Over the past two days I’ve had three different conversations about my life in Scotland. By the time I got in my car to drive home, I was deeply homesick for it, mostly the friends and coworkers I miss, but also mundane bits like Christmas Eve in Waitrose, random herds of curious horses, learning how to ride the bus in a foreign land, and frost-covered moss. I was thinking of that moss when I encountered the frost-dusted leaf in this photo.
Homesickness is generally expressed as a one person, one place phenomenon, but I have experienced waves of homesickness for every place I’ve ever lived. I even yearn for Alabama from time to time, especially the late afternoon summer thunderstorms that shake the magnolia trees, all slick green and heavy cream. Does it make me feel fickle sometimes? Sure. Someone once excoriated my use of the word “favorite” because, in his words, “They can’t all be favorites.”
Writing from: a quiet study in Portland, Oregon. Listening to: “Trains” by Poppy Ackroyd.
This is Cheechaw, our house spider. She sits serenely above us all and eats all of the nasty bugs that come around. I love her. I had to get up on a step-stool to take this photo and even then I had to lift my arms way above my head.
I named her “Cheechaw” for no particular reason at all except that I call most wee sweet creatures “Cheechaw”. It’s a generic term of endearment which probably originated from Lindsay Bluth’s chicken dance.
Writing from: my study in Portland, Oregon. Listening to: FunkyPlaid listen to NFL people talk about NFL things.
Today’s smile started when I picked FunkyPlaid up from the airport this morning and it hasn’t been far from my face since.
FunkyPlaid even managed to decorate a little for Halloween! I’m so glad he’s home. Work and exhaustion are solid distractions from my loneliness, but life is so much better when he’s around.
Writing from: my study in Portland, Oregon. Listening to: FunkyPlaid turn the pages of the book he’s reading. <3
Tomorrow a dear friend arrives for a weekend visit and I am so excited! My study is also the guest-room, so the daybed also serves as the auxiliary clothing surface where I toss outfits that don’t pass bleary-eyed muster each workday morning. Now the daybed is cleared off, freshly laundered, and (since Zen doesn’t jump up there anymore) fur-free.
Writing from: a cozy guest-room in Portland, Oregon. Listening to: Spotify’s Autumn Acoustics playlist.
The heatwave dissipated quickly, leaving behind the merest hint of autumn in the air. A few rainy days in a row were enough to wrangle me into heartier outerwear, and as I attempted to shove a wee bag of blueberries into one of my jacket pockets, my fingers caught on a couple of pieces of paper.
I drew them out and smiled. Two tickets from Lothian Buses, dated last December.
In this endless and perhaps ill-conceived push to move ever forward, I had not allowed myself anything more than the briefest of glimpses in the rear-view mirror at the landscape – that stark, lush, unforgiving and breathtaking landscape – that had just been left behind.
This is home, and that was home too. The heart bounces between the two like a pinball made of feathers. Things fracture and spin off. That’s okay too.
Writing from: my study in Portland, sort of. Listening to: “Low Hymnal” by Told Slant.
There are pretty lights in the corner of FunkyPlaid’s study. I haven’t really decorated my space yet, but I am looking forward to it.
Today it has been 147 days since we left Scotland, not that I’m counting. (Of course I’m counting. I count everything.) That’s nearly five months. I say “nearly five months” but my current experience of time is so wonky that the phrase is practically meaningless.
A spam email in my inbox called me Dogmatic Halsted. Another called me Blatantly Halsted. I’d rather be blatant than dogmatic, I think.
Writing from: my unembellished study. Listening to: an airplane leaving or arriving … anything but standing still.
Today’s 100-degree heat today did not foil our plans to plant our herb garden. I am hopeful that I will be able to keep these herbs alive long enough to cook with them, a skill that eluded me in Scotland.
As the dusk bugs swarmed our bare necks, we ate pizza and salad on the front porch. The conversation drifted lazily between topics, carried by the slight breeze. Small side-tables we had acquired a country ago, a lifetime ago, were jumbled with paper boxes and purple plates.
It’s good to be home, I thought, in that moment “home” being the place and also the feeling.
Writing from: my study. Listening to: myself yawn.
[caption id=“attachment_91967” align=“aligncenter” width=“687”] Processed with VSCOcam with q2 preset[/caption]
There’s something going on in Iowa right now, I think. Is anyone running on the “improve Cygnoir’s immune system” ticket? I could use it. FunkyPlaid, too, has succumbed to the creeping crud. We’re having a quiet evening together, he with his puzzle of various beiges, and me with my notebook.
I’m not kidding about the beiges. Here’s another view:
Zen lounges on the rug near us, finally comfortable enough to let her guard down outside her inner sanctum.
Writing from: somewhere far away from Iowa. Listening to: the soft thwick of puzzle pieces on a plastic mat.
