Trucker Ted Rides Again

In August of 2016, we packed up all of our belongings and moved from Oklahoma City to the east suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio. Teddy, the only one of our four dogs who was truly enthusiastic about the whole endeavor, got to ride shotgun with Dad in the Penske. The other three – Chimay, Abbey, and Ari – were crammed into whatever space was left available in the Subaru Outback.  They were absolutely miserable. That’s probably why I have only this photograph of Teddy, smiling his big dopey grin while hanging out at a truck stop in Greenup, Illinois, marveling at what his life had become as Trucker Ted.

His new name is Trucker Ted. 🚛 🐶 #roadtrip #ohiobound #teddy #teddarcheese

A little over a week ago, we did it again. We packed up all of our belongings and moved from the east suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio to the Lakes Region of New Hampshire. Teddy, the only one of our now-three dogs who was truly enthusiastic about the whole endeavor, got to ride shotgun with Dad in the U-Haul. (We learned our lesson with Penske.) The other two – Abbey and Ari – were crammed into whatever space was left available in the Subaru Outback.  They weren’t as miserable this time around, but miserable enough. That’s probably why, again, I have only this photograph of Teddy, smiling his big dopey grin while hanging out in our Northeast Ohio driveway, waiting to hit the road to New England and relive his days as Trucker Ted.

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We have been in our new home for about eight days. The house sits on a mountain on the south end of Lake Winnipesaukee in Alton Bay. The bay at the end of our road serves as a public beach, a boat ramp, and a pick-up/drop-off site for visitors touring the lake on the Mount Washington. The nearest gas station and grocery store are in the next village over, which is not terribly far away at all. A few miles, maybe. But our small town has at least three ice cream shops, a seemingly unlimited supply of fried clams and haddock, a paddleboard and kayak store, and a ton of summer rentals.

Oh, and we also have this:

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At the risk of proclaiming this too prematurely, I must say we all seem to be quite happy here. We love our house. We love our property, on which we acquired a pool and an established perennial garden. We love our little town. We love that my brother lives an hour away. We love that the ocean is nearby, as well. We do not, however, love moving. Not anymore, anyway. And so, it seems, Trucker Ted’s days have come to an end and Teddy is plain ol’ Teddy once again.

(But how ’bout the coyote? Ooof.)

Finding Providence in New Hampshire

We are mostly packed and ready to go. There is a new house to move into, a new town to navigate, a new school with which to become familiar. There are jobs, library cards, and state-issued driver’s licenses to obtain. Change of address forms. A running list of banks. The veterinarians, cable service providers, former employers, medical providers, etc., that we need to contact before we leave town. You know how it goes.

But, then again, maybe you don’t.

This is nothing new for us. The places are new, as are the jobs and the schools and the roads and the neighbors and the culture. But this – moving – is not new. In fact, my cousin in Wisconsin recently unearthed a photograph of my parents preparing for their move from San Antonio, Texas, to Oscoda, Michigan. My parents, in their mid-twenties and new to the military, had just been given their first assignment in what would be a career of moving across the country, around the world, and back again. My brother was three, and this was already his second move. I was only a few months old, having been born into this life when I was delivered in a military hospital while my father was in basic training. It seems it’s all we’ve ever known.

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Even my husband comes from a military family. Between the two of us we have lived in three countries, eleven states (some of which we have both called home), and countless houses that we grew up in as children, always knowing the situation was temporary. At any moment, our parents could receive word that they, that we, were being transferred to another part of the country, or another part of the world. The transient lives we led were never boring, always changing. New neighbors were expected, whether we were the new neighbors or someone else was. Yet this was exactly what made us have to keep moving, what made me have to keep moving. I know this now. (I think it’s why I love hotel work so much – everything, and everyone, is so very temporary.)

Over the years, especially since I left Florida, I have tried to reconcile my feelings of rootlessness with an almost frenzied need to be a part of a community. If you’ve been a long-term reader of this blog, or even know me personally, you know that I’ve been quite vocal about this part of my life that I have yet to find a word to define. Hiraeth is the closest I have come, yet American culture does not recognize this concept of homesickness. Our country, populated and governed by the descendants of immigrants and refugees, does not even have a word for it in the English language.

