In the darkness of the early morning this past Friday, I left Lowell. I left with a lump in my throat nearly three years after leaving Alaska for Massachusetts. I remember thinking it strange to shed tears for a place that had seemed akin to a kind of karmic prison sentence. I had not wanted to move to Massachusetts. I had left well over a decade before and vowed never to return. Yet, I wonder if it was a destiny of sorts to be reunited with the land of my childhood and to create a new relationship to place.
Before Lowell, I had never lived in a city. Lowell felt like a big city in March 2012. I was afraid to cross the street and thanked the universe for my life each time I survived a car ride anywhere. I felt like the people were against me, breaking into my car and making life so difficult with aggressive, defensive behavior.
Today, I sit with the sun streaming in through windows in a quiet corner of Arizona. No sirens; no bass from the cars below my window; no brick buildings; no canals.
Leaves are still on sprawling cottonwood trees, water flows in a creek across the way. The air is warm and dry, no sign of grit.
The landscape is familiar, yet I feel as though I am seeing it for the first time, truly seeing it as my home rather than a place I visit.
I think I fell in love for Lowell when I began to see it as my home and the people my community. I cannot remember the exact moment when this transition happened, but I do know that I began to feel at home when my dissertation was complete and I began to venture out from the my apartment sanctuary and into a world of music and misfits.
I am certainly not romanticizing my relationship with place. Each corner of the globe I have called home has had it challenges, and Lowell was no exception. It took much practice to not take idle threats, horns honking, and expletives too terribly personally. There were many nights of wine drinking as antidote to my easily shaken sensibilities.
A new chapter begins before the other has closed. I often feel this sense of abruptness when I uproot myself from one place and plop down in another. Yet the warmth and love I feel from Massachusetts is a far cry from the rawness and pain I felt upon leaving Alaska. Here in the desert, another place I never imagined I might call home, I am thankful for my time in the city of spindles and full of gratitude and love for the misfits who welcomed me into their fold.
I have come to realize that the people and places change me. I am thankful for that change, however difficult it can be at times.
And maybe, just maybe, I change them, too.