Are We Having Fun Yet?

October 14, Cleveland

Bill picked me up at the Cleveland Airport and took me straight back to David and Doris’s for a matzoh ball soup family dinner. Thirty-six hours later, after some badly needed sleep and some equally badly needed showers (thanks again, David and Doris!) we packed up to go.
We discovered a few things. First, if you use the toilet in the van just a little too much without dumping it out, it starts to smell. We also learned that the RV place in Coxsackie–supposedly the only one in our area you could trust–got even more wrong than we thought they did. Not only were the skylights they charged us $744 to repair leaking twice as badly as before, they had also assured Bill that the plumbing in the van was in good working order and ready to go. It was a pleasant surprise, since the person who sold us the van had told us it wasn’t working. But they said they’d checked it out thoroughly and would work fine.

I don’t like to accuse anyone of lying. And I suppose they have their own version of that conversation. Maybe Bill heard “It should work fine,” but what they actually said was, “We have no idea–we haven’t bothered to check it.” Because that’s what they meant. We know, because a hinge that held the dumping pipe from the van in place was completely rusted in place and obviously hadn’t budged in years.

If they had checked, it’s just possible they would have noticed that all was indeed not well with the van plumbing. In fact, the fabric part of the dump hose had disintegrated over the years and when Bill tried to pull it out for use, it disintegrated into a giant Slinky.
We managed to get the van toilet dumped out with the hose from the trailer and some gumption. We imprisoned Miri in the cat carrier since neither one of us could face dealing with cleaning up our bed again. And we headed out.

Somewhere in this process, I asked the question. I couldn’t help it. I’d been thinking it and not asking it almost from the moment we set out.

“Are you enjoying this?”

Not exactly, Bill admitted. “I’m not enjoying all the problems but I am enjoying that we’re figuring out how to solve them,” he said.

I can relate to that. Overcoming challenges is very satisfying and we’ve had a few of them on this trip so far. And I see why it’s working for Bill more than me: He’s been the one solving the problems. I’ve been more like an innocent bystander, at best, and a heckler at worst.
But when I said this, he protested. “I couldn’t do it–wouldn’t want to do it–without you,” he said. In fact, he admitted that late at night while I was away in San Francisco, he’d asked himself what he would do if I did not return. “I probably would have hunkered down. Maybe wound up in an apartment here. It’s not that I couldn’t have figured out how to pack up and go with the cats and everything, I just wouldn’t have wanted to.”

In fact, some friend or other had, half-jokingly, suggested just this: Already on the West Coast, I stay there and wait for him. But of course I would never do that.

“You don’t really think I would have done that, do you?”

“No,” he said. “But it was late at night. I started wondering, ‘What if her plane crashes?'”

“So if my plane had crashed, your biggest concern would have been how to get out of Cleveland??”

That at least got a laugh. I’ll admit I continued pretty moody, and difficult, and miserable for many more miles. After all, none of this was my idea. On the other hand, I agreed to it, and here we both were in the middle of it. So we continued west. Determined that things would get better.


I Lose My Cool and Get It Back

Getting paid well for my work is really nice. Having that money go missing when I’m counting on it, not so much.

Earlier this year, I was offered a job managing a new website for a large company. It was a big job–many hours a month–but with a nice monthly payment just at the time we needed it to finance our move and the improvements to our house needed to rent or sell it. All had been going well since then.

But then, as our move approached, I faced the same question for each of my clients: Given the time lag between when I send in an invoice and when I get paid, should I put my old address or my new one on the invoice? (Some readers may know that we don’t have a new place to live yet–the new address is a post office box in Lake Stevens where our good friends live.)

I’ve been working for the company that publishes the website for more than a decade. In all that time, no invoice has taken longer than four weeks to get paid. It was a big check and we needed the money soon, so on August 12, knowing we wouldn’t leave before September 15, it seemed like a no-brainer to have the payment sent to my Woodstock address.

