The Long Goodbye

I was thinking that I would just write this one in my head and post it on the day I fly out of America, but then I thought, no one is guaranteed tomorrow, better just do it today.

I think we're leaving like the very first week of July. But with the city all closed up, it's like we're already starting to depart. Will I miss Austin, Texas? You bet your hat, as Gene Autry used to say. When my dad was a young Secret Service agent, about to depart for Europe and not knowing when he would return, he called him up and asked the lady who answered the phone if he would be willing to meet him before he left, as he'd always been a fan of his music (it was the late 1970's, when people apparently did such things). They told him to come on out, and he got to meet Gene Autry, have a chat with him, and Mr. Autry wished him good luck over there.

I don't leave with the usual excitement of a fresh journey. I'm going because I have to, out of obligation. It's just what I have to do right now. And that's fine. But I'm not, like, happy about it. Except to see my family.

I suppose it's the truth that I will be happy when I'm alone in nature. I have no idea why I decided to be born there, of all places. I have no idea why I married someone from there. I have no idea why I'm going back. Something about avoiding a plague and teaching the child her ancestors' native language, and free health care. It's all right. Maybe I'll meet somebody there. Maybe a foreigner who comes to do some mountain climbing and gets me. Maybe leaves with me. Or stays for me. More likely it's just a stepping stone to the next chapter. The reason why I'm going isn't really any of my business, honestly.

Iceland is the motherland. It's where, when I'm alone out where no one else can see me, I lie down on the ground and she gives me that thing that mothers are supposed to give their children. That love that says, you're made of me. Your body is made out of my body. So we can't be apart for too long, because together is how we started and it's how we'll want to be whenever we end. Not all mothers give their children that feeling, but most of us can recognize the need.

America, thank you for taking me in. Thank you for giving me friends, for giving me family, a small one of blood but a bigger one of love. Thank you for keeping me safe. For all of your beautiful multi-colored birds and butterflies, and your myriad animals to be friends and guides. For the time I saw that giant moose standing on the ridge basking in the light of dawn just off the side of the mountain. Thank you for Pigeon Point Lighthouse where I saw my first (and only) wild whales so far, humpbacks on their way to Alaska.

Every time I'm staring off in the distance, I'm going to be remembering your open highways, driving them when I was young. One hand on the wheel while I dug around the passenger seat for a cd, or a bite of a snack or to take a sip of iced tea. One day I'd like to come back and show my daughter how to drive from coast to coast using only a paper map.

I'm not from here, but you didn't mind. You gave me ever-changing dreams, and if I didn't make some of them come true it's my own fault. I kept picking up and leaving, because all of your corners were calling to me, and anywhere I landed I could make myself at home.

Most of your people stay in one spot. In fact, I think most of Earth's people stay in one spot. They welcome a visitor, but they don't take a gamble, and I think maybe that's what I am? I'm a gamble.

Texas, you're a legend, and it's well-deserved.

Ohio, to me you're Anne of Green Gables and Little House On The Prairie and horseback riding lessons, clarinet lessons, ballet lessons, and fairy tales. And summertime parades down main street, soft ice cream cones in the fading light, that garage band across the corn field playing, "Hang On Sloopy." And us barefoot kids screaming and waving at hot air balloons floating by.

Maryland, you're the rivers and trees of Neverland and The Point. Lilacs and honeysuckle, lilies-of-the-valley, fragrant flowers from spring all the way through summer. Steamed crabs. Boat rides. Swimming. Rope swings. Bike rides through the neighborhood at dusk. Where Shakespeare changed everything for me. Where Justin taught me about music and anarchy and changed everything for me again. Swing dancing. Motown. Van Morrison. Jim Morrison. Pavarotti. Crosby, Stills, and Nash. The Rat Pack. All About Eve. Sitting on Gayle's balcony drinking white wine and talking about the soul and the sixties. Discovering how much I loved teaching. Playing guitar. Belly dancing. The coffee shop. Tall, tall trees.

Idaho, you're beautiful like Narnia, and even though I kind of ended up there by accident, I got to nanny for a little girl whose name I gave my daughter as her middle name, and whose mother taught me a lot about the kind of mother I wanted to be someday.

Chicago... You gave me one of my American moms. You're a dynamo. You felt like home. I wish it could have worked out.

Florida. I tease you now, but it's because of you I got to drink fresh coconut milk whenever my dad would climb one of your palm trees with a machete for me. And because of you I got to hold baby sea turtles. And where, when I was little, I'd walk along the beach and imagine that I was really a mermaid.

Washington, your hospital saved my life. You are a nice place to visit, but I didn't like living there.

Oregon, why do I get the feeling we're not done yet?

Oklahoma. Take good care of Sarah and Joss and Debra. You taught me to write (hope you see that as a good thing). You were kind of like hell for me, but I grew so much in you that I broke down in wracking sobs when I left. Some of the kindest and some of the cruelest people I ever met, living there side-by-side. You taught me the most about my own soul, and honestly you continue to do so. Thank you for my moonstone necklace.

And California... I'm not even going to say it. Some things are just for you and me. There was never a goodbye between us, and there never will be. Am I even really here? Did I ever even leave? I want some of my ashes thrown into your ocean somewhere between Santa Cruz and San Francisco. You'll show whoever does it where you want me. I lived in those other places, but I loved you. Still love you. I say in full voice, like a grandma who's past caring who hears her, "You were always my favorite, don't tell the others." My dream is to come back to you and get a little house and live in you forever.

All right. That's enough of that. Time to get down to business. Gotta save up money. I canceled a bunch of subscriptions, deleted those apps. No more frittering away the hours listening to songs that take me elsewhere, scrolling through posts that mean nothing. I need to do the taxes, sell the extra furniture, keep track of the budget, line up jobs, go through my belongings, talk to my friends while we're still in the same (or close-adjacent) time zone. Stockpile spices, vitamins, notebooks, pens, cosmetics. No more flying around in daydreams.

I asked Spirit where I should go (Iceland), what I should do (you'll see), if anyone would be there waiting for me when I arrived (no), and I got my answers. I will be all right. I can always leave.


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