> jumping into life.


On the morning after the longest night, we were on the road an hour before dawn. We'd awakened after only a few hours of sleep, cramped and cold, in the car. We'd been driving for three days, had tried to push through the night, but the night was long. It got the best of us. He was driving last, so I didn't know where we were until morning, when I stumbled into the rest stop itself to brush my teeth and saw the pseudo-adobe. Ah. New Mexico.

We reached Albuquerque just as the light began to rise; we were through the city and into the open desert in time for the dawn cloud-show of scarlet, sandstone and pearl. In the west, low clouds darkened the turquoise sky, and the early light burnished the edges of the far-off snow-deep mesas, so that the horizon was set like a stone in a Navajo bracelet.

I named the plants as we passed through New Mexico and into Arizona, greeting them as the friends they are: Hello, juniper. Hello, atriplex. Hello, rabbitbrush and mesquite. And ocatillo! So nice to see you all. Some names I had trouble remembering, though my mind's hands could still feel the texture and character of the plant: this one soft and leathery, this one brittle, watch those spines. Later this game kept me awake; by then, whichever of us wasn't driving was almost always asleep.

Snow started falling as we ate lunch in Flagstaff, and had gotten ahead of the plows on I-4o by the time we were back on the road. A fleet of giant trucks with Texas plates speeded past me, following each other too close and smug with their four-wheel-drive. I kept my distance, and secretly hoped to see them piled in a snowdrift later on. Once out of the mountains, the snow became rain with only the briefest interval of sleet, then slackened altogether.

Night came upon us before we reached Needles, and I could no longer see my plant friends to name them. I drove through Needles, to Barstow, then slept as he took us over Tehachapi and its forest of dancing arms. I slept until we reached 101, then shook myself awake for the familiar last leg to home. Bursts of rain escorted me through the fields of America's lettuce and artichoke and strawberries, invisible and infinite in the darkness. We arrived finally in the wee hours, smelling of car and slept-in clothes, and stepped into my parents' waiting arms. Then fell, insensate, into the waiting bed. Then slept like the dead.

Then woke, impossibly, at six-thirty, because the sun came up and we're farmers or stupid or something.

Merry Christmas!


I'm supposed to be packing. We've gotten four inches of snow since midnight, with no indication of a slowing. I'm on my second cup of coffee (with eggnog for creamer, but unspiked as this is after all still eight AM, though maybe the next cup will be since I'm not evidently getting anything done anyway), still in pajamas and slippers; my last day of work was Monday, and I've been supposed to be packing since then.

We're leaving tomorrow for J's mom's, in whose basement resides still the bulk of our worldly possessions (what isn't in my folks' garage, J's dad's basement, or a storage unit in California). Then on Friday striking out towards California, with the goal of a December 23rd arrival. 

So I really ought to be packing. Fortunately, we're pretty compact these days; a pile of books already in their milkcrate-cum-bookcase, one dresser and one closet full of clothes, bathroom supplies, dutch oven, some jars of jam and sauce and pickles in the pantry. Everything else still in boxes in said basement. 

If the weather mellows at least a little, we'll be heading to Burlington this afternoon for a farewell drinks-and-pizza with the folks from J's work and some Christmas shopping. My family has instituted a strict one present per person per person rule this year, so the shopping is less strenuous than it might be, and we're mostly done - J, in fact, is I think completely done - but I still have a few items on my list. 

I don't want to pack because I don't want to leave. We've got little itty bitty tendrily roots here, and when we leave California next month we don't know where we're going. I've moved - I counted yesterday - seventeen times since 2001. Seventeen! (And that includes three years in which I stayed put for the whole year. Try that math.) 

Ages ago I realized that the romantic nomadic life does not, in fact, suit me: I want a comfortable bed surrounded by books, and a properly-equipped kitchen with lots of cast-iron pans, and some place to spread out all my crafty artsy things where I don't have to put them away when I'm done with them. Not wanting that life doesn't seem to have stopped me from having it, however, but each time I grow a little wearier of the whole process.

I am weary of it now. Looking forward to seeing my family, yes. Looking forward to living out of a suitcase for the indefinite future, no. We're hoping that in the early part of next year we'll move, again, but this time move everything out of all the basements and garages and storage units and suitcases and keep them all in one place. With us, in one place. And stay in one place. For a time we can measure in years, with an emphasis on the plural. And maybe never have to pack again.


The cold snap has abated somewhat, though they're warning of a nor'easter heading this way: up to twelve inches of snow tonight, if we're lucky, and several inches of sleet and ice if we aren't. But that's okay. It's winter now. This is supposed to happen. 

Last year I made a calendar,  but I had to leave out November and December. I know them now: woodsmoke and wool. Perhaps they would be central heating and polar-tec in some other state, or some other life, but not here and mine. I'm so glad that wool is making a comeback; I much prefer it - in terms of aesthetics, ethics and comfort - to synthetics. And the good woodsmoke smell has wrapped all around us these days, from our own house and the neighbors on each side. Even driving down the interstate, an occasional whiff will drift in and fill the car with homeyness. 


The cold fell like a hammer: sudden and crushing. Last week the temperatures hovered around thirty; plenty chilly, don't get me wrong, but not really cold. On Sunday we went Christmas-tree hunting in the state forest, where you can get a permit for $5, and we looked around under the stands for the little firs and hemlocks that crowded together and would likely never find the sun. It was 30 degrees, or twenty-five. We wore long underwear and scarves and gloves, and crunched through the crust of frozen snow.

Then Sunday night the wind picked up, and the cloudcover cleared, and the temperature dropped. From thirty down and down to zero, and down more. If you count the windchill - which your body will count even if you do not - it dropped to twenty below. Which below means below zero, which is already thirty-two degrees below freezing in our silly little system. 

By morning, the wind had slackened some and the mercury risen to six degrees. With the woodstove banked all night it had dropped only to fifty-some in the house (warmer in the living room, much colder in the back bedroom where we sleep with the door closed to avoid cats dancing on our heads at four AM). Our car - a diesel - started only with much grumbling and indignation. Cold enough to freeze the hairs in your nose, which is personally my favorite test of really cold.

Waiting for my bus home from work in the afternoon - the grumbly diesel being with J in Burlington - I stamped my feet and wrapped my scarf around my nose and shivered so hard my back hurt, and it brought a strange memory to mind: at the Gorge in Big Sur, perched on a high rock in the wind, afraid to jump and unwilling to back down, and so standing there embarrassed, arms wrapped tightly about myself, shivering until my knees literally knocked and my back cramped. 

I was so distracted by the cold and the memory and the stomping and the shivering that I almost missed the bus when it came. The driver leaned her head out the window and said, Honey, if you're getting in, get in, but I'm closing the door. It's too damn cold out.