It seemed like a slightly worse idea on September 14 when the check still hadn’t arrived and I dropped a short note to my contact to ask if the payment had hit a glitch. Payments from the company are “net 45,” she responded, and these days were taking even longer than that. Net 45? It had never taken me that long to get paid. But it was taking us longer than expected to get ourselves packed up, and I could wait another 13 days.

On September 26, with still no check and knowing we’d be leaving in a week or so, I emailed my contact again. Would it be possible to have the check sent to the new address instead? Maybe it had already been mailed, she responded, but if not she would. When we left eight days later and the check still hadn’t come, I figured it had gone on to Washington and didn’t worry about it. Since all other checks were either accounted for or invoiced with a Washington address, and since our departure was singularly disorganized, I hadn’t worried too much about changing our address in a huge hurry. On the other hand, my P.O. box rental had been due October 1. I was away that day so Bill picked up my mail and paid the rental–with a plan to close down the box and get most of the payment refunded before we left.

Wednesday, I flew to San Francisco for the ASJA board meeting and conference. On Friday morning, having taken an online look at how our bank account was dwindling, I wanted to make extra sure that the big check had gone to Washington. So I sent another quick email asking for confirmation. She wrote back immediately to tell me that–so it turned out–accounting was required to send a payment to the address on the original invoice, so that’s where it had gone. So sorry she hadn’t told me sooner.

That threw me into something of a panic. The big check–the one we were counting on to pay the multi-thousand moving bill for our container of things that we sent ahead, along with lots of other debts–had gone to a P.O. box that was cancelled? What would the post office do with that mail? Return to sender? Route it to limbo? Would we ever see that money?

It was early morning, California time–I’d awakened before dawn thanks to jet lag–and I had to stop what I was doing and hurry down to the hotel lobby or miss the shuttle to the ASJA conference that day. Frustrated, I stomped into the bathroom, slamming the door behind me hard enough to shake the walls. My makeup bag, which I’d set on the only available spot, the back of the toilet, slowly keeled over and tumbled into the toilet. Of course it was open and all my makeup (which admittedly is pretty minimal) dispersed into the water.This resulted in about as much cursing as you might imagine.

Later that morning, I texted Bill, still in a financial terror tizzy. He told me calmly that 1) He’d made sure to leave the P.O. box in place for the moment till we knew that forwarding was underway, and 2) that he would mail our mailbox key to our friend Gordon who’s both contractor and caretaker for our house and Gordon would retrieve the check and deposit it in the bank for us. Crisis solved. Lipstick soaked unnecessarily. I felt pretty relieved, and pretty stupid.

That afternoon, I felt like I needed a break. I also felt, in my post-presidential state, more entitled to play hooky from ASJA doings than ever before. The conference was fantastic–I never would have left if I was looking for writing work, but I’m turning work away these days. So I snuck out of the conference a bit early and bailed on dinner with other board members. I’d found out that Friday was women-only day at the baths in Japantown, and one of my fondest memories from an earlier San Francisco visit was an afternoon spent chatting, soaking in the hot bath, and making quick visits to the cold bath (one after the other is highly relaxing) and slower visits to the sauna.

So I walked up San Francisco’s hilly streets to the Japan Center, and the baths were even more wonderful than I remembered. I think they may have gotten an upgrade in the decades since my last visit. Finances be damned, I splurged on a massage after a bunch of soaking, then crawled into the sauna, then lay on one of the of the wooden benches until I realized that if I didn’t get up and go back to the hotel soon I wouldn’t have the energy to ever leave. Mmmm…

The following day I went back to the conference and then went to bed at 9 pm so I could rise at 3 and catch a 4 a.m. van to the airport for a 6:20 flight back to Cleveland and life in a van.

Image: Karl Baron/Creative Commons

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Things Get Better in Cleveland

Dinner at Davids

October 8, Southwest Flight 1698, aisle seat 

One of the complicators attached to this trip has always been the ASJA regional conference and board meeting taking place this week in San Francisco, where I simply have to be. No problem, or not much of one, had we left the first week of September as we planned. As our departure date slid precipitously, I began pressing Bill: Where should I book my flight from?