We all are here, yet we are all from somewhere else. Pamela Petro wrote, “To be American, I sometimes feel, is to be blank, without a nationality or a language. Is this because America is such a polyglot culture that it contains pieces of everywhere else, or because American culture … is so monolithic and transcending that it is everywhere else?” How do we fit in even with ourselves? The last few years have taught me that some are just born lucky, in the sense that they are born in the place they will love, into a culture that is celebrated, always, and it will never go away, even if they do. Their culture is rooted, somewhere or with someone, within a group, transient or not. Most importantly, it is accessible. That is not the case for some of us.

Back in New Hampshire, on Day Two of our house hunt, we met a realtor who assured us that nearly everyone here is from somewhere else. Our new home is in a town that sits on the south end of Lake Winnepesaukee, thick with tourists and temporary lodgers.  It’s a town where the population swells with visitors, but only briefly, and then returns to normalcy after the leaves fall off the trees. Sometimes those visitors become residents. Hearing this put me immediately at ease. It is difficult to explain, as are most of my feelings on geographical homelessness, but it was encouraging. To know we are not the only ones. To know we won’t be the last ones. That, perhaps, is my culture. One in which change is the only constant.

Moving is an exhausting task. We are all, admittedly, tired, physically and emotionally. Over the last month I have jokingly tossed around the statement I am never moving again, but is that really true? You might be surprised to learn that I hope it is. For some reason, being in New Hampshire brought out the part of me that wants to stay put. As it turns out, my own ancestors traveled around New England looking for a place to settle, to dig in and put down roots. They arrived in 1632 with Roger Williams on the ship Lyon. Before moving westward to Ohio and Oklahoma, they built the First Baptist Church in Massachusetts, and established the colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantation, while their shipmates founded the city of Portsmouth, originally part of the Providence Plantation.

We are not searching for the spiritual guidance of God, nor are we asking the stars to speak to us, but perhaps I am simply retracing my ancestors’ steps in a sort of backward migration, grabbing hold of the opportunity to find my own family’s version of Providence. It has been years since we have felt settled. To end up where my family’s story in America began seems to lend a kismet-esque quality to my own feelings about home and belonging. So, like them, we keep moving in the hopes that we will find home and home will find us.

In Two Places at Once

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For six years I have learned to live where I am and where I want to be. Where I am is where I am. Oklahoma, Ohio, and wherever the next place is that isn’t where I want to be. Where I want to be is North Florida.

I say I would like to live in coastal Maine. I say I would like to live on a marsh in Delaware, maybe Eastern Maryland, near the islands where wild horses run. I say I would like to live in the Carolina lowcountry or, even, as a compromise with my husband, near the Blue Ridge Mountains. Charlottesville. Maybe Asheville. So many places I could choose. No longer will I go to a new place with expectations. No longer will I fight the possibility of going to a new place. No longer do I fight the reality of being in a new place. Now I know that home is south and I just happen to live up north.

We have already discussed it, my family and I, that here is not permanent. Cleveland is not permanent. Ohio is not permanent. At least, it is not a permanent stake in our plans. We are not building our future for here, only from here. But our daughter is at the age when she must start looking into colleges and deciding where she wants to be after she is no longer here with us. Even she wants to go home, to Florida. Although she sometimes talks of going home, to Oklahoma. Of course, she is welcome to stay with us, to stay near us, wherever we are. I would prefer that. And maybe we’ll end up selling this house, planting some shallow taproots elsewhere in Northeastern Ohio, buying acres and acres of land so I can plant fields of lavender and he can have space and she can learn to love the Great Lakes as much as I do. Those lakes welcomed me home nearly two years ago, just as the St. Johns River and Nassau Sound welcome me home again each time I return to North Florida.

