Kiddo is home in Baltimore again and we have begun trying to return to our normal daily lives, too.
I’ve spent the last month running up and down the East Coast, which has had me thinking a lot about travel, space, and especially this country; how we are built of regions, all of these spaces and cultures which are can seem similar on the surface and which are so deeply different in the lived experience. It’s been jarring at times, jumping from the heat and swelter of North Carolina back to the crisp, sometimes downright cold summer evenings of New England, with frequent stops in Baltimore, the city of my heart. My bulk of my thinking life has been almost perfectly split between these spaces- the northern and southern East Coast, with jaunts to Interesting Elsewheres- and they both feel deeply familiar; comforting, conflicting, and confusing to me, in vastly different, difficult- to- explain ways. It has been an ungrounding, disjointed period, and for the first time in a long time, I am sick of traveling.
I spent a good portion of this travel time listening to one of Night Vale Presents’ more recent podcasts, Alice Isn’t Dead, which- don’t worry, no spoilers- talks quite a bit about being on the road, a coincidence that I appreciated greatly. It dwells a fair amount on the landscape and society of America, obliquely and directly; if you have a road trip coming up this summer, really, consider giving it a listen.
On the last leg of all this travel, I took a room in Baltimore, a standard mid- range hotel off 695. I had dinner with an old friend, then headed out to my temporary home for the night and spent about an hour sitting by the pool and playing with the hotel cat who had a slight limp and followed me about. There’s always something deeply flattering about being chosen by a new cat, isn’t there? She’d been in some sort of scrape, with a rear leg that had broken and healed a little bent, but got around agilely enough and showed no pain when held, or later on, as I scooped her up as she tried to dart into my room. One of those unexpectedly bright, shining outtakes in all of this, lately. I was grateful for the company and stayed up far, far too late, leaned up against an over- pruned tree in the dark with a strange cat purring rustily in my lap, listening to the city and thinking how it sounds a different sort of alive there, even at 1 am.
I am back, now, and immersing myself in the joyful work of the day- to- day. I make my shaggy, overnight breads and think of my friend Lauren; I work on meditation scripts and wonder exactly when Dave and John will be back from their adventures. My friend Derek has asked me to dye large, rainbow- colored silk curtains for his music studio, which will be enormous fun- cloth is always an enjoyable medium to work, and silk especially; it takes up color so wonderfully. There was a hand- spinning demo for a children’s camp as soon as I hit the ground back home, too; that’s an entirely different thing, worthy of its own space, but the short version is that I’d forgotten how enjoyable doing a simple demo can be. Drawing yarn out of fluff is a strange, old magic and most of the time, even the most restless, squirmy of six- to- eight- year- olds can’t resist its pull, at least for a short while. Kids are cool and still interested in how things work, how things are put together.
Our neighbor’s mother came home to begin her own hospice; I know this with certainty, because the neighbor on the other side of their house, Emmett, stopped by to talked to us about it when we came back from North Carolina. In the evenings, I can hear Emmett’s music; he favors late 70’s disco and funk. The other night he was listening to George Clinton and the Parliament Funkadelic. He is not who you would expect to see in their fanbase, but he was singing along so loudly we could hear him from our abbreviated stoop. People are such funny, interestingly layered animals. I’m a secret fan of Emmett and his late- night funk- fests.
We would have known— about our neighbors, I mean. The signs are clear, especially with it all so fresh in our own memories. I’ve started making two balls of dough each evening, but I know this isn’t the offering I will really want to give when the time comes. Part of me wants to shield Sam from all of this, as though that were possible. As though it would do anything, either. Instead, I make bread, and wave, and speak softly outdoors, and generally hope in their direction. It is a hard thing. There isn’t much to do. I scan the aisles of the local co- op, think about casseroles and the ways we care for one another through food and the work of hands and these meaningless, meaningful gestures; the way we show up, even when we don’t really know each other, blindly walking each other the only way along, which is through it all.
The way we plant our roots, it’s always different, always the same.
Hugo is angry with us, or frustrated, or just unsettled. Possibly just: yes. It’s hard to tell, because of the whole dog/ human disconnect and a general tendency on my part to anthropomorphize, but he alternates wildly between snuggling and misbehaving, so it’s one of those three to some degree. Regardless of which, I can empathize. I’m looking for some quiet time, too, tiny friend. It’s good to be home.
So I’ve missed July, or most of it, which is all right. There was a parade and some summer foods, which was pretty nice, but otherwise, there are more important things. What’s been happening out there, world? I mean, I watch the news, I know about the broad scale, big- picture stuff, but more importantly, what’s been happening with all of you? What are the things keeping you going these days? What are your very good things, big or small? Catch me up. It’s been too long.
PS: Speaking of quiet time, finding peace, and coming home, all of which this was about, and not: Sam, Kiddo and I just finished watching Stranger Things, a new series on Netflix. My brilliant friend Athena had posted about it on Facebook; I saw that Winona Ryder was working on it and figured it was worth the commitment of at least one episode. We ended up chewing through the season in about a week and I can’t say enough good things. I’ve been describing it as magical realism set in the early 80’s but without as many problematic bits, but that’s still a little off the mark. If you enjoyed The Twilight Zone, IT, Poltergeist, The Goonies, any John Hughes film, The Neverending Story, and/ or E.T., though, you might really want to give this a try. It’s got elements of all of those things, plus a hefty dose of Clive Barker, and a bunch of its own wonderful weirdness to boot. A really beautiful piece of summer escapism.