Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Western Girl?


Last night Craig and I witnessed a 360 -degree sunset. "Only in the West", I thought to myself. Really, there is nothing like a western sky--morning or night, there is no comparison.


I don't remember the skies in Pasadena, but that was where I was born. I remember taking our bikes out to the mesa that ran along the arroyo in New Mexico, we would be racing rabbits under clear skies and suddenly it wasn't rabbits anymore, but cats and dogs coming down in sheets. We raced home barely changing into dry shirts and the clouds had parted revealing the most crisp bright sky. The Sunset saves her most glorious performances for the places that have left the landscape lean and bare--open, to spotlight her glory.


Utah boasts more trees in some parts, but is a desert in her own right. Craving peace one need only saunter down Coyote Gulch and sleep a night under Jacob Hamblin Arch in Escalante. Do only western girls feel the immense comfort of rock overhead?


In high school, as I slipped another AP class under my belt and signed up for just one more extracurricular activity, I prepared myself for college abroad. Now, this "abroad" was nothing more than what I had heard called "back East". My aspirations were on the ancient campus of Bryn Mawr--where inductions, formal tea parties, and ceremonious ceremonies still existed. Yet, Money always pulls the reigns in somewhat and BYU instead was graced with my admission. A love affair began and lives on today for that gem of a school. Yet, still, something inside of me groaned for more green. So after a year at the "Y" I set sail for Ireland, the greenest of the green countries and truly "abroad". There, I soaked up the endless dewy fields where even the rocks were green.


Yet, it was in Spain, on that same trip, where I felt truly at home. It was Coin. On the top of the hill at El Campo we dipped in and out of the pool, coming up only to sample the Paella cooking over the fire under the care of Mama's fingers. Leaning, back in town that night, over the rail of the rooftop balcony, it was the dust that excited me, stirred up by a hundred hooves of racing bulls below.


Who am I?


After college, I still had a head full of Moss. Perhaps I will marry a New Englander who will whisk me off to Connecticut or Boston where they grow them green and there are infinite, moist, canopied walks to be taken. Trees!! They were calling my name.


So, this Western Gal married a Southern Gent-- for so many less shallow reasons than trees (a story for another topic and another day). As we drove and drove and drove weeks after marriage we arrived in--not Connecticut. This was the true land of trees--the Deep South. The love that grew in me here, for this unexpected residence, was slow coming. Perhaps life is a bit slower "down here" because you can't quite see where you're going or what is coming around the bend--for the trees! Yet, I finally had my green?


(Another) Yet, we sat a few nights ago making a list of 3 or four places. After 6, going on 7, years of marriage we are finally choosing a home, a place to settle. Where small talk with neighbors will suddenly seem an investment in a future. Where each random stream and child along the road could be the lifelong playplace or playmate for your child. It is giving me an ulcer.


Am I a Western Girl?


The thought never entered my mind until sitting on the couch with the Atlas a few nights ago.


I grew up with Mark Twain and Georgia O'Keefe. I made Kachina dolls in grade school. I was raised on salsa--spicy salsa, Frito pies and Mom's many chilies. I have first-day-of-school photographs of me wearing a silver coyote bolo tie. Stucco was the norm and I remember always being able to go outside. But, what about Maine? or Rhode Island? Craig, if not outwardly, surely inwardly rolls his eyes. I have this intense feeling that I will be missing out on something superbly tremendous if I nix those places. What is this syndrome?


"The Man" who wrote "The Book": Wallace Stegner, from his "Wilderness Letter":


For myself, I grew up on the empty plains of Saskatchewan and Montana and in the mountains of Utah, and I put a very high valuation on what those places gave me. And if I had not been able to periodically renew myself in the mountains and deserts of western America I would be very nearly bughouse. Even when I can't get to the back country, the thought of the colored deserts of southern Utah, or the reassurance that there are still stretches of prairies where the world can be instantaneously perceived as disk and bowl, and where the little but intensely important human being is exposed to the five directions of the thirty-six winds, is a positive consolation. The idea alone can sustain me.


The conversation, a few nights ago, ended abruptly as I, forgive my monthly drama Craig, could no longer discuss the impending decision. Yet, regardless of said drama all such conversations end with the familiar quip: home is where we are together not the point on the map. True true. But, I ask, isn't there something in the PLACE you choose?


Now, as I wind up this rant of a post, the rain outside the french doors has begun to pour. I've fallen in love with this face of Phoenix. The summer is washing away its last days in the many rains of our Monsoon. Simultaneous lightning and heartstopping thunder on my front stoop is pushing the membranes of my mind: hurry! decide! .

