Across the West (Headed East)
I know I’ve said this before, but I never “saw” myself in California until I did - in pictures. The first year or so that we lived there, I felt like I was just floating. Nothing seemed familiar, neither the streets nor the seasons, and that disconnect caused me a lot of anxiety. After moving out of San Francisco and up to Petaluma, things definitely got better - but there was still something missing for me. One day, Eric and I hiked into the hills so I could get a few shots of me wearing my jewelry. Seeing myself in those photos, hair blowing in the sea-scented breeze with golden grasses waving behind me, I suddenly got it. There was the ground, my feet firmly placed. My eyes matching the color of the rain-laden clouds. Like a key in a lock, everything clicked and my heart finally opened to California.
Since then, I’ve taken countless self-portraits. I try document what I’m doing, what I’m feeling - and in that documenting I am able to ground myself. I am able to remember where I am in this journey and check in with myself in regards to where I’m headed. This photo is THE California self-portrait for me, taken just a couple of weeks ago. I see the culmination of what I’ve learned the past couple of years - the steady focus, the ability to let the light shine on the dark places. There is much growing left to do (isn’t there always?), but here I can celebrate just how much I’ve accomplished.
It’s so strange seeing a place transform from a home, where you eat and sleep and create and dream, back to a collection of white walls and echoing spaces, dust bunnies rolling past like lonely tumbleweeds. Within a matter of days, the apartment that I could navigate with my eyes closed became a place that was hard to recognize - a loved one becoming a stranger. I think this transition was a good thing, at least for me, because it made it a little easier to let go and move on when the time came. As we filled the first boxes, I got got the feeling that I would be a wreck when we handed in our keys - but when the time came, there wasn't a tear to be found. With all of our things gone, I was just ready to go. It’s the friends I made and the land that I learned to love that I’ll be missing, not the apartment we lived in.
I’ve noticed that when we travel, our car ends up taking on the role of “home” for me. Wherever we are, I love to get out and explore and see all there is to see - but I also feel such relief in finding that familiar space waiting when it’s time to be moving again. I think this was on my mind in particular this trip because the home we left was one we couldn’t go back to and our new house was still a bit of a mystery (we had only been through it once). It was like the car was the one point of certainty in a sea of shifting possibilities.
I don’t think Storm and Ellie felt the same way as me about spending time in the car, but both ended up being really good little travelers. I tried really hard to put myself in their little kitty shoes (paws?) and take steps to make the trip easier on them, so I’m going the be less than humble and take some of the credit for how smoothly things went. I got them big carriers that I then filled with layers of soft blankets and lots of time was spent hanging out in car for “practice” before we actually left. Along the way I made sure we took longer breaks so they could stretch their legs in the front footwells and drink some familiar tasting California water that I packed for them in a gallon jug. All in all, the drive ended up being fairly relaxed (and for that, I’m grateful).
The drive between Colorado and California is one I’ve made a few times. The first was right after high school when Eric and I took a week-long trip out to the Golden State (and I distinctly remember saying that I’d never live in San Francisco…but that I loved Petaluma from the get-go). The second time we made the drive was the summer before our senior year in college. Eric got an internship in San Francisco so we road-tripped out and spent a few months living in a little apartment in the Richmond neighborhood. He worked downtown while I began trying to tackle the idea of starting a handmade jewelry business. The following summer, after graduation, Eric got a job back in the Bay Area, so we headed west again. Technically I took the train that time which I suppose doesn’t count as a drive, but since the rails ran nearly parallel to our normal driving route (and since the journey took about the same amount of time) in my mind it's almost the same. The only other time I’ve traversed the route, excluding this move back to Colorado, was when we went home for the holidays that first year after moving away. But even after all that driving, it’s a drive I love and had been looking forward to - because the scenery gets me every time.
There’s nothing that humbles me like traveling through wild, open lands. Mountains lift from the earth in great sweeps and the sky stretches from horizon to horizon. There is loneliness in all that space, but the very best sort of solitude, too. There’s room to think and to wonder - and that’s what I love about it. I always get the sense that I could stand in that great expanse and let my voice grow loud, swing my arms wide and take up room - among the sage there’s no need to be quiet or appeasing or anything but exactly what I am. All that openness is the best place I know of to be free.
Already we are settling into our new (old) house. It’s funny, but the more we get to know it, uncovering the quirks and the places in need of repair, the more magical it all seems. Tomorrow morning, all of our things should be arriving - which means I’ll finally be reunited with my tools (woohoo!!). And after that? Let the creating begin!