Saturday, February 25, 2012

In the past four months, I've moved from place to place, from the Northwest to the Southwest to the Northeast and back to the Southwest, helping out family members in need. I've lived out of one suitcase and two carry-ons. I've modified my daily routine, diet, and attitude everywhere I've stayed. I've slept on soft beds, hard beds, aero beds, convertible sofas, non-convertible sofas, and one night on the floor wedged between a cabinet and a droopy ficus tree.

In every place, I've thought about home, what it means to me, where it is, and where it could be. No matter where I go or where I live in my life, I'm always thinking about my home and then the next home. I see many places in which I envision a better life, where I imagine the person I might be in that life.

Standing at the end of the pier in downtown Santa Barbara, with the water's sound to my back and the green hills dotted with Spanish style homes looking front, I shifted my usual thoughts. "Ahh. . . what a gorgeous scene. What a great day I have had in downtown Santa Barbara, editing in the expansive old library, walking the streets lined with palms, watching the wealthy and the sun-beaten homeless pass each other by (wondering what characteristics of mine separate me from either group)." With another "This would be a great place to live!"

But on the pier, as the day waned into evening, the shift was that I understood I could have all the places that I want to live in and more I've yet to discover. I don't have to live in them; I can just continue to visit and visit and visit. It's focusing on the place I'm currently standing in and immersing myself in its flavor. It's not wishing it were permanent (because we all know that nothing is); and it's letting one place be the place between places. One place where you keep all the stuff you don't need at all times, the books, journals, art, clothes, and paraphernalia of memories. One place to pull yourself together. One place to plan. One place to catch up with friends.

Of course, I can only have all the places I want if I want them strongly enough and can find the ways to get to them. This means staying gainfully employed and building up mileage points and dreaming big. And I'm doing those things right now. I need to recognize that. I'm a freelance editor and can take my work anywhere that has Internet access. I'm flexible and can live with the basics. I've been living a good life while wanting something I haven't yet seen. It's time to appreciate.

Soon I'll be home again. And I will appreciate my town as I fly into its Rocky Mountain valley. I'll appreciate unpacking, and washing, and trading out clothes, and sifting through books, and cleaning, and gardening, and especially, especially getting back into my art studio. And that will keep me quite content for several months until I'm ready to leave again. But now I know that the coming back is just as important as the leaving, and that's the grounding factor that defines me no matter where I might be at present.

Have you ever wondered what it might feel like to be out in the middle of the ocean on a day in which the water and the sky are the same color gray and you can't see any land or boats and you are alone, tredding water?

That's what I wonder about whenever I look out at the horizon. But I sometimes walk in thought along the sand and don't think about the sea.

I'm back at the water's edge, the big water's edge, and I can't get enough of it.

One sunset this week was fuscia vivid, but I didn't have my camera with me to record it. So the next evening, even though cloudy, I stood out on the sand at 5:30 p.m. at the end of February, for some kind of sunset. Without the burst of color from the evening before, I was actually able to concentrate on the power of the sea, and on the power of design - layers, patterns, tonal variations - as if I could draw the scene with a pencil in my mind.

Pencil or pastel?