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In a few weeks, I am heading home. And after a week, I will be returning home. From here to there. From there to here. Living in two places at once. It’s easier to do that from here, in Ohio, as opposed to in Oklahoma. Maybe because I don’t have to cross time zones. I don’t have to cross a river that operates as a boundary between east and west, a swirling seaway that simply served as a reminder that, for four years, I lived that much farther from the sea than I ever would have wanted.

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Now I can live in two places at once. I’m allowed to do that. I have given myself permission to call North Florida home, even if I never live there again. Home is also wherever I live at the moment. It is a house on a plot of land. And from that house on that plot of land I pack my bags once a year, maybe twice a year, and go home. To my other home. The home where I might find coral snakes on my porch, fist-sized spiders in my hair, blue lizards in my shower that measure up to foot long. The home where swamp moccasins rain down from the oak trees, or leap into the air. Where alligators sun themselves on the riverbanks and lemon sharks navigate the knee-deep waters of the ocean, both waiting to rip me to shreds. Where right whales breach clear out of the river’s smooth surface. Where manatees lumber in the crystal clear springs, unaware of how dangerous humans really are. There, back home, are flying cockroaches and toxic eastern lubber grasshoppers. But we live in harmony. We coexist. They belong there.

So do I. I know this because I feel it.

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Home(s)

It was a little more than a year ago when I touched Lake Erie for the first time. The next day we returned to Oklahoma with a handful of lake rocks (I grew up near Lake Superior calling them dinosaur eggs) and a sense that I was getting excited about something that might never happen. I wasn’t sure I would ever have the chance to visit Lake Erie again, so I made a big deal about seeing it while we were in Cleveland for Matt’s job interview. There was some sentimentality to that – Lake Erie would be my fourth Great Lake! How could I go back to Oklahoma, and wherever the job hunt landed us from there, having been so close to Erie and doing nothing about it? So I did something about it. I insisted we see Lake Erie, so we did.

Shortly after we moved here, I started thinking to myself: Why not visit them all? I was only one lake away from completing a HOMES checklist. Lake Huron was my first, as a toddler; Lake Michigan came next as we ferried back and forth to visit family in Milwaukee; then Lake Superior, practically an inland ocean; and, finally, Lake Erie. I had to find a way to make it to Lake Ontario.

(Some people are unfamiliar with the HOMES acronym. Each letter represents one of the Great Lakes, making it easier to name them all. Because of my childhood in Upper Michigan, I have always been familiar with HOMES, even when the maps in our social studies class didn’t even include Michigan’s upper peninsula and, therefore, erased Lake Superior’s existence altogether. I always look for this mistake on every map I encounter. Did they forget the UP again? Why is half of Michigan missing from the map? It’s practically a habit by now, forged by years of being part of a population ignored by mapmakers.)

I like it here in Northeast Ohio. No, no, no. I take that back. I love it here. There was a sense of homecoming for me, of returning to a place I’ve been before but not really. I can’t quite give this feeling over to hiraeth, seeing as I never longed for this place. Perhaps there is a different word out there, formed and better understood by a different culture, but this feeling, for me, is more like finding home in a place I never knew I wanted to be. I’ve spent so much of my life in Michigan and Wisconsin, surrounded by these Great Lakes, that it was like returning from a thirty-year trip across the country. These lakes are all connected to each other. Being here is familiar. Being here is like being home.

So when Matt and I began our drive on I-90 to Buffalo, across Pennsylvania and New York, I never felt like we’d really left home. Lake Erie was never far away. In fact, during some stretches of highway, like in Erie, Pennsylvania, or across the New York state line, Lake Erie was right next to us, showing off her shades of blue during the breaks in the rain. We rented a gorgeous historic rowhouse apartment in downtown Buffalo for two nights, and our only plans involved eating authentic Buffalo wings, seeing Niagara Falls, and touching Lake Ontario. Again, I couldn’t stand being so close to my fifth, and final, Great Lake and doing nothing about it. So I did something about it. I insisted we see Lake Ontario, so we did.

