October 6, 2010

I’m trying something new: Coming Home.

It’s mathematical. On average, I move cities every year-and-a-half. At the 18-month mark in Portland, I tripped off to the Lilith tour with every intention of coming home. Headed out to cross two nations of cities, people, wide open arms and a summer of adventure…it was like telling an alcoholic sex addicted lover, “Hey, Sugar, there’s a party of boozy high class hookers next door. You go enjoy yourself. I’m calling it a night.”

I went next door with the hookers.

For three months. I leapt into the swirl of a concert tour and traveled around the nation with artists, entrepreneurs, big-hearts and crazies. I stayed up all hours, drank whiskey and wine. Ate sandwiches and drank beer. Let down my guard and let flow the girl that never got out when I was younger, serious, toeing the line of everything right, trying to find myself in diligence.

At the end of the tour, I couldn’t call it the end. I stayed in New York a while. And then a while turned into a month longer than I’d meant to stay. Pretty soon, it’s three months since I’ve left Portland, and New York City, a place I’ve called home before, is stroking my hair, whispering in my ear, cradling me in its morning after, asking me sweetly if I really want to leave.

The answer is transient

Today I walked around the place that I left last June and New York is far away. Yellow blossoms are in a pool under the park trees. People are smiling because they’re just nice here. I rolled over in bed this morning and opened my eyes to gray skies and I smiled too. I’m home. I’m in the moody broody weather of the Northwest. I’m back.

Because I’ve moved so much, I have a history of returning home to a lot of places. The end comes. I prepare to leave and wonder if I should stay longer. I have a similar history with lovers, each time silently asking both the city and the lover some variation of: Are you my mother? Are you the home of my heart? Is it you?

The answer is transient. And so I travel, not aware in the middle of the joy of new places, new faces, new me in new context, that I may just fear stagnation, that my evolutionary brain hasn’t yet got the memo that I’m not a shark in the ocean, I don’t have gills, I don’t have to keep moving to survive. I have lungs, that breathe, and take in the place where I am, adding it to the cells that make me, making my place a part of me.

Breaking down home

My last week away, I went to my original home and shipped my Grandma out of hers. After 33 years in her apartment, we packed her up and sent her 99 year old self to my Dad’s. All the memories on her shelves, and the shelves themselves, got dissembled and crammed into the back of a moving truck. I cried as her friends gathered to say goodbye.

Then I went to the beach. To the primordial soup. I laid in the sand fully clothed and felt the sun push through them. I watched the waves.

Am I home? Where is home? Who is home? I am a patchwork of places.

Things I’ve heard myself say since I’ve been back:

Where do I keep the silverware again?
Where does this road go?
There are three new buildings in my view.
My schedule is open.

Familiar and old and new again

My first morning back, my best friend, Regina, met me for coffee in a new place near her house. We were catching up deep and rich when a song came on overhead that I sang to her at our first parting. We were 23 then. She was going away to grad school. It was her farewell party. “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome,” Bob Dylan, covered by Shawn Colvin, sung by me. The only people at the party not crying were she and I, because I asked her before I started to keep it dry so I could make it through the song.

Ten years later, at her wedding, I sang “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody),” in which lyrics feature prominently the sentiment: home). Also Shawn Colvin, covering a Talking Heads tune.

I’m sensing a theme.  Home is where the people who love you live. For me that’s a lot of places. But right now it’s where Regina lives. It’s where my community is, here in Portland, full of creatives and crazies, greenies and nerds, heartbreak and hope and a whole lot of cute boys. And wilderness. And progressive coolness. And my awesome apartment. And the airport, which reaches anywhere. And I-5, which reaches deep into the belly of my home town in Southern California.

I’m trying something new. I’m returning home.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Susan Schin October 7, 2010 at 8:21 am

Welcome back! We knew you couldn’t stay away too long.


Robert Falconer October 7, 2010 at 9:34 am

It’s good to have you back in Portland. We missed you! Since I grew up here, I truly do feel at home here after spending 20 years wandering through California and moving back in 2003.


Deborah and Guy October 7, 2010 at 6:03 pm

Sitting on a sailboat thousands of miles from home, your “Coming Home” article hits a strident chord.

Guy and Deborah
Yacht Elan
Sea of Cortez


Pema Teeter March 15, 2012 at 1:19 pm

Happy sails, adventurers. Great to get this image of you.


The Sailor October 7, 2010 at 8:00 pm

Gotta say, I really “felt” this piece. I truly do like the way you scribe them words.

Oh, and welcome home


becky dene October 15, 2010 at 7:53 pm

Home is where you feel loved!


Steve Roth March 15, 2012 at 8:34 am

Thank you for sharing this! While I haven’t moved as often or lived in as many cities as you, I agree that home can be many places. I also think that home can be someplace you’ve never lived for an extended period of time; a place that you identify with and perhaps has helped you grow or where you learned something about yourself that you didn’t know was there. That’s how I feel about NYC – but maybe it was also because I’ve been there with Katie and the boys, so I had the most important people in my life with me as well. It’s also where I started writing. Thanks again!


Pema Teeter March 15, 2012 at 1:16 pm

Yes! Home of the heart. Home of the part of yourself that started something momentous and defining. Home of really good memories. Yes yes yes.


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