I’ve written about home before, but this seemed like a nice bookend to “Why I Travel”, so here’s another rendition.
I love my home. Though it’s only three miles away from town, due to its lack of TV, radio, or cell reception, it feels like a different place, or at least another time. The road home starts to climb gradually away from town and into the cool and dark of the redwoods. The rocks become covered with moss, a bit of smoke curls from a chimney. The road grows narrow and sinuous and blackberry vines reach out from behind the confines of the bike lane. The county doesn’t come out much for maintenance. An apple orchard appears on the right and you are likely to see a herd of yearling deer dressed in velvety antler nubs, gumming the fallen apples or a flock of turkeys with their ridiculous bobbing heads and googly eyes. On a warm fall afternoon, if you have the window down, the sweet, heady scent of apples fills the car.
Beyond the apple orchard you suddenly explode out into the sun-a meadow drenched in light-such a surprise in this heavily wooded valley. The cows have been gone for several years, but the farmer still painstakingly cares for his meadow, digging out thistles by hand, weed whacking the edges by the fence, careful to leave the California poppies that glow in the angled sun. Though we’ve never spoken, I like him. Someone so aware of beauty, that he’d take the time to hand trim around the flowers. Sometimes a coyote pauses, one foot in the air, staring intently at the ground, hoping for a careless rodent to emerge. If it’s a lucky day, there might be a bobcat sitting in the sun, eyes half closed in apparent meditation.
The road pitches up more steeply and you slip back into the forest like cool sheets on a winter night. As I climb, I can feel the stress slipping away, sliding back towards town, where it belongs. My shoulders drop and my whole body, even my little car, seems to let out a small sigh of relief.
My cabin is not big-maybe 700 or 800 square feet, but it’s well-appointed. There is little need for art when every wall is windows, every ceiling skylight. The fireplace, while the sole source of heat, also provides cheer and light. The deer tip toe, crunching through the leaves and the squirrels that chase one another, furiously lashing their tails, provide plenty of entertainment. A book and a velvety glass of wine are fine company.
Giving up my little cabin in the woods was my one regret when I left on a year sabbatical for my 40th birthday. It made me cry. It felt like a death or saying goodby to someone dear, someone who kept you safe and warm, someone you know you’ll never see again. I knew I’d never get it back.
So then, you can you imagine the jig my heart danced when several years later, back from my wanderings and living in a most unsatisfactory apartment in town, the phone rang and I heard the voice of my old neighbor say, “Guess what? Your cabin is coming available next month. The landlord says it’s yours if you want it. Welcome home.”