At this point you’re probably expecting photographs of Niagara Falls, but no. Niagara Falls was gorgeous. It literally took my breath away. But I am still blown away by the fact that every single Great Lake finds its way into the Niagara River, churning and swirling and frothing before plunging down 170 feet on its way to Lake Ontario.

And here she is…

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I think back on my years in Oklahoma, when I was grasping at anything familiar to make it feel like home. I begged that it be temporary, and it was. But even those short four years were made to feel longer by my need to feel at home. I might not have known where exactly I belonged, but I knew then, as I know now, that I didn’t belong there.

This is where I belong…for now. Back in the Great Lakes. Back where my earliest memories were formed. Collecting dinosaur eggs on the beach, staring out at the endless horizon, waiting for icebergs to flow by, crossing my fingers for an aurora sighting, and catching a glimpse of the giant container ships as they maneuver their way from one inland ocean to another. From Lake Ontario to the most northern reaches of Lake Superior.

This is familiar. This is home.

 

The Beginning of Winter

There is a part of me that will always love snow, and it’s obviously a part of me I didn’t even know existed. The first snow we had here at the new house just made the whole place look so different. The entire yard changed into something new. Everything was quiet. The creek was no longer hidden by the dark canopy of trees. In fact, it was the one thing that really seemed to stick out.

First snowfall. Front yard. This place could make me like winter. #neohio #home #creek #snow

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We are cold, no doubt. But it’s not unbearably cold. Yet. There is no wind like the Oklahoma wind, or else our temperatures here in Northeast Ohio would be unbearably cold. But I’m sure that’s coming. All in due time. Blizzards. Lake effect snow. Icebergs on Erie. The snow sticks are out. The neighbors have fled to South Florida. Preparations are in full swing. One afternoon, I counted four snowplows on the road just in the three miles between my house and work. There wasn’t any snow in the forecast, but it’s nice to know they are out there.

Hot tea is a constant. Candles are lit throughout the house. My husband picked up a tiny living tree at the town grocer to decorate for Christmas. It sits atop the wine rack where the blind dog can’t run into it and get lost. She still seems confused sometimes in the new house. I strung white twinkling lights across our stair bannister leading up to the bedrooms. The next day, half of them stopped twinkling. Later, that same half just stopped working altogether. But the half that works is so darn pretty. Our space heater, designed to look like a tiny wood stove, adds ambience to the unfinished living room. I’m getting by so far with my own half-assed version of hygge.

From our front window we watch the squirrels pick through what falls from the bird feeder. I haven’t had a chance to learn a single local wintering bird. Nuthatches? Finches? Orioles? I recognize a cardinal or a blue jay, but those little tiny things that flutter around all over the yard? No clue. The squirrels are gray, although some are black. Probably half of them are black. It’s a dominant trait, the black fur. A few black squirrels were released from a Kent State University lab years and years ago, and their coloring only occurs in certain areas. Like mine! I don’t think I could ever get tired of seeing black squirrels.

We also have a pair of barrel owls who live in our front yard trees. I know there are two because they talk to each other, but I’ve only ever seen one at a time. His name is Owlbert. Whichever one I see at any given time, his name is Owlbert. I don’t know what I would do if I ever saw them both at the same time. And I only have one cool owl name at the moment, so Owlbert it is.

New Beginnings

It is springtime, finally. My clematis is beginning to bloom and all the trees are filling out with leaves. So far we’ve had two nighttime thunderstorms roll through the city. All the parts of the state that were experiencing drought are now experiencing flash flooding. The wind keeps bringing down tree limbs that have been barely hanging on since last year’s ice storm. No tornadoes yet, though we usually save those up for the month of May. I think I’ve lived here long enough to recognize humidity. It is still a thing I smell before I feel.

My husband was laid off from his long-term job a few months ago. For years we had discussed this possibility, seeing as the oil and gas industry has been schizophrenic as of late. It was to be our ticket out of Oklahoma, this layoff. A way to start over somewhere else, maybe, but without the responsibility of having to decide to quit a stable job for something that was a big, big risk. When you don’t have a job, you don’t have the risk. Or so I thought.