We discussed options. We could drive to San Francisco and he could wait for me with our cats in a campground somewhere near town. Or I should book a flight from SeaTac, and we would make sure to get there. As the delay lengthened and this seemed less possible, we formed a backup plan: We would drive as far as Denver, I’d fly to the conference from there and Bill would stay and visit our various friends there.

But as our departure delayed some more even this plan seemed impossible. What to do? Though he knew it didn’t make sense, Bill was getting resentful of the San Francisco trip and the way it was tangling up with our plans. And so I decided to let it go. I would wait till the last minute and book from wherever we were.

By the time we finally pulled onto I-90 on October 4 it was clear we wouldn’t make it to Denver in time. Buffalo seemed about right as a place to fly from, but Bill vetoed the idea of sitting and waiting for me there. (He says he feels about Buffalo much as W.C. Fields felt about Philadelphia.) So we pressed on to Cleveland, arriving after midnight at an RV camp inside an over-55 trailer community where we couldn’t get the electric hookup to work the first night.

But then things started to look better, thanks to the wonderful community of ASJA friends. David Budin came to our RV park, picked us up, ferried us to a car rental place where we got a cheap car for the week, and then back to his place for a delicious meal of pasta with tomatoes, peppers, artichoke hearts and olives that he whipped up from what he had on hand. (Who knew—he’s a professional chef besides being a professional writer and rock musician.) Mary Mihaly and Christopher Johnston, two other Cleveland ASJAns joined us. There was wine, laughter, much storytelling about rock stars past and present, wine, ice cream with raspberries, and guitar playing. Also, I got to do some badly needed laundry.

Ahh, a home-cooked meal–a phenomenally good one–after days of making do with convenience store sandwiches for dinner. Good company, good conversation, and a respite from the frustrations of on-the-road life.

And much though I hate leaving things to work themselves out, they did. First thing the next morning Bill dropped me at the airport and I boarded this flight to San Francisco. And here I sit, looking down on the territory we’ll later be driving across. And I’m impressed, and daunted, all over again.

(In the photo, that’s David standing, Mary and Christopher seated near the camera, and me with my glass in the air.)

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We Hit the Road and the Road Hits Back

October 5, Cooperstown, NY

To borrow a phrase from the musical Annie, “Yesterday was plain awful!”

As you know if you’ve been reading this blog, our departure date, originally contemplated for September 1, has been delayed, and delayed, and delayed again. Until this week when we made a pact: We would leave Friday, no matter what.

Well we didn’t quite. As Friday evening wore on and it was clear we weren’t ready to leave, we decided to spend the night in our van, in our driveway. Not a bad plan for our three cats: Give them a chance to get used to the van for a night before being driven away in it. But it left us disappointed in ourselves and grumpy and in a rush to leave as soon as we could on Saturday, yesterday.

We did leave, but didn’t get that far. Yesterday was the first big rainfall our region’s had in weeks so that’s when we discovered that the skylights in the van–which were slightly leaky when we bought it and which we’d paid more than $700 to have sealed up super-tight–were now twice as leaky as before. Water dripped on us as we headed down the driveway. Then we heard a loud, not-good-sounding noise.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Trees,” Bill answered. He told me he thought the top of the trailer had hit a low branch as we headed out which seemed logical enough. “I hope it didn’t damage anything,” he added. Neither of us considered that there’d been no such issue with low branches when we brought the trailer in through the driveway couple of months earlier.

We were both hungry, so first stop was the diner/pizza place by the Thruway in Saugerties, which has the kind of spacious parking lot we now need. I hopped out of the van, headed toward the trailer and stopped, stunned. Then I did what I always do in an emergency. “Bill! Come here! Come here now!!” I shouted.

