For many years, I have wished I could claim familial ties with the fairy realm. The term “moving day” instantly brings to mind images of fairies around the world marching in procession as they move to a new location, which they will inhabit for the next year before moving once again. Though the official moving day for the fée happens at the end of October, I seem to have been following my own fée journey around the globe.
For the past decade, I have been making figure eights around the world. I have spent time traveling and living on five continents. This wandering began even before I graduated from high school. I would spend summers at overnight camp or touring the southeast region of the United States with the American Civil Liberties Union, following in the footsteps of civil rights activists. My first year in college, I lived in two different dorms. I then transferred to another school for a semester, moved back the following semester, studied at another school in a language immersion program that summer, and hopped across the Atlantic puddle to live in West Africa for 6 months.
I often wonder where this penchant for travel derives its origin. Am I one of a long line of gypsies? Is it simply the modern application of the wandering Jew cliché?
David Orr has written about the loss of community and sense of place in the country and claimed that the average American will move at least 11 times in a lifetime. What does this mean for me having moved twice that many times in just over a decade? Has my soul been completely lost in this wild shuffle? Do I belong everywhere or nowhere?
I have struggled with this transient lifestyle to develop a sense of belonging and community in the places where I have lived. There have been periods of time when I have staunchly put my foot down and refused to leave. There is pain involved in uprooting oneself from home, wherever that home may be. In leaving my home in the upper Skagit Valley of Western Washington for a permanent job in Alaska, I shed many tears for sacred places I would no longer be able to visit daily or seasonally. I cried over cherished chickens I adopted out to dear friends.
Not two years later, I found myself making plans to move again. I spent time in Arizona during a furlough from my Alaska position. Before leaving, my life in chaos, I made a hasty decision to part with one of my four beloved cats. Four cats seemed unsustainable, and I bowed to recommendations from friends and family to find a home for at least one of my cats. So I did. I watched an overjoyed family walk out my front door with Izzy in their arms. I felt initial relief that I was sending Izzy to a place where he would get all of the love and attention I wasn’t able to provide with the limitations of my life. As the months have worn on, this relief has grown to regret. I miss my cat, who had been as close to a child as I have known and am likely to experience for some time to come. I know I am being selfish wanting to still have him and that he has long since forgotten who I am, but when my life turns to one where limbo, transience, and instability are the norm, I begin to cling to those tangible reminders of home—critter comforts, familiar furniture, photographs.
This past fall, I put down tentative roots in what has become one of many transient communities in my world—Prescott College in Prescott, Arizona. Toward the end of my brief tenure in Arizona, I was offered a position at Lowell National Historical Park in Massachusetts and prepared, planned, and conducted an incredibly complicated (and expensive) move from Gustavus, Alaska to Lowell via the Inside Passage; Seattle, Washington; Prescott, Arizona; and Sharon, Massachusetts.
I spent two months in an apartment on the edge of the ghetto in Lowell in the community known as “The Acre”. A colleague described my current landlord as “The Slum Lord of Lowell when I told her where I was living.
So I have paid—financially and in emotional, physical, and spiritual exhaustion. Tonight, with thunderstorms looming on the horizon, I prepare for yet another moving day. Here’s hoping the next place I call home will offer a modicum of normalcy and tranquility for however long I stay.
Were I to write a book on my travels in search of sustainability in the personal, professional, and community realms, I could begin each chapter with a photograph of a cat peeking out of a cardboard box.
This priority mail box has been a kitty favorite for over a year, and it has traveled from Alaska all the way to Massachusetts!
I also would not have succeeded in relocating on so many occasions without the support and assistance of incredible friends and family from the communities I have called home. Thanks to my upriver North Cascades friends, one of whom picked me up on a dark night driving on an ice and snow-laden Highway 20 this past January when the whole of Western Washington had closed down from extreme winter weather conditions. I barely made it with the U-haul I drove off the Alaska Marine Highway to a moving company in south Seattle. The runways were just being cleared and reopened so I could fly back to Arizona, pack my car, and continue the journey by automobile to the east coast. My parents have been unbelievably supportive during the crazy and complicated journey east, along with the most recent upcoming move from one locale to another in Lowell.
Along the way, I have been blessed with hugs and love, and I have adopted a traveling gnome I call Jerome, a gift from a dear friend in the upper Skagit.
I have also been able to reconnect with old friends of the human, as well as furry and feathered variety, and I have been reminded of how lucky I am to have communities around the country and the world that I have been and can continue to call home.
I may move around more than I care to recount, but I am never alone, I am always loved, and I get to make new friends along the way!