Any change is still a big risk. The kid is finally happy here. Ridiculously happy, I might add. A move to any part of the country will, for her, be dramatic, traumatic, devastating, etc. My husband is fairly easygoing, but as the sole provider of the family for the last four years, he carries a lot of stress these days. He has had to consider moving to a city that he would never live in otherwise, if he has a choice. Which, hopefully, we still have for a while longer. What are the pet laws in other cities? We are not separating our family, dogs included. It is something we didn’t think about before. We never had to. And I have decided to put graduate school on hold. When you are calculating your savings into how many months your mortgage can be paid on time, a master’s degree isn’t a priority.

Yet, I am ready to go. Somewhere. (Almost) Anywhere. It is exciting, and a bit terrifying, to see what happens next. Where will it be? Are we staying? Are we going? Will it be different? Will it be the same? Will everyone be okay?

Until then, we have been going on with our lives as though we will be staying in Oklahoma City. Elle has submitted her high school electives for 9th grade (this fall – can you believe it!?). I planted tomatoes and eggplant and multi-colored bell peppers that I hope to be able to enjoy.  There are no plans for a summer vacation. Maybe a weekend visit to Hot Springs, Arkansas, or Dallas. But a vacation anywhere else seems irresponsible, frivolous.

The writing cabin is mostly finished. There are just a few things that need to be done – namely the ceiling panel boards. I spend about 3-5 hours a day in here doing reading assignments and writing short essays. I am currently finishing up a research paper and looking forward to only one more week of school. Since October I have been steady working on Russian trauma, Nazi atrocities, and the black experience in America. It’s all been very depressing, but I’m more than halfway through my degree work.

I have watched baseball games, gymnastics championships, and a show about alien abductions in my cabin. I have also read novels in here, for fun. I have fallen asleep with the windows open and woken up to birds and squirrels chattering away. It’s my favorite place, this cabin. And, if we end up moving, it is definitely coming with us. That’s the only thing we are certain about right now.

I love this little cabin. And I've already had a sparrow family move in to my petunia basket! They're quiet neighbor's, so far, until the kids get hungry. #Scissortail #cabin #tinyhouse #sheshed #writingstudio//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

The Migratory Instinct

Years ago when I first moved to Florida, I thought I was done with all the moving. That that move was the last move. At least, the moving from state to state, country to country – it was all over. I had a baby in Gainesville and moved to Jacksonville, so the whole idea of relocating within Florida wasn’t out of the question completely. But I believed and finally felt like I was a Floridian, once and for all. I’d grown up in places that were not Florida, yet my parents held Florida residencies no matter where we lived. Their driver’s licenses, the tags on every vehicle we owned, absentee voter’s paperwork. All Florida. They were Floridians and I, by familial association, always thought I was a Floridian, too.

I made it to Florida in 1996 and it felt good to have a legitimate residency, a place I didn’t have to leave unless I chose to do so. And I eventually did just that. The move to Oklahoma was traumatic, to say the least. I fought any and all nesting instincts that tried to surface. The idea of settling in was completely rejected. Why was this so hard? Why was this so much work? So for three years, when I talked about the South, I called it home. When I talked about Florida, I called it home. When I talked about my parents’ house, I called it home.

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Well, I finally had a breakthrough. And I have New Mexico, of all places, to thank for it. I am not special, this I know. At least not in the sense that I used to think I was – a global nomad, a restless spirit, wandering the continent (or, really, the East Coast) in search of home or, when times got really desperate, any sense of belonging. Somehow, though, halfway between Oklahoma City and Santa Fe, I felt another connection to another kind of landscape. A landscape that features tumbleweeds, coyotes, mesas, and sagebrush. These few things are what brought back my migratory instinct.

Since we returned from our spring break vacation in New Mexico and Colorado, I have found myself pining for the desert and mountains of the southwest more often than I have been pining for Florida. This in no way means I don’t think fondly of Florida. In fact, I think we had one of the best relationships ever! That’s a trick I’ve learned to employ recently – thinking back on my connections to certain places and considering my relationships with them. Like former boyfriends, I have my favorites: Italy, Upper Michigan, and Florida top the list. Prince George’s County, Maryland? You’ll always be the worst and I never want to see you again. Go to hell.

