On December 2, I wrote about an endless quest among cultures. I wrote: “I look at people who manage to be stationary, attached to one place, with envy.” I wrote: “traveling is when my heart beats fastest.” I finished hiking more than a month ago, and I’ve been silent ever since. Processing my experience, maybe. Digesting. Or more likely, just busy. I immediately stepped back into my full-fledged life here—two jobs, writing group, teaching yoga, taking yoga, land hunting. Enjoying the joys of a stationary life, of having a fully equipped kitchen and an office and heat and friends.
I’m only finding my voice now, as I prepare for another journey. In two weeks, I’m heading back up to Maine, maybe forever. Probably not for ever, ever, but you never know. I’ve found a beautiful piece of land here in Georgia, one that I first looked at more than a year ago. It’s land that has continued to wiggle around in my consciousness, reminding myself of its presence every so often. It has significant challenges, namely: an impassable road. I’ve only ever walked to the home-site, as I don’t have a vehicle that can make it up the mountain. Having a house I must walk to may be a romantic ideal, but I’m sure the eighth time I bring groceries home the charm will wear off.
Still, I’m keeping the piece as an option in my back pocket. It has gorgeous views of Lookout Mountain, feels like it’s in the middle of nowhere, but is close enough to Chattanooga to commute. If I can make it down the road. The questions is: are the challenges what make me hesitate, or is it the reality of digging down roots into one particular stretch of dirt? I’m having dreams about dirt, dark dirt roads stretching out in front of me, mud dissolving beneath me. As the reality of buying that piece began to settle in, I began to search farther afield—investigating areas close to Carolina’s outer banks, or along the outer edges of Asheville, the southeast’s hipster Brooklyn.
Am I afraid of being attached to a single place? Have I not found the right land yet? Or am I just not ready? I don’t know. In my ideal life, I’d be as close as possible to the ocean (hence the boat). North Georgia is utterly landlocked. I could buy a piece twenty minutes from Pamlico Sound for the same price. Does that mean it’s the wrong place for me, or am I merely procrastinating?
New England still draws me northward. As impossible as I find winter there, it has a hold as few places do—why else would I be writing a book about it? Waterfront land in coastal Maine goes for bargain-basement prices. Is it worth looking there, or am I motivated solely out of bullet-biting fear?
In any case, I’ve made a choice to keep my options open, at least for the next two months, with the Georgia land as my back-up plan. In the meantime, I’m traveling up to Chicago to meet my new niece, to Michigan to see my grandmother for the last time, and thence to Maine. I’m thinking of it as a mini-sabbatical, a chance to be still and make a final choice about the things I really want.
The last few weeks have been brutal, as I’ve shared my decision with my friends here. I never realize how thoroughly entrenched I am inside of a community until I decide to leave, and it’s been that way since I was a little girl. I have a pattern where I reluctantly build a connection with a community, slowly over time, and then, as soon as I’m thoroughly tied to it and happy, I tear myself away. It’s perverse masochism, like wiggling a sore tooth. I distance myself from my friends as I get ready to leave, preparing myself for departure, slowly cutting those clinging ties, in order to keep myself from feeling that excruciating pain of losing friends.
Sometimes I believe it’s an addiction. I’m addicted to the art of losing friends. It’s the thing I was taught best to do as a missionary kid. Growing up, every year I had a new set of friends. Every year I was torn away from people I loved. Now it’s just a habit.
It’s a whole set of issues that we crazy gypsies have to deal with. A lack of consistency in our past means that we crave inconsistency in our present. I can’t actually believe that it’s dysfunctional, though. That would be like denying a part of myself. Journeying is an art in its own right. Moving through space and time calls to me, again. Though I’m giving up some things, I’m gaining some things, too. The life I’ve chosen for myself comes at a high price. It’s a price I choose to pay.