Written Aug. 5, 2014
My plans for this year went awry: I was supposed to be writing a proposal and marketing/ publishing plan for the nonfiction book I translated from Spanish to English last summer, but on the first Saturday in May, I found a new apartment. I’ve moved to heaven and my summer’s gone to hell: the place is wonderful, and I’m certain it’ll be an ideal writer’s retreat, but the amount of work and hassle any move entails is maddening.
I’ve moved more times in my life than I care to think about. When I was in my early 30s, a friend a few years older than I summed it up neatly when she said, “Maybe you’ll always be peripatetic.” Leslie had helped me try to move to her small town in New Mexico, recommending me for a temp job at her workplace, giving me rides to the office, and listening sympathetically the morning I burst into tears in her pickup truck when I talked about the previous night’s conversation with my friends back home in Western New York. I was tired of fighting the usual problem with college and resort towns — low wages and high housing prices — and ready to move back to my hometown, which had become part of the Rust Belt while I’d been living in the Rocky Mountain West.
More than 17 years, one defunct relationship, and eight moves later, I still think of Leslie’s comment every time I pack my stuff, even as I hope that this uprooting will be the last for a long time. But I know how this goes: Define “long.” I’m going to hang onto this rental with tooth and claw, though. I moved only nine side streets south on a main route between towns, but I traded the traffic noise for the clucking of backyard chickens – or, as I like to put it, “from 15,000 cars to 15,000 birds.” The first figure is real – the city commissioned a traffic study that determined the average number of vehicles per day. As for the birds, it’s probably closer to 1500, but my new part of the ’hood is next to an Audubon sanctuary and my new landlords like to feed the animals. In my five weeks in my new home I’ve seen blue jays, cardinals, catbirds, crows, flickers, grackles, hummingbirds, robins, sparrows, starlings, wrens, and downy, hairy, and pileated woodpeckers, and have heard many birds I can’t yet identify by song.
My new landlords are healers, and one is a gardener. He’s cultivated a paradise on the edge of paradise: lush beds of flowers and vegetables atop what used to be a gravel driveway, next to city-owned open space protected in perpetuity, up the ridge from land that’s been tilled since the Europeans arrived in this area several hundred years ago. I bike the half-mile home after work, arriving sweaty and stressed out from a day in the office, and instead of rushing inside to flee the sound of SUVs and semis roaring by, I wander past the bolted kale and lounging zucchini with its faded August flowers, sit on the backyard bench, and gaze down the hill at an offshoot of the oxbow lake. All is not peaceful: ruby-throated hummingbirds chase each other through the patch of crimson bee balm, and crows argue over the compost pile. But it’s my little slice of heaven, the closest I can get to living in the country without leaving town. And it’s a great place to collect myself before I head to one of my favorite cities, Buenos Aires, Argentina.