Sometimes I wonder if I might feel claustrophobic now if I stood among the tall pine trees of North Florida. A year ago this thought would have sent me into a panic, homesick and spun out on nostalgia. These days, though, I am feeling much more comfortable here in Oklahoma. The wind is barely noticeable except on extremely gusty days or when it’s missing altogether, and we’ve had more earthquakes lately than tornado-producing storms. Now that winter is over (thank goodness), it is so lush and green outside that I have almost forgotten how ugly winter is. Almost.
Plans are being made for the house (which is, unfortunately, not the whimsical structure pictured above): a three-panel world map will soon be hung on the wall; evergreen trees and an arbor, possibly covered with jasmine or miniature garden lights, need to put into the ground soon; a backyard deck with lighting on the stairs; adding more beds to the garden.
When I moved here two years ago I wouldn’t take any time away from missing Florida to consider making long-term arrangements and landscaping decisions for my own house in Oklahoma City. Today I spoke out loud about planting asparagus and of turning our backyard into a fruit orchard. Apple trees and Bartlett pear trees. Fig trees. A Japanese maple, perhaps, for a spectacular color show once a year.
Last month we visited with some friends in a neighboring town. On the way to their house I spotted fields of yellow that went on for what seemed like miles. Luckily I have a husband who is willing to pull over onto the side of the road when I ogle the landscape. He also doesn’t mind when I hang out of the passenger door of the van with my camera, standing and stretching for height and perspective, until I’m happy with my shot. I especially get a kick out of scenery that includes oil rigs and wind turbines, but most of the time Oklahoma’s landscape is still very foreign to me. The canola field is one of my new favorites, though.
Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch is collecting dust inside one of my book cabinets and has been since last summer. I sometimes wish I could begin reading a book without knowing how many pages are actually involved. Or at least knowing it will be a fantastic novel and every page will have been worth every minute I devoted to it. Yes, I do judge people this same way. It’s probably why I didn’t marry until I was 35. The Goldfinch just feels like such a goddamn commitment and I don’t think I’m ready for that kind of commitment yet.
Relatedly, I’m reading a book about the history of anxiety as told by Scott Stossel, who, as it turns out, is a near-perfect spokesperson for those of us who suffer so intensely on the inside but manage to fool nearly every person we meet. He’s the editor of The Atlantic. You don’t get that kind of job without bullshitting your way through countless social engagements. How many times have I been told that I sound like I have everything “so together”? More times that I can remember. Remarks like that only serve to assure me that I can function fairly well in a world unwilling to acknowledge the quiet ones, the worriers, those of us made anxious by the energy or speed with which others work.
I’m left-handed so I feel like I’ve been playing this kind of role all my life anyway. We always manage to get by, though, sometimes after having worked a little harder, especially because we know ballpoint pens are still made to perform better for right-handed people.
Summer vacation this year will consist of a trip to the Milwaukee area to see my extended family. It’s been more than twenty years since I’ve been there. Jim’s Bakery is gone and so is my uncle’s farm. They were both swallowed up by development and the economy. This makes me sad for a number of reasons, but mostly because I expected these two things to always be there. The last time I visited was shortly after my grandmother died. Two decades later I still expect her to be there, too.
Nostalgia should be classified as a mental illness.