Hardwood Burns Slowly

I love my home, perched between Big and Little Cottonwood, with its shady yard and vegetable garden and birdfeeders and Paolo Soleri bells, which are so sweet and soothing that I always wake up smiling on breezy mornings. Waking up in Boulder this weekend, the first thing I noticed was the absence of their song, though I'm so used to them here at home that I don't even notice them anymore.

Interesting. Even the best things grow routine or boring. We stop paying attention to - or find fault in - what we once found so breathtaking.

And eventually, while we sit still looking out, we become such a part of our surroundings that we become our surroundings, the way temples have become banyan trees, and vice versa, in the jungles of Thailand and Cambodia.

So even though - as I said - I love my home and husband and this community, the stasis and finality of here seems to oppose my nature. I almost always feel like I should be elsewhere, traveling or exploring new places, new people, new opportunities. I'm not good at settling, even when the place and people and opportunities I'm "settling" for are so wonderful, are so sacred.

But some dear friends of mine just went to Vietnam for a few weeks, and before they left, I suggested sites and inns and restaurants and, well, Thailand, because I like it better, and as I talked, I thought about some of the things I've been lucky enough to experience: fabric shops in hard-to-find alleys and stooped old women who run guest houses and tend terraced gardens in the Himalayas and the way the centuries-old pubs in Gammla Stan stay open all night, even for a group of kids nursing Carlsbergs and being way too loud.

For years, I focused on going climbing as frequently as possible. That meant making it happen after work and on weekends, leaving little time for much else. Now that I've backed off a bit, I have more time to think. I feel like I'm finding my direction by remembering where I've been, and while that might seem like I'm navigating by way of the rearview mirror, I just can't fight this nostalgia; it's like I lost my way somewhere back there and am retracing my steps until I figure everything out.

Some friends and I went out for sushi in Boulder on Saturday night, and as we cracked each other up with stories about our lives now - so different than when we all lived in the same small mountain town five years ago - we watched a group of kids at a nearby table celebrate the 21st birthday of one of their own.

To me, they looked no older than 16, and I couldn't believe the waitresses weren't running their ids under black lights. "How can they be of age?" I thought, as we watched them tie on paper Samurai headbands - the Japanese equivalent of lobster bibs, I suppose. Then I realized that my context was off; I was still thinking of myself as 21 - young and rowdy and fighting for the spotlight - when, actually, I'm a decade beyond.

Maybe that's what this is all about. I don't know. Usually I just keep writing until I run across some sort of resolution; I never force it, I just seem to find one. Tonight, though, I'm writing in waves, taking breaks to play with Arnie and read the new issue of Surfer .

This month's "Last Wave" essay deals with the author's uncertainty about traveling to a spot in Baja based on the violence that area has experienced lately. He suggests that these world changes - unimaginable a few years ago - will affect surfing, will change how people can access and experience it. I paid close attention to the article, because Brad and I have spent time in that very place. When I think now about how safe we felt there, about how we - or at least I - felt then like I was in a haven of good energy and possibility, I'm almost embarrassed by my lack of foresight, by my inability to predict the warzone the place would become.

But maybe that's just it. Maybe, as we age and as the world changes in once unimaginable ways, we need to remember what it was like before, what we were like before. Maybe that's what gets us back on track and makes things better.

Good night, all.


Mike Dutton said...

I relate to your restlessness all too well... And usually calm it the same way, by thinking of those tiny personal moments I had the privilege of experiencing in far off places not too long ago. I try to break up the routine at home as much as possible to keep myself open to experiencing new things and avoiding the mundane (though, a rest is good now and then).

I really hope Baja returns to what you remember it being. I have a very naive impression of the place as well, though mine is informed only by postcards and photos hanging up at chain taco joints.

Andrew said...

Hi KGB - this has more to do with your excellent writing than the topic of your posting, but I just finished listening to "When You Are Engulfed in Flames" written and read by David Sedaris. It is quite excellent and it would work well in Van 5.0, although that man you hang out with might not like it that much.

KatieGirlBlue said...

HA! Andrew, love that book (especially audio-style, as DS is so funny when reading it).

My favorite line: "I want a pony. And make it fast, man! This mood of mine won't last forever!"