The first thing I’d noticed was that the trailer doorknob was  bent around 90 degrees, but then we realized that the awning on the side of the trailer had  been ripped off completely and the electrical outlet on the outside of the trailer had been torn off with its wires left hanging. One of the two poles that holds up the awning was also gone, presumably in our driveway somewhere along with the awning itself. The other pole was still hanging on, but none too tightly. As Bill shook it to see how well attached it was, several wasps came crawling out, so he banged the pole to chase them away…and it slipped out of his hands and bounced off my head. Fortunately, it hit me hard enough to smart, but not hard enough to leave a bump or cause any injury. Still, I was in such a high dudgeon that I stomped away to the other side of the parking lot for a while.

Next stop was the RV place, where the only response to our complaint about the skylights was to hand us a tube of caulk since they couldn’t do any further fixing while it was wet. We hinted around about a refund–no dice. On the other hand they got the trailer door open (no small feat with the doorknob bent over) and replaced the doorknob for free.

And so we headed off in the rain…to LL Bean which is our happy place. We’d been going there anyhow; Bill had some items he wanted to return and get a bathrobe instead. Still it was a true when-the-going-gets-tough-the-tough-go-shopping moment. My raincoat was soaked through so I got myself a new truly waterproof one also a down vest, a bit of an impulse splurge that I came to greatly appreciate in the frosty weather at the campground where we spent last night. Both should be pretty useful in the Pacific Northwest weather.

I won’t go into the mess we discovered when we let our cats out of the enclosure where we’d kept them all day, along with a small travel litterbox that turned out to be completely unequal to the job. By that time we were so exhausted and frazzled that more mishap didn’t seem to matter.

I don’t like to admit it but there have been a few moments in the past 48 hours when I’ve gone over in my mind the sequence of conversations and negotiations that led to me agreeing to this trip and wondered if I should have vetoed it instead. Insisted on driving a normal car from motel to motel like normal people. But I love the trailer and it’s so nice sleeping in our own mattress with our own covers and cats. And the weather’s dried out, at least for now.

We’re finally out and on our adventure. Let’s see what tomorrow brings.

Packing Purgatory Continues

There’s an old New Yorker cartoon I love that goes something like this: Two men are walking along a beach. One says to the other: “When I was 30, I swore that by 40 success would be mine. When I was 40, I swore that by 50 success would be mine. When I was 50, I swore that by 60 success would be mine. Now I’m 60 and success is mine.”

The reason I love this is the point it makes: Something may not happen as quickly as you think they will, or as quickly as you want it to, but it can still happen. Our original departure target was September 1. As the day approached and we realized that it was Labor Day, and also that we would never be ready, we began extending. I said I would stay till the Inc. 35th anniversary party on September 9. We ordered the pod to be delivered a week ago Friday for pickup this past Tuesday. Over last weekend we got help and maybe we could have made the pickup with some frenzied and not very organized packing, but we were both crashing with exhaustion plus Bill was driving himself back into being ill. So we extended the deadline by two days, and then again until tomorrow. And this time, I say with fingers and toes crossed, we just might send the pod away with all our stuff inside.

For the longest time, it looked to others and sometimes felt to me as well like we would never actually get out the door. But I’m starting to see that we’re close to done. My office, which took weeks to pack is all packed up except for my computer–Bill’s job–and one lamp to help him do it. My clothes are nearly all packed. Packing the zillions of things in our kitchen is underway. Whether we make tomorrow’s deadline or not, one day soon we’ll be on the road.

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The Glaring Omissions Rock!

Tuesday, September 16, 9:43 am

Night before last (the same day as my last post) three members of the Glaring Omissions plus one civilian friend came over after a great reading to help us pack. I’d invited them for “packing paintings, pizza, and expensive booze” (because we have many bottles of fine whiskeys and other such things and despite Bill’s wishes they just can’t all come with us). They sat around our dining table with boxes and packing tape and scissors and bubble wrap (replaced by old clothes and bedding when it ran out) and constituted themselves into a lean, mean packing machine, while Bill and I kept up a steady supply of items to be packed. By the end of the evening, there was an impressive stack of boxes on the porch, and all our fine breakables, as well as many of our dishes and other items had all been packed up, ready for the movers to transport into the container.

