Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Cat Wants OUT
I am a wanderer. I want to gnaw my own leg out of the steel trap of my life every six weeks or so and go somewhere else. I have fantasies of having enough money to just pile the cats and the laptop into the car and take off, letting road turn into road until the routine I've carved out for myself dissolves.
My mother, in true Lutheran fashion, raised me to be responsible. To be worried about having enough money, enough food, enough to do. She raised me to be self-reliant. Her voice doesn't allow me to call into work when I'm sick (really sick, not faking sick). Her voice gets me up in the dark to grade papers (stacks upon stacks of them) so I can return them quickly. Her voice would be impossible to outrun on a road trip.
I am aware enough, also because of her voice, to know that I will not quit my job and take off for the hinterlands. I will not cash out my bank account and take a whirlwind road trip. I will not forgo the illusion of stability for the illusion of freedom. I know freedom needs a structure. I know, frankly, that freedom needs money. But I have to go somewhere, and if I don't go somewhere soon I'll be in the leg-gnawing stage.
I love Prescott, the tiny mountain town where I live. But it is not home, and it is not a place where I can stay day in and day out, year in and year out, without atrophying. Best I can tell, I have two homes -- North Carolina and San Francisco. Not surprising -- a rural home and an urban home. My dad was the product of rural North Carolina, my mother of Brooklyn, NY. Both factions duke it out inside my body, especially after a few months of being in Prescott.
I am beginning to dream of San Francisco nightly. I can see the cracks on the sidewalks on Geary Street. I hear the clanging of the trolleys on Market, the percussion of trash cans in Union Square. I physically need the anonymity of getting on the train and hurtling under ground to a different place. I need to be crushed up against overcoats and ipods and messenger bags during rush hour. I need to see the steel landscape of a city press its fingers to the clouds. I need the self-reliance of the urban environment. The spontaneous art on convenience store walls. The needled men curled into themselves in parks. The stimulation of the voices, the neon, the loneliness, and the humanity. These things are like water to me, and right now, I am dehydrated.
Conversely, the rolling green hills of North Carolina make me cry. The dogwoods and the azaleas and the dotting of crosses, even though I don't believe in them, live inside me. The brick houses with wooden shutters. The tiny creeks that meander throughout the state. The cardinals. The orange birds. The green snakes. This land pulls the fleshy landscape of my body back, ever and always back. North Carolina has claimed my body. San Francisco my heart.
I live most days on this edge -- half of me pulled west and half of me pulled east. I joke about driving up I-17 to I-40 and turning left (or possibly turning right) and following it to the end of the road. Most of the time, this tension is OK. I have a good life here, an easier life than I would likely have in either San Francisco or North Carolina, and besides, what good is a writer if she's not feeling exiled?
But today, this week, the end of the semester blessedly in sight, I feel the howling growing stronger. My Lutheran obligations of work will be gone for a few weeks. I can disappear. Get moving. Get out. Get going while you can. See everything you can see before you can't. Experience everything -- sunrise on the east coast to sunset on the west coast.
Go, Laraine. Go.