YESTERDAY’S HOME

A man plays guitar as we wait to board the plane. He wears a boating cap and thin silver glasses. He is Chinese and tunes his guitar every few songs. I pick out Viva La Vida, Piano Man, a line I recognize but can’t place “and I see my reflection in the snow covered hills…”* Many of the songs are his own, finger picking tunes that soothe the gathering passengers waiting to board. It has been an hour or more since I sat here. He adds a whistle to the tune. I am so grateful for this whimsy! As he strums the ending of a song one woman claps and then we all join in and a gentleman says, “Thank god for this man.” His flight has been delayed too. “Hey,” the guitarist shrugs. “If we have to wait we may as well enjoy it!” People are still clapping sporadically. He raises his fist gently in the air, bows his head and smiles.

This trip has been very good for me. A closing. A completion. The ending I never felt I got to take. I wasn’t ready to leave that place. My energetic body was somehow buried deep in the ground. It’s no wonder – I buried my placenta there, gave birth there, was married there. So many memories embedded in the surfaces and corners and fractals of this house. The coiled electric stove where Isaac would cook dinner in the summer before bringing the food out on plates for an evening picnic surrounded by fireflies, the sky darkening to a royal blue. The banister of the staircase an underline for the images we framed of our wedding day, now empty. The overgrown pot plants like children who went to boarding school, their faces now slightly different and their hair all grown out but they are still so familiar after all these years.

Miraculously the tulips we planted at our engagement party are still growing in the garden bed, untouched by the resident gophers. I remember how each guest at our engagement celebration was offered a tulip bulb and asked to plant it in a portable bed of soil with a blessing or a wish for us. Out of thirty odd guests, there are five or six tulip plants that come back year after year. It has been six years now. Strong blessings! I learn that the neighbors’ boy, who I would watch through the kitchen window kicking his soccer ball in his yard, is now 16 and driving a car. I visit the young willow tree whose tendrils I would make dream catchers from. She now stands alone by the canal – the large tree she was leaning on has been cut down. Only she remains. Standing free and naked in the winter chill. I am proud of her. And proud of myself. I let us both know.

I talk to the tree and let her know I remember her. I talk to the house through my tears and let it know how deeply grateful I am for the experience its walls have held space for. Our friends from New York took over the lease and now use the house as their weekend home. It is decorated differently, but I still feel strongly the spirit of it. This house…  The first house we moved into together, in the two months after we met and the two months before we got married. It was the house where I wrote my first novel. It was the house where I grew pregnant and round, slowly, slowly, while the leaves fell to the ground and then the snow too. My beloved went on tour that winter and I stayed in the house alone, week after week. Me and our baby, sewing our selves together in so many ways.

When I was heavily pregnant it heavily snowed. I would pull on my snow boots and a big black jacket and take a long walk to the forest. The snow came up to my knees and I couldn’t see the grass underneath. Breathing hard I didn’t need to walk far to get my heart pounding. The only sounds were the songs of some tiny, audacious birds and my lunging footsteps crunching white. Piercing silence. Breath. The living field. In the spring that melted everything, this was the house where I gave birth. My water broke in our big wooden bed on the second floor, and the bathroom with the wooden floorboards was where I waited for our midwife. I was pinned like a magnet to the living room as the contractions built. I hung from the limb of a tree in bloom alone as the sky grew dimmer.

At 1AM I gave birth in the house. We carried our baby upstairs and slept all through the night. Spring blossomed in the peaceful river valley. Early summer came with its sweltering humid nights and the electric bolts of lightning that made my two month old  wail. And then we left. We traveled with Isaac for three months as he toured with his band around Australia and America and halfway through I felt a shift. The perfect haze of this glorious time had transferred itself into an ominous sense. An emptiness. We returned to the river valley in late October just in time for holiday season. It was cold again and I could feel it all slipping away. My son was crawling and we were all so happy. But inside I knew when I looked out the kitchen window across the dying grass that my time had come.  That we would not be here next year, or the year after that. It was the same grass I had watched deer run along when we first found the house, and though iridescent green in summer, it was grey now.

And we did leave. We moved to California and I came kicking and screaming. I was not ready. We lived in LA for ten long months before moving to a little mountain town near Santa Barbara. When I say we lived in LA, it was more of a half-life. I was not really living. I felt like I was dying. I was miserable. But holding on to hope, I began crawling my way back up the cliff face. Having heard a whisper in my ear to get a shamanic soul retrieval the month we moved, I listened, and through a long and winding road of kismet, I was led to the town we now live in, flanked by mountains and perched on a hilltop surrounded by abundance. It has taken some time for me to feel integrated after this wild goose chase, but thankfully, in going back to that old house, I feel my soul retrieval is officially complete. I knew I had to go back, alone, and physically retrieve some part of myself. Was it the floral print jeans I had left in the basement which harbored some part of my soul? Was it the leather jacket I had found in an East Village thrift store for $10? Was it the sight of the willow tree, or the tulips? Was it the goat skin bag my sister had given me on the eve of our iconic road trip back in 2008, the trip that started this whole America thing?

Probably yes, maybe no. But who can really say? The truth is, I was afraid of changing, as the Stevie Nicks song goes. It all seemed so heavenly, and then it wasn’t. I wanted it all to be perfect, and for it to stay that way. One of my most treasured memories from that house is of a moment sitting on the grass with my newborn baby watching Isaac hang white sheets in the sun, flanked by the daffodils and marigolds in the garden bed, the violets in the lawn. Sun and life and family. Heaven. In truth it was a moment. A chapter. A season. A memory. Gladly, I have found an ending for that chapter. A happy one. I am okay. We are okay. And we are better for our journey. Somehow I know we will return to that place and its land – perhaps for vacations with our friends, perhaps to live in the area in our elder years. In the meantime, I am so grateful for the chess moves of our family, for my husband knowing that this part of the world was ultimately the best place for us, for the mysterious dance of life and the web that we are woven into. I walk out into our garden in California and it is paradise every day. In my estimation, we have taken that moment of heaven I remember and extended it all around us. It’s only in hindsight that I realize how brilliant this is, how difficult the journey and yet how worthy an effort.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Stevie Nicks!

I took my love, I took it down
Climbed a mountain and I turned around
And I saw my reflection in the snow covered hills
Till the landslide brought me down
Oh, mirror in the sky, what is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?
Mmm, mmm, mmm
Well, I’ve been afraid of changing
‘Cause I’ve built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Even children get older and I’m getting older too
Well, I’ve been afraid of changing
‘Cause I’ve built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Even children get older and I’m getting older too
Oh, I’m getting older too
Awh, take my love, take it down
Awh, climb a mountain and turn around
And if you see my reflection in the snow covered hills
Well, the landslide bring it down
And if you see my reflection in the snow covered hills
Well, the landslide bring it down
Oh, the landslide bring it down

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