It was so nice of them, and it was interesting to see how a group of people who were accustomed to getting together on a regular basis to help each other in our work could so easily form into an efficient team when faced with a completely separate task. Something about how we all know each other, are well aware of each others’ quirks and preferences, personalities, and histories, and so we can just fall into easy collaboration without any preamble. At least that’s my guess.

It made me see one more time how much I’ll miss this group. The truth is, the Glaring Omissions is probably what I’ll miss most about not being here. I’ve been ashamed to admit this–it feels like some sort of personal failing. If I were a fully engaged person, wouldn’t I be missing some individual relationship the most? But this is what I’ll miss, this tight team of people who’ve gotten together once every three weeks or so (with a changing cast of characters) for more than twenty years, making each others’ work better, giving readings together, and sharing each others’ lives as well. I’ll miss all of that so much and it scares me not to have those regular, in-depth critiques of my work. (They’ve offered to keep critiquing me by email, which I’m definitely taking them up on, but a lot comes out in the course of discussion, so it won’t be the same.)

A fourth Omission, Jana Martin, is due here in about 90 minutes. I think I’ll aim her at the large pile of paintings I originally intended to set the other Omissions on. I’ve seen her efficiency. Those paintings don’t stand a chance.

The Movers Are Coming and We’re Not Ready

Sunday September 14 8:49 a.m.

(Yup, wrote this day before yesterday and just making it live now. Got to get better at the timing of this…)

We were up till 2 but I couldn’t sleep this morning. Friends coming tonight to help us pack, movers in the morning to help us fill the giant container now stationed conveniently at the foot of the handicapped ramp we built so that Bill’s daughter could visit and now a handy place to roll furniture and boxes out of the house on.

The container is scheduled to leave again day after tomorrow if we’re ready, which it’s fairly clear we won’t be. We have options. If we need to keep the pod a few more days to fill it, we can, although we don’t know how much extra that will cost. I wanted the large pod so we’d have plenty of room to bring whatever we wanted but now it seems enormous. The problem is inside, sorting, packing. I’ve been packing for what seems like months. It has been months, although in short spurts given my work schedule which Bill describes as “There’s no schedule, she’s always working.” But in all that time, including most of this past week, I haven’t even managed to completely clear my office which is where I started out.

Of course, my office is the biggest and worst problem but…now I have two days for everything else and I just don’t see it.

And then there’s the ASJA board meeting and mini-conference in San Francisco, inconveniently scheduled for October 9-11. I didn’t fight that date when it came up because there was too much powerful logic in its favor. The conference needed speakers and bringing the board to town is a good way to get them and draw attention to the event. (I’m speaking myself.) But the timing is certainly awkward and I’ve held off till now buying my plane ticket because I lacked the confidence to do it from SeaTac. But Bill last night said his goal is for us to be in Snohomish or its environs by our anniversary, October 14. So I guess SeaTac it is. But when will we finally pull out of Woodstock? No clue.

NYC, Goodbye!

Washington Square Park Phil Roeder


I’m writing this on the train back from New York. Maybe my last time there for a while. I came in to shoot some video at Inc., and attend a writing workshop, and spend some time with my friend Jennie who is not happy about my moving an entire continent away from her. I’m not too happy about that part of it myself.

I’m a New Yorker. I was born on that island, and from wearing lots of black to driving a ratty old car and not caring, it will always have its influence on me. When I moved to the country more than 20 years ago, it was in crisis mode, to escape from an abusive and frightening husband. Yet that crisis also brought me to my heart’s desire. I’d been thinking for years that I wanted to live in the country. That’s why, even after I was divorced and safe, I never considered going back.