[caption id=“attachment_91954” align=“aligncenter” width=“687”] Processed with VSCOcam with hb2 preset[/caption]
“It’s getting real” is a phrase I unabashedly love. I love it because it’s fun to say and because it indicates a transition from unreality. This unreality is exactly what I have been experiencing in the beautiful enclave of Marin County, reinforced by the fact that I am dependent on others to get in and out of it.
It got real tonight when I took the bus over the bridge, then another bus, and ended up at 19th and Judah, waiting for the N. I snapped a pic on the wheelchair ramp and paused to admire the view. A passerby cheerfully reminded me that I was not in the right place to board the N.
True to form, three inbound Ns came in quick succession while I had to wait over twenty minutes for one outbound. When it arrived, it was packed, but I boarded anyway.
I came face to face with the N-Judah Greeter.
Nothing was different. Everything was different. My belly felt warm, like it was full of hot cocoa.
I took the N to my usual stop and walked to our former home. It was too dark to see if it had been painted a different color. The living-room was bathed in television glow, and different plants were crowded into the meager patch of dirt near the front sidewalk.
Without thinking, I walked to where I would meet my former coworkers for dinner. (The body remembers where it once was situated in physical space.) I sat down at a table set for twelve. (A week ago, I was laughing over lamps in an empty flat.) I am alone in a restaurant full of people. (Text messages ping inside my handbag.)
How has it been four years already? How has it only been four years?
Writing from: Zen’s room in this beautiful enclave. Listening to: laptop fans singing to each other.
[caption id=“attachment_91922” align=“aligncenter” width=“687”] Processed with VSCOcam with p5 preset[/caption]
A few weeks after moving here, I kept asking FunkyPlaid what that big group of buildings looming over the city was.
Half a year after moving here, I had finally figured out what it was.
A couple of years later, befuddled tourists started asking me how to get to the castle. Me! I could hardly believe it. I must have looked like I knew where I was going, but the truth is that the only place I knew how to get to without thinking and without checking on the blue dot on my phone was home.
This is home to me. This has been my home for four years. This will not be my home tomorrow. All of these facts take their turns flitting into and out of the “inconceivable” box in my brain.
I am ready to leave, and I am not ready too. That’s the best time to go.
Writing from: a home, my home, in Edinburgh. Listening to: all of the subtle noises that I won’t hear again.
Every night, Torgi the cat puts me to bed by chirping and nudging me until I stop doing whatever I am doing. Every morning, he head-butts me into consciousness because it is time for his breakfast.
Zen, in contrast, cannot be bothered. Her whims are her own, not to be shared with silly humans.
Right now Torgi is purring loudly while attempting to wedge himself in between me and my iPhone. He is winning.
Today I am grateful for my home, which is why I retreated to it immediately after work tonight.
My relationship with my home is a bit complex. All of my life I have struggled with the meaning of home and of belonging. Since I was eleven years old, with each parent in a different state, I have felt ties to more than one place. I seem always to be in a state of geographical flux, which may make moving less difficult for me than for other people. I tend not to identify myself with any one place for very long.
All that said, I am falling in love with my current place of residence. It is starting to feel like home to me, instead of merely a very nice house in which I happen to reside. I am beginning to learn its creaks and quirks; I know where the light-switches are in the dark. It is big and quiet and close to the ocean. It is cozy and comforting, grounding and centering, and somewhere I enjoy sharing with friends as much as I enjoy hoarding it with my beloved.
(This entry is part of one month of gratitude.)
People who dispense with niceties used to catch me off-guard. Before my current job, I expected a minimal exchange of greetings before a request for help. I wonder if, as a result, I have done away with my own greeting patter when I am out in the world. It does seem a bit superfluous at times, especially when we are all so furiously busy, scuttling between inputs like crazed crabs.
Because of this intensified pace, I become more conscious of how to phrase answers to questions without being condescending or curt. A dyslexic patron today obviously felt quite embarrassed for mixing up the microfilm for 1906 and 1960, and I wonder if my bland “no problem” response was sufficient, or made her feel lessened. I can’t imagine being dyslexic; so much of my daily life revolves around the written word.
Students who come up to the reference desk look as if they expect violence. Their eyes are wary, one hand neatly wrapped around the ubiquitous mobile, library card in the other gripped like a makeshift shiv. During reference interviews, sometimes they shift away from me to text someone: five minutes is too long to be in contact with only one person.
Despite my bizarre affection for public transit, the N-Judah has already lost its shine for me, what with its random hiatuses and lame malfunctions and general chicanery. At least I always get a seat, and can doze off to podcasts for 30 (to 60) minutes. Whatever the case, each N trip is bookended by a library job and a home with my best friend, so I have no real complaints.
These are the only tidbits I can sift out from my addled brain this evening. Happy Mother’s [sic] Day, mothers, especially to my own, who will meet FunkyPlaid for the very first time when she hits town in five days!