Sunday, December 31, 2006

Light and Shadows

We have had 2 days of sun- and although it doesn't rise up very high in the sky and though it is still frigid outside it is still lovely to see. We have seen bald eagles circling in the sky, and an enormous blue heron rising up out of the melting ice of a small pond. The solstice has passed and each day is now a few moments longer. The light is a silvery metallic and slants across the land at strange angles, pulling deep blue shadows behind it. I am floating between one place and another, dipping into the shadows, reaching for the light. Waiting to see what the new year will bring, trying to hold on to the magic.....

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Looking for Home

"We are here because we are not all there." - from a bumper sticker in Port Townsend

As someone who has always suffered with the disease of perpetual longing, (i.e. the desire to be anywhere other than where I am at any particular moment), I have been pondering exactly what it means to be "at home". Presently we are temporarily renting a furnished 2 bedroom house from an English grandmother, complete with doilies and ceramic bunnies, framed prints of watercolor landscapes overlayed in italic with the Serenity prayer, silk roses in dimestore vases, etc. However, with the heater blaring and a cup of hot tea and the luck of some unknown neighbor with wi fi, I can look out at the dripping grey sky and feel quite cozy. Perhaps home actually occurs in moments rather than places, and has nothing to do with any external environment, though one can only hole up for so long before needing to venture out into the world.
Here there is no use waiting for the rain to stop or the sky to clear or the temperature to rise, you must simply go. And for god sakes, don't carry an umbrella or you will be immediately labeled as a Californian, which, as you can imagine, carries all sorts of unpleasant implications.
So yesterday we put on our long underwear and coats and hats and scarves and gloves and took a long walk along the beach here at Scatchett Head. As a Californian, or ex Californian, I find that I must first re establish an entirely new definition for the word "beach". Here, as I clump along the rocky shores of the Puget sound in my rain boots among broken clam shells and driftwood and look out at the rainstreaked sky, I dip my finger into the icy water and the longing begins. I start to think about how this very same water is attached by molecules to the waters of the Pacific ocean, from Washington and south to Mexico, where other transcient friends I know are possibly wandering the beach at this same moment wearing far fewer layers than we are, possibly even swimming. Suddenly I can taste it. The sun, the warmth, the fun.
It's too much to bear, and so I turn away from the sea and towards the forest, where the mesmerizing vision of hundreds of bare trees are quivering, their maroon and lavender and pale yellow branches intertwined like chaotic woven lace, shimmering there like strange otherworldly ghosts. I watch a cloud of my own breath drift towards them and ask, Why am I here? I look down at my feet, where an enormous white moonshell lies among the driftwood, bigger than my fist. It's spiraling chamber opening up to sky like a promise. I don't know why we struggle against the truth that is in our hearts. Of course I know where home is. I always have. You carry it with you, wherever you go.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Weathering the storm

For those of you who have been watching dramatic newscasts of falling trees and 100mph winds and people huddled in cold buildings without power for days, know that I survived it all okay.
We were luckier than some, unluckier than others. Fortunately we did have propane heat, though no hot water or lights for 3 days. We cooked on a propane campstove and sat around by candlelight and flashlight, seeking out buildings with generators to plug our cel phones and computers into (oh, it was tough). Everyone tells us that this is unusual, one of the worst winters ever. I feel as if I am being initiated into this new place, stripped bare of all comforts, the little spoiled princess in me whining for Hawaii.
One can only complain so much, I suppose, before you get tired of your own whining voice. At some point, when everything seems to get stripped away little by little- no car, no home, no electricity, no daylight, an ironic thing happens; I find that I am beginning to manage a little bit of gratitude in the midst of it all. What DO we have? Good friends, enough to eat, and the miracle of a bright orange thrush that appears each morning in the tree outside in the midst of what otherwise appears to be a cold grey world.
I am reading Cormac McCarthy's new book, "The Road," about a father and son wandering the ruined earth at the end of days, hanging on to the slightest shred of survival in a bleak and hopeless world. Interestingly enough it is the perfect thing to read when your comfort feels threatened, because I realize how spoiled we have become by our abundance.
Patience and persistance are my guiding words this week. I watch myself sway from a sort of aqcuiecence to utter resistance and back again. And every once in awhile the sky opens up and we get a glimpse of heaven and remember why we came here in the first place.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Island time

Moonshell Fragments on Whidbey Island

Here in the great northwest the skies are twenty seven shades of grey.
Grey as the backside of a worn out nickel, with pearlescent oystershell swatches of silver over deep slate, bare tree branches frozen against the shifting soup of stone colored skies, holding their icy breath until spring. We are definitely not in California anymore, Toto.
We have been here for a week now, stumbling around in the unfamiliar weather and territory, marveling at the stark beauty, the snow capped Cascades rising up in the east, The Olympics hovering in the clouds to the west, and the winding deep blue of the Puget sound. The wildness of the land is humbling and awesome.

Tell someone you have just moved here from California and watch their eyes light up. Which part? they want to know. And when you tell them they eagerly offer up their own story. They are from Long Beach, Berkeley, San Diego. Quit the rat race job, sold the condo and traded it for a house on 5 acres. Now they make candles and doilies, raise goats, write novels and paint. Never been happier, they say. Just wait until the sun comes out. You'll see. But unlike them I don't have that memory of sun to carry with me like a hopeful secret, only this cold blanket of grey, as if I can't quite wake up from a dream, as if a part of me has not yet arrived. I watch the tight buds on the bare branches of the white ash outside my window hold still in the biting wind and wait.