Sunday, January 06, 2013

I hardly knew ye

When I wrote this post a year ago today, my head was filled with ideas about a life I had just left behind and another life that I was just beginning. I didn't even know what was actually possible, just that this new place with 4WD and mountains and sagebrush and cold, clear rivers was so much different from the tall buildings and knowing neighbors and the vibrations of a busy East Coast city. I thought that I would live Wild West-style here while trying to find fragments of the things I loved in other places. Because that's what you do when you move from one place to another: keep ahold of what you know to bring you comfort in a new and foreign land. I'd be a city girl in a medium-sized western town, enjoying the novelties like rodeos and shotguns and pickup trucks and getting stuck in godforsaken places with the wind and dust whipping through unkempt hair, like in an Annie Proulx novel.

Instead, I camped and hiked in God's country, vast valleys filled with wildflowers and alpine lakes. I rocked out to a local music festival. I watched fireworks from a blanket in the park after rafting on the small river that splits the town in half, biked along that river to the county fair twice (and home in the dark twice), and hiked along that river in numerous spots. I slept in my tent so much it started to feel like a second home. I gathered with friends to grill in the backyard on hot summer nights; I read in a chair on my porch for entire days at a time, gardened and pruned and mowed and explored my little plot of land, cooked up a storm for Labor Day and Thanksgiving get-togethers, and snuggled in front of the crackling fire in the wood stove on a cold winter night. I dreamed about the renovations I would make if only I owned this random red house on the hill.

I thought that when I moved here, I would spend some time trying on the things that supposedly make one a westerner, in order to fit in such a foreign place about which I knew very little. But as a native Midwesterner, befriended by other Midwestern transplants in this Midwestern-seeming town, I'm actually living the life I was always supposed to live. This is a mostly tame place, with little danger unless you seek it out, and there is just enough excitement to satisfy the city girl in me, while the nature-girl part gets to play as often as I want. Today, a chickadee visited my bird feeder and five mule deer meandered along the sidewalk near the nature center. This is my version of the wild west, wild as in wildlife, as in nature right at my doorstep.

The person I have become is the person I always was. When I reflected last year on the tumult of the previous years, I didn't recognize then that I had been bracing myself for so long against the gales that whipped through my branches because my roots were seeking purchase in the wrong soils. I thought that I could grow anywhere if given the right sunlight, enough water, and sufficient nutrients. But I was operating as though I were a different species; now that I have been transplanted, I can thrive among the Great Basin sages and grasses and the Rocky Mountain conifers.

Last January, I had high hopes for the coming year because I didn't know what to expect in such a different land. This year, for the first time, I have different goals: fix up the great used bike I bought, build a kitchen table from a used door, expand my garden, buy a kayak, take that trip to France I've been dreaming of since I was a kid. These are the dreams of someone who is already where they want to be, and now they can dig their roots down deeper. There is no more looking ahead to the next move, at least not for a while. Now is the time for nesting, for building on what I started last year, for owning my life.