As the years went by and my social circle became ever more Hudson Valley and less Manhattan, I stopped going to New York so often. After a few years, I only went down when I had to, to the ASJA conference for example. I’d find myself in Midtown, the least lovable part of Manhattan and head back to the country having taken little pleasure in my visit.

Still, saying goodbye to New York seems part of saying goodbye to the East Coast, so after the workshop, instead of taking a late train back as I usually would, I spent the night at Jennie’s. I took today as a free day even though my schedule couldn’t really afford one. She lives in Brooklyn which is a whole other borough from the Brooklyn I knew–or didn’t really know–when I lived in New York. She loves living there, and I can see why.

The only thing on my agenda was to go bra shopping. I read once that the vast majority of women can’t figure out by themselves what bra size they should wear, and I’ve found that to be true for me. So years ago I started looking for professionals to measure me and help me find bras that fit properly. Which just isn’t something you can do in Ulster County. Jennie took me to a lingerie shop in Cobble Hill where she’s bought some of her prettiest bras. It was lovely and elegant, owned by a Frenchwoman and though we only came up with one bra that I actually wanted, as much fun as something like shopping for bras can be.

Jennie and I parted regretfully and I spent my last couple of hours in town walking in the Village and sitting on a bench in Washington Square Park. The weather was perfect and New York was delightful as only perfect weather can make it. There were children playing on more creative playground equipment than I ever clambered over on in my day. Interesting dogs walked by and an acoustic jazz trio complete with upright bass performed on one of the lawns. It reminded me of being in one of my favorite parks in Paris.

I haven’t much missed New York City all these years in Woodstock. I don’t know that I’ll miss it from Seattle, although some things, such as good pizza and the way everything stops for a good argument, will probably feel odd by their absence.

Today’s been a lovely last look at the city of my birth. Goodbye, New York. You’ll always be in my blood.

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Image: Phil Roeder/Creative Commons

Does my Aching Back Mean I’m Sad to Be Leaving?



29 Days to Target Departure

My back still hurts but not as badly. Yesterday I got a (much modified) yoga class and then a massage from my friend Gillian who has a better view of how our bodies work than anyone I’ve ever met. She says I lifted something heavy and neglected to bend my legs, which I’m sure is true, but she also agrees with Bill that this bad back is partly an expression of sadness. I’m sure they’re both right. I’ve started saying, “I pulled my I-don’t-want-to-dismantle-my-house muscle.”

“You have to find a way to honor that sadness,” Gillian told me.

“I’m not sure how,” I said. I didn’t think I should talk to Bill about it. The idea that I’m sad to be leaving here is driving him crazy. Yesterday he actually proposed returning to Woodstock for the summers which is a batty idea on many levels. For starters, summers in the Pacific Northwest have almost no rain and thus almost no mosquitoes–one big reward for tolerating the dreary winters. Also I’ve always hated the idea of living in two places. The whole snowbird thing never appealed to me. I want to live one place where I can put down roots, like I’ve done here. Which I guess is the exact problem.

So I’ll say it: Leaving here is breaking my heart. Especially this house which feels so much like a friend that I’ve been known to pat its walls affectionately. When I lived here alone, I would walk from the living room into the kitchen at night thinking, “This is mine,” and feel that all was right in the world. Over the years, we’ve added things. First, the magical built-into-the-wall wood stove that looks like a fireplace but heats the whole house. Then we turned the screened-in porch into a sunroom and added a cedar-fenced vegetable garden. Then we started having the field mowed in a path where Bill walks in summer and I ski in winter. It’s slowly become the perfect house for me.

But I also see, for reasons having nothing to do with Bill, why it might be time to move on. That cross-country skiing for instance. Every year, there’s less and less of it because there’s less and less snow. I didn’t plant my garden this year because I knew I was leaving but every gardener I know who did is frustrated beyond belief because nothing’s growing well this cold, rainy summer. Except the mosquitoes, who tend to chase us indoors and made a mockery of our one-time plan to build a deck. I know the climate is changing and there’s nothing I can do to stop it, but living here for 22 years I’m actually watching it change, and that’s almost unbearable. So I know that even if I stay in place, the place as I loved it will eventually leave me.

