Marking Time With Words

Spring is a brown time in Wyoming. I noticed this anew as my plane flew low over the hills two days ago. Each time, I can pick out the road that curves against the bluffs south of town, and then we fly over one of the low hills that marks my own neighborhood, over the entirety of the town grid, and touch down--spectacularly--at the base of the snowcapped Tetons. That's what I noticed, however, as we flew over: a neverending swath of brown, and all the mountains still encased in snow. Bison welcomed me back, as did an intrepid weasel that somehow snuck into our suburban home, crept into my room, and, in illustration of every possible rodent horror story, hopped right onto the bed. This is the west, after all.

I was flying back from Seattle, my home of seven years, and where I had spent two luxurious weeks visiting with friends, celebrating a wedding, and remembering the riot of spring. Cherry blossoms, dogwoods, tulips, magnolias. Spring in Seattle is a time of carpet petals and palm-sized camellia flowers that fall, often unblemished, directly to the grass. It is a time of chill winds and spitting rain and oddly timed sunbreaks, too, but I couldn't help but feel that I'd picked an almost tropical locale as snow continued to drift in my hometown and the thermometer dropped back down to winter temperatures.

What does it feel like to be back in Seattle? It's an odd disjunction--more familiar to me in many senses than my life in Jackson, and yet the tugs of loyalty to Wyoming were there, too, as if, in choosing to spend these months in the mountains, I must swear fealty again to my vision, even as the warmth of my friends and the verdant scenery were things I could slip back into so naturally. I caught up with my friend Jessica, who now makes her home in the Bay Area after years spent in Seattle as well, and she remarked that visiting the city now feels like it once did to visit her hometown. This seems about right: the instant, comforting embrace of the known, not tinged by nostalgia, but rather by a deep sense of recognition. A marvel over what has changed, and yet an ease with what has not been forgotten: the buses I take, where we should choose a restaurant, where I should buy a book of poetry.

It's been months since I've ridden buses, and while I sat on one reading, I realized that the city had created a mode of thought for me in the rhythm of how I got from place to place; in the cadence of my walking, in my notation of businesses I passed, in my constant state of being around others in public spaces, and yet often burrowed into my own solitude. It was the same as I rode the bus from Portland to Seattle on a Sunday evening, a continuing drama of glowering clouds, rainbows, and sun outside the windows. I tried to take a picture of the clouds out of the glass, but I ended up taking one with the strip of setting sun from the opposite aisle smeared along the bottom of the frame. Like a double exposure or two counterpanes, tissue-thin, existing side by side. This was the feeling of being in Seattle. My old life close enough to taste and easy enough to resume, my new one waiting anxiously, afraid of being abandoned.

And yet. Part of living in Jackson feels like coming back to the beginning in the best way. Here, I have found new ways to think, too. In cars, playing my music and singing along like a banshee. On long, aimless walks while our dog Iris bounds unbidden into fields to chase the birds. In the feeling of electricity whenever a coyote howl pierces the dead of night or yes, even when a weasel sneaks into the house and brings everything that is outside, inside. I know the big question hangs there, swollen with the accumulation of months: Where will you go? And the truth is, I still don't know. I suppose I am still living the questions. I suppose my journey is meant to go a little further. At least the scenery will not disappoint. And at least I am reminded of the dear friends who support me and mean so much to me and whose much-needed company will no doubt buoy me through the rest of this month and beyond.

I am also turning 30 a week from today. It's a milestone that I want to meet with a marker. This week, I will complete my book. So, when I say I am marking time with words, I mean it very explicitly. This is the week. I will be holing myself up for as long as it takes so that I can emerge on the dawning day of my next decade and know that one thing I did in my twenties was finish my book. I will put the dot at the bottom of that question mark. I will move to the next sentence. And then, it will be time to move onto living another question, to finding another path in the trees.