Oklahoma, on the other hand, has been good to me. Oklahoma has been patient with me. Oklahoma has offered me so many different landscapes. It’s like she’s trying so hard to get me to connect with her, to connect with something about her. Like me, Dena. Please! She has mountains, forested hills, lakes that are covered in morning fog. She has wild weather like ginormous tornadoes and ice storms, but she makes up for that with sunsets that knock my damn socks off. She has tallgrass prairies, canyons, and my beloved bison, which I’ve resorted to calling Land Manatees. She even has mesas and salt flats. So what took me so long?

Me. I was the problem this whole time. That is usually the answer to most of my problems and, to be honest, the hardest truth to swallow. But I’ve gulped it down, along with my pride (because I’m so sorry you all had to listen to me whine for three years!), and I have learned to just be where I am. And where I am ain’t too shabby.

Take a look:

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Things I wish I'd known prior to my canyon hike: 1. Wagon wheel ruts are still visible in the park, which once served as part of the California Road. 2. The canyon is the only place the native Caddo Maple tree still grows and thrives. 3. Yes, Oklahoma h

It turns out I live less than an hour away from a canyon. Considering how badly I want to return to New Mexico, to the mesas and the sagebrush, I thought it was a good idea to take a walk through a canyon. It’s very un-Oklahoman, a canyon, but it’s not very New Mexico-ish, either. The visit to Red Rock Canyon didn’t necessarily scratch the New Mexico itch, but it gave me back my migratory instinct – that inner restlessness and rootlessness that has always felt like a curse to me. Except it doesn’t feel like a curse anymore.

Oklahoma and I had a good heart-to-heart this year. I have left this place to go to other places – Santa Fe, Denver, and again to Florida. But in the end, I always come home to Oklahoma and I am quite alright with this arrangement. Finally. I’m a Third Culture Kid, there’s no denying it. I will still call myself a Floridian, but I also call myself a Wisconsinite and a Yooper. I have called all those places home. They are all a part of me. These are the places my family comes from. But I am also an Oklahoman. This is where my family is.

Until we move somewhere new…

(I can’t tell you what a relief this is. Migratory instinct, WELCOME BACK!)

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Books I’ve read (and recommend):

The Folded Clock: A Diary by Heidi Julavits (which has the most stunning cover art, because I do judge books by their covers) – I can’t even explain this one. Julavits uncovers her childhood diary and decides to take up the art form as an adult. Her writing is gorgeous, just like the cover.

Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ by Gulia Enders – I will never be able to feel unwell again without considering yogurt for dinner. Something most of us should probably do more often, anyway.

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes & Other Stories From the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty – I always thought I wanted to be cremated and to have my husband take me in a small container on all his global adventures. His future wife would have to be okay with me always being on vacation with them, but only to scatter me into the wind in whatever country it is they’re visiting. I still want that to happen (does a blog post serve as a legally binding notice as far as dealing with my remains?), but I would also like to be put into the ground somehow, too. Animals and vegetables gave me life and I’d like to return the favor.

Currently reading:

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert – I love this woman and I plan to drive to Wichita, Kansas, in a few weeks to meet her. Another thing Oklahoma has provided me – proximity to Liz Gilbert.

Nostalgia

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.

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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.

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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.

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Sunset courtesy of Oklahoma. #oklahoma #sunset

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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.

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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.

What’s happening?

Leaves on my pecan tree are what’s happening:

pecan tree buds

Tomatoes in my garden are what’s happening:

finally tomatoes!

Organization in the military museum’s private library is what’s happening:

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(Actually, that’s a lie. There is intent. Always. My goal is to have this library organized and up-to-date by the end of the summer. It is difficult, though, when my closest working partner is a state historian. Everything, and I mean everything, reminds him of some off-the-wall or little known historical fact that turns into an hour-long  discussion between the two of us.)