19 comments:

Tasha said...

I believe Logan Utah would suit! Seriously, move here!

Shannon said...

Oh! Jordan. I am developing an ulcer over this also. I will do my Portalnd post soon.

Kelly said...

Jordan! I can truly say I understand. We went through this after dental school (and now again on a smaller scale with a house). All we knew was that we wanted to move West. I grew up in Colorado, Montana and AZ. Keith grew up in Alberta. We needed to come back West. It somehow just is in you, I think. When people ask why we settled here (because our families are not here), we say "for the weather", which usually illicits a laugh. Portland is not usually a weather destination, but it was a good compromose for an Arizona girl and an Alberta boy. There are hosts of other reasons besides the weather (which your comment form will burst if I get into).

But, I completely understand having to stop talking about it (abruptly, even!), and it being an all-consuming decision. You want to feel that you fit and that you are Home at last. I hope you find it soon. If you ever need to talk about it, just email.

Kelly said...

I meant "compromise" not "compromose". eesh.

Michelle said...

Jordan-you took the words right out of my mouth and thoughts right out of my head, as we are in the same position. I too always wanted to live out east- I applied for graduate school in Boston in '99 and in the end decided not to go. I love the green of the east, but I love and will always miss the bluest western skies during the gray winters in Buffalo. I was going to do a post very similar to this- how funny!

Elizabeth said...

I can't wait to see where you decide. What is the process do you pick a bunch and see what you get or do you get to choose?

Shannon said...

I did my Portland post. Your post was an inspiration for me to finally put into writing my feelings/thoughts on where to live.

Jenny Dahl said...

This question is burning in our minds too. Unfortunately we are no closer to a decision than we were 5 years ago. And although it doesn't necessarily have to be permanent, it most likely will be. Where to go? Seems like everyone wants the answer.

Kurt said...

An hour away from Grampa and Gramma would be good.
-Seth, Lucy and Hazel and the rest...

michelle said...

What a wrenching decision. Yes, home is wherever you are all together. And I do believe you can love living (almost) anywhere. And yet... there is more to it, and it IS a big decision! Hoping your ulcer can end soon.

Julia said...

What a tough decision-- it almost makes it kind of nice to just be told where to go with the Match.

I really only planned on living where I live for a year or two, but four years later, and with seven left to go, I wonder if I could ever live anywhere else. I am glad we don't have to make that decision for a very long time.

Katy said...

Choose well and we might follow!

Lucy said...

I was watching Anne of Avonlea last night on KBYU (with many annoying pledge begs stuck in the middle...but I was too hooked to shut it off) and your post kind of struck me as the same kind of emotions Anne experiences when she wants Morgan Harris, even feels jealous when he gives attention elsewhere, and yet when he proposes, knows that she can not. He doesn't have all her heart. Obviously, you and your Craig and your beautiful little family will/can/could/would be happy wherever. But, it's kind of true. A western girl is a western girl. I know I am. Which is what makes travel all the more fun.

Bring on the bolo ties!

Lucy said...

Did that make sense? Reading it now, I think I left out a lot of filler thoughts. But...I think you'll make my intended connection:)

Shawna B. said...

Jordan, we, too, are in decision mode. I'm a Western girl, too, but admit, I am also part Southern girl and the East Coast has stolen my heart. Must my wandering really come to an end? This next move seems so permanent. I don't think I'm ready to leave my beautiful Virginia. Hmmmm .... maybe we won't.

Jeni said...

Remember, "Happiness" is not a place, but a state of mind.

Sara said...

You are a Western Girl and so am I! What is important here is not that we settle back in the West, but that we settle near one another. . . don't you think? haha There are just too many beauties in the West yet to be explored and discovered. Think of all the great camping trips our two families could take together. In the West all you need is a few bikes, a couple of kayaks a tent and a car to fit it all in and your life will be full of adventure. Best wishes with your decision. We still have 2 years to go. . . but this same conversation is a constant around here.

Anonymous said...

After our adventures, we are hoping to head home. I can't help but wonder if I will get back and be disappointed, that I have made it better than it was. In the end, I think it's the people not the place. Heck, that's why we have vacations. And even better, extended vacations after our children are grown. This will be an interesting year for both of our families. I can't help but hope that you end up some where close to us!

Melissa Rozeski

Crystalyn said...

i can't wait to see how all of this will fall into place. and it will. you will find YOUR place. the decision making process can be so draining at times. dave and i were just looking back on some decisions we made a few years ago and talking about how we are often very "cerebral" about our decision making. not exactly they way we would like to make decisions ideally.

i hope you find your place soon...