For most of the time I’ve lived here there was a lady who lived in a large house at the top of the hill. She had many dogs, a coop full of chickens, and two sheep. Walking up that hill is my default daily exercise, and I used to love pulling up grass and feeding it to those sheep in their enclosure. Over the years they got more sedate and less inclined to meet me at the fence and then for several months I was doing other exercises and didn’t walk up the hill. When I did it again, only one sheep remained and she rose stiffly to her feet and hobbled over to meet me. After that she stopped getting up and then soon enough she was gone too.

Sometimes the house’s elderly owner would be out in the yard and we’d chat. She’d lived in that house forever. She’d planted the two towering pine trees in the front yard as saplings more than 40 years ago. But over time, I stopped seeing her outside, though there would often be the blue flicker of a television through the curtains.

About a year ago, people were carting furniture out of her house. I stopped and asked what was going on. She was in a nursing home, they told me, and not expected to live long. The house stands empty now, its chain link fence falling over in sections, nothing but ghosts of the woman and her animals who lived there. Is that better? I wonder. Live out your life in one place, leaving a sad shell behind?

Or better to roam, criss-cross the world and maybe leave nothing behind but memories? The answer, I suppose is neither: Stop thinking about a future of aging, decay, and death and live in the now which is all we really have. But I’ve never been good at living in the now. Maybe someday I’ll get better.

OK, so I’m trying to honor the sadness. “Write about it,” Gillian suggested, so now I have. Will this help my back get better? We’ll have to see.

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Image: The winter view from our bathroom window



31 Days to Target Departure

Saturday afternoon I took several weeks’ recycling to the dump. At the same time, Bill went off to the Tibetan thrift store on Route 28 with about six bags of books and another couple of bags of clothes and miscellaneous odds and ends. The idea is to clear out the things piled up in our kitchen on top of the fridge (yes we have lots of stuff on top of our fridge), on a movable cabinet, on our moveable dishwasher and on our “coffee station” table, so that these items could easily be moved for our friend Gordon to replace our kitchen floor.

Anyhow, as I carried the blue recycling bin to the car, something I’ve done thousands of times, it suddenly felt as though something in my back was all wrong. And for the past 36 hours the right side of my lower back has been in some sort of spasm that nothing seems to alleviate. Of course, my first response is to be frustrated. I’d had all sorts of plans for this weekend that included writing two columns that are overdue, repotting some bonsai that are coming with us on the trip, and working on the book proposal for my memoir as well as working with Bill to clear the kitchen for the new floor.

Yes I know it wasn’t all going to get done. I pretty much always start out with a list of things to do that doesn’t fit the allotted time, which may of course be part of my problem.

But maybe there’s something else here: When we began moving things out of the kitchen and packing up our numerous teapots, something clicked in my brain: This is really happening. We are really leaving this place. And not only that, whether I’m willing to admit it or not, my entire life is about to be completely disrupted. Maybe my back is expressing upset about this that the rest of me can’t.

Saturday I had dinner with a very good friend, maybe for the last time before we move. She asked: “What are you looking forward to most?” I realized I didn’t have a really good answer. Maybe that’s not a bad thing, though. I don’t really know what I’ll love and hate once we move because I don’t know what my life is going to look like. I’ll be starting with a blank slate, which is something I crave.

But starting with a blank slate isn’t going to be easy either. Maybe some of me is frightened too, and that’s what my back spasm is trying to tell me.

What I said to my friend was: “I’m looking forward to Bill performing almost every night.” That’s the absolute truth. And it’s why—back spasm or no back spasm—I know this move is the right choice.

Image: Bernard Goldbach via Flickr