Monday, August 19, 2013

Snapshots of Mountains

Yesterday we finally finished packing our belongings, haphazardly nestling the rest of the house into a car and a Uhaul truck. I sent my boxes and canvases to temporary storage a couple days prior, not knowing where exactly I would end up.

Yesterday I drove away. Away from the condo, the house I called “home” for five years. Even when I lived in different towns and apartments I kept the phone number to the condo listed as “home.”

Walking away from the condo was strangely easy. I ate, slept, studied, practiced yoga, painted, had sex, took showers, cried, and wrote songs under that roof... I even snuck in a drunken movie night with a friend. But memories aren't always trapped in walls; I took mine with me the second I shifted into drive and rolled out of the parking lot.

Before the condo, I lived in an old, rundown mobile home surrounded by red dirt, pine trees and meadows. Most of the childhood I remember unfolded in that house. Sheets of plywood stretched underneath sections of the carpet because the original floor had begun falling apart. In my mid-teens we used pieces of a metal bunk bed frame to create a ramp to the kitchen door; the original porch had sagged, leaned, and crumbled too much to be used safely. In winter, the wood stove often roared with a fire in its belly through the entire night. Central heating? Please. The firewood my parents and I lugged into the house made nice Trojan Horses for little wolf spiders. At least, the spiders that didn't manage to make their way into the house in other ways.

Was that mobile home a “home?” Perhaps. I don't clearly remember my feelings about moving into the condo; that move represented a very specific transition in my life and my family's life. But I've struggled to find a place I “fit” into for some time. I've struggled to find solidity and clarity in my own skin. The harder I fought against myself, the less the spaces around me felt like home. So I don't wonder I can walk away from the condo without a second thought.

What does a home look like, anyway? I think I find home in people more than I do physical spaces.

Yesterday we drove for hours, cruising the long, slender Highway 5. I noticed the distinct transition between Northern California and Southern California: the Chevron station asked if I wanted to use my “Vons” rewards, rather than my “Safeway” rewards. At 7pm I approached the bottom of the Grapevine, a familiar pair of outstretched arms. I had tucked my left leg under my right while my bare right foot lightly rested on the brake. I navigated between slow semi's with flashing hazard lights and overeager sedans zipping ahead but my eyes kept drifting to the swelling mountains. The line of rolling hills stretched out wide to either side before splitting to create the passage I would soon drive through. Rippling mounds caught the fading sunlight and shaped deep, stark shadows. I wish I could have caught a passing snapshot, but I don't think that could have done the moment justice.

Sometimes having the snapshot is important. Very important. The physical evidence functions as a reminder of long forgotten days. But when I close my eyes I can feel the curve of that landscape as if I were running my fingers along its golden flesh. The memory will probably fade in time just like the smiles and faces of old friends or the touch of old lovers. But that moment will become its own reminder, a little spark imprinted on my mind and soul. Next time I drive through the Grapevine I might remember when earth's sloping face stole my attention. Next time I see sunset and shadows dancing together I might remember. No guarantee, but I might.

We don't always need a physical “thing” to make our lives matter more. The condo was a temporary bookmark where moments unfolded but that doesn't make the moments less special. My not having a photograph of those mountains doesn't diminish the experience I had, either. I so easily clutch onto small pieces in time. Seconds. The past seconds still matter but I don't think they OUTweigh the breath I'm taking now or the fingers I'll clasp in days to come. The same lips will taste different next week. The same experiences can still be fresh.

Old homes can be new and new homes could remind me of old, loved spaces... of shabby houses or clean boxes. These spaces matter less than the lives we create within them.  

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