Sweet, sweet sparrow babies are what’s happening:

sparrow babies

And now that the sun shines more prominently on the couch, this is what’s happening:

Sun dog. #teddy #teddarcheese #teddyonmycouch #boingle #boinglesofinstagram

I am currently reading Last Train to Paradise, a fascinating narrative of how Florida’s east coast came to be, all thanks to Henry Flagler. Being a Jacksonvillian (a Jaxon? What are we called?) I am already familiar with Flagler and some of his contributions. I was surprised to learn, though, that Key West was once the most populated city in Florida and that the class separation between Palm Beach and West Palm Beach is nothing new. (Except now you average people have bridges to drive across and no longer have to row your rickety boats back to the mainland encampment where you belong.)

  • The kid made Honor Band. Her fist gig is this Saturday morning.
  • Sunday’s forecast: 97 degrees. SPRING’S OVER, FOLKS. YOU CAN GO HOME NOW.
  • My neighbor texted me at work yesterday to tell me my dog, Chimay, was dead in the front yard.
  • She texted back a few minutes later to tell me she was wrong. And very sorry.
  • The dog is fine.

 

Spring is here!

I got plans for you, garden. #spring #garden #flowergarden #veggiegarden

And this is just the beginning…

Last Wednesday afternoon we received our first threat of possible tornadoes, and spring has officially arrived in Central Oklahoma! That morning the air was humid and smelled like Florida. It was very encouraging. Overnight, it seemed, the trees along Northwest 122nd Avenue blossomed with their bright pink, purple, and white flowers. Even the half-dead ugly tree in my own front yard is sprouting tiny leaves. I’m so giddy!

A few weeks ago I mentioned to Matt that I was going to buy some raised beds for this year’s garden. They worked so well for me back in Florida, unlike last year’s Oklahoma City porch garden where everything barely survived in pots and barrels. Matt took off with the idea. Suddenly there were blueprints and cedar boards and trucks delivering dirt and pea gravel, dumping them into mounds on my driveway.

My simple raised beds idea became a two-weekend project. Friends volunteered to help build the beds and level the ground. They gave up their weekends to help spread drainage rocks after removing strips of sod, trudging them all the way into the far backyard via wheelbarrow. They shoveled and sweated and suffered sore backs. All the while I shook my head thinking, “This is too much!” All the while feeling left out, too, because I had recently hurt my back and was under strict orders not to lift anything for two weeks.

Garden progress. #garden #spring #flowergarden #veggiegarden #raisedbeds

Weekend #1

Then it all started coming together. I could see the end result! My husband kept giving me that “I told you so” look, as if he knew the whole time that I’d love this garden more than I was letting on (he did, and I do!). Sometimes simple just won’t do it. Sometimes I should trust that bigger is better. Sometimes my husband is right. (See, honey. Public acknowledgement!)

This weekend I was finally able to contribute by staining the wood and making an all-important beer run. We had Chinese delivered to the house and the whole lot of us sat around the table for lunch. Later, after the last shovel full of dirt was thrown into the beds and our driveway was cleared, we thanked our friends and let it be known that we were indebted to them.

kidhelpers

Weekend #2

It’s like Amish barn raising when it comes to our friends. You help me, I help you. Need a room painted? A floor tiled? A dogsitter? Outside of gifting them with flowers and veggies throughout the growing season, I’m not sure how to repay them. Or my husband, who endured my reluctance to be enthusiastic.

Well, I’m enthusiastic now. The moment everyone left I went straight for the dirt. I transplanted seedlings and sowed additional seeds for nearly two hours. Covered in dirt and wood stain, I finally saw what this could do for me. It’s gonna keep me busy. And, according to my husband, it’s gonna keep me happy.

garden beds

Finished!

Greenie babies! #garden #gardening #flowergarden #veggiegarden #spring #seedlings

My peas have a home now!

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I cheated with this photo from Lowe’s, but I do have these darling pansies seeded in the garden. Remember when they sang to Alice in Wonderland, as the bread and butterflies fluttered about? They have the cutest faces!