From the City, into the Mountains

A view from the street

There’s a strange realization settling in: I’m almost completely moved into my new place. It happened sooner than I would have ever planned, so somehow there was hardly any time left to stress and worry about, “How?”

One load on a farmer’s borrowed pickup truck, and another on an open-air flatbed with wooden fence sides. Unceremoniously and hastily transporting the inherited things I’ve managed to hold onto from Maryland to Florida to California, and now from the city into the mountains. An antique china cabinet and an old-fashioned wash sink that were a great-grandmother’s; a desk that was my sister’s; 8 large paintings that are my father’s; a room-sized Victorian rug that the handyman said, “Oh, you know something like this could go for $3,000 at least!” (Later that night, my landlady said, “Better turn your faucets to drip tonight, it’s gonna go down to 30! If a pipe bursts, that beautiful blue carpet of yours will be soaking wet!”). Though, their value to me is purely sentimental.

One thing about moving: confronting the amount of clothing I‘ve accumulated over the years. Apparently I have a lot of scarves, because now they are in a mountainous heap on the floor, since my closet is already full, every extra inch occupied with bins of camping gear and art supplies—and in this trailer there are only doorways and no doors on which to hang a hooked rack. (Good thing the weather at this elevation is ripe for scarf-wearing). A collection of magnets and postcards and photos were transplanted from one refrigerator door to another, so my kitchen already has a lived-in feel. 6 out of 8 of my blankets are on my bed, because it’s horribly inefficient to run the heater all night. (I only have so many blankets because I kept all the fleece ones that my sister had on her bed when living in Utah before she passed away 3 years go; and a young Brazilian family— who sold me my single bed through “Let Go” when I moved here in March— insisted I take their blankets and curtains, because they were leaving the country and bringing only a few suitcases with them.)

The trailer, dubbed “the Forest Yogini Hut”

There’s a pot for heating water that comes with this place as an amenity, and I’d estimate I’ve run it 100 times since moving in a week ago. I’d say I’m drinking “enough” water, yet my lips and nose are sore and dry from the air. The Santa Anna winds blow in from the desert this time of year, and for a few nights this week the trees raged a wild dance through the night, illuminated by the glow of the waxing moon. There are two cats who live on the roof, who I’ve named “Marbles” and “Marmalade,” yet I imagine they have many names given by whoever they visit during the day, meowing for food. I myself have already given them alter-ego names, “Shakta” and “Shekinah,” for the times I wake up to their howling and screeching above my head, battling off raccoons from their rooftop territory or engaging in some bizarre mating ritual, perhaps. (In a half-dreaming state, the noises do quite a number on one’s psyche.)

Marbles & Marmalade / Shakta & Shekinah

Despite the ragged sound of this living situation, it’s quite a delight, and truly, the manifestation of a wish. To struggle at the whims nature! Exposure to the elements! A feeling of homesteading. Engagement with the creatures. Feeling the weather. The need to wear more layers. Making use of these blankets and scarves and leg warmers and hiking boots. Hearing the sound of the wind in the branches, the crunch of leaves and acorns beneath my feet, and the bickering of blue jays. Living near a town that’s small enough so people want to say, “Hello!” (And, goddess bless, there’s a “log cabin” vibe in the decor of the buildings. Woohoo!). Yes, I fantasize about my feet in the sand on the gulf shores of Florida, and of the ample rain and balmy air that soothed my skin and hair. But to gain in appreciation for what was and what no longer is, at least in this very moment, is the joy I find in experiencing change.

A (sacred) Manzanita tree

How long I’ll be here, who’s to know? I have no ownership over this place, and the lease is verbal under “woman’s honor.” The transitions that have occurred this year encourage me to work toward the ability to settle more securely— even though any semblance of “permanence” gives me a visceral feeling of aversion. Nevertheless, I’ve been putting together a resumé to start submitting to find a “real” job, as my father calls them (I’ll be sure to leave that whole “permanence aversion” part out of it). Perhaps something that will involve the use of writing. So far this year, caregiving has been my line of work, and it has always felt uncertain of what the next week or day would bring (such is the theme of the year 2020!).

But for now, I’m enjoying this window of, “Welp, I’m doing what I can,” as I wait for the wayward internet technicians to get themselves out to this land that sits on the edge of “ installation impossible” status. To connect to the outside world, for now, I must sit outside the small-town library to get a signal— a place that is quite peaceful and lovely, I must say.

Outdoor library gazebo time

And, behind the trailer, I can go through the back gate of the chain link fence that surrounds the property, hike between the neighbor’s backyard and the horse ranch that‘s perched behind us on the hill, which leads to a cal-de-sac, where there’s a narrow clearing amongst the manzanitas and yucca bushes. Following that trail, it winds up the hill, and cuts behind the ranch, where yesterday I found a sign that reads, “End of Private Property. Cleveland National Forest begins here.” Elated, I followed the trail, and came across a coyote, and then another, who both startled at my appearance and dashed into the brush. The view opened up to the next mountains over, overlooking the valley where I see the trail continues onward. For the time being, I turned back, realizing the need for water if I am to continue this journey into the desert mountains. (So much more to explore, hooray!)

“Property Boundary: National Forest”

One thought on “From the City, into the Mountains

  1. You’re a beautiful person, both inside and out.

    I think the place that moved me the most was El Paso, Texas. The sunsets are amazing, and the sand that grabs you as you walk reminds you that the desert is the ruler there. I’ve been other places, but the skies look bigger in Texas. Plus, I felt like I was living on another planet. I would like to live with my aunt down there, as my health would be a lot better. I struggle with winters for physical and mental reasons. My aunt lives in Austin where it stays hot.

    I’m an amateur writer. If you ever want to exchange drafts, let me know.


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