The elusive idea of home

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Moss hangs like dewy beards…

Having grown up in the Pacific Northwest United States until the age of 22, the temperate coastal rainforests of British Columbia are deeply familiar to me. Towering fir trees sway in the the breeze, their canopy shading the spongy, humus-rich earth below. Crumbling deadfalls provide anchor for opportunistic hemlocks, moss hangs like dewy beards from their branches, and ferns blanket the forest floor beneath. Crows chatter from the treetops, audible but usually invisible, and frogs chirp from the many sodden ponds and streams. The interminably grey skies release an impressively continuous supply of precipitation, which somehow the earth absorbs. But the smell stirs me most: the combined rich, earthy scents of decomposing organic material, cedar bark, cold rain, fir needles, and fungus. Something about that smell fills me with some sort of concurrent joy and heartbreaking loss that I can’t even identify, and yet gives rise to a lump in my throat even as I smile. It’s confusing.

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The damp woods of Pacific Spirit Regional Park in Vancouver, BC.

One might think that this bittersweet stirring is the distant draw of home—a place to which I have an abiding and meaningful connection. And yet, I cannot help but feel the exact opposite. I do not feel at home here, just as I never felt at home during our three years living in Colorado. Instead I feel a vague sense of unease; I am strangely unsettled, antsy, disconnected, yearning somehow.

But let me back up for a minute. I suppose I should mention that we moved to Canada. Yep. Canada. Many people joke after discouraging elections that they are going to move to Canada, but we really did that. Without getting too political here, we simply decided the United States was a difficult place for us to be in this cultural moment; divisions run too deep, there is too much anger, too much violence, too much shouting and not enough listening. There are many people suffering and many others who are uncaring. People have become (were always?) hard, tense, suspicious of one another and unnecessarily confrontational. I guess America just isn’t feeling very much like home these days. Canada is far from perfect, but we at least have a few years of psychological breathing room to reassess our life choices. Canadian society where we live is, for the most part, gentle, compassionate, and peaceful. I am finishing my graduate studies at the University of British Columbia (MFA), and my partner is continuing his job by telecommuting. Just like that: next chapter. Continue reading

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Urban jungle exploration: NYC, Philly, Boston

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My morning coffee in Maine

I am writing this from mid-coast Maine, looking out across a sunny lawn surrounded by woodlands outside the house. My hosts, former coworkers from Maine Media Workshops, are all running around campus in the frenetic chaos that governs the summer camp-like atmosphere of the workshops, performing their various duties with surprising efficiency. I, on the other hand, am relaxing in the peaceful sunshine of a summer morning, listening to the birds and chipmunks chatter at each other in the woods. Soon I will head out for a swim, a jog, and perhaps a boat ride.

The tranquility of coastal Maine serves as stark contrast to the bustling, noisy cities I just emerged from.
Continue reading

It’s time (again): summer travel 2013

The view from the top of Cathedral, Tuolumne Meadows, during my 2011 western road trip.
The view from the top of Cathedral, Tuolumne Meadows, during my 2011 western road trip.

I won’t lie. I have itchy feet pretty much all the time. When I’m not traveling, I’m probably thinking about my next trip, which now is imminent. Hence, time for a post!

As an adult university student, I am acutely aware of the rarity of extended free time in the “real world,” and I am amazed that more students don’t capitalize on their annual summer hiatus. Maybe it’s because they’re all so broke and in debt they can’t afford to go anywhere. Financial stability — yet another benefit of being a 30-year-old college student instead of a 20-year-old.

Anyway, this is my final summer before graduation. I’m going to make the most of it, of course. Continue reading