also shows me that I had some loose ends to tie up, ones that I overlooked in my haste to be free. I am nearly there. I may be dragging a little energetically speaking, but life's timing cannot be denied, even when we think we control it. So here I sit, watching the seasons change; crossing my t's and dotting my i's, alone but strangely content in the knowledge that if I continue to listen deeply the path ahead is assured.