This Must Be the Place
Updated: Mar 21, 2019
I am experiencing a few remarkable and grateful weeks of looking back at this time last year: a sparkly and volcanic time of my own un/doing. I decided, in the end, to quit my job after one last transcendent trip to Marfa which blenderized an obscure CineMarfa documentary, the new James McMurtry CD plus some thoughtfully curated Texas tunes, and a flock of thermal-riding Swainson’s hawks. The brief gasp of enlightenment wasn’t actually the catalyst, but it set the stage, the mindset. The catalyst was the not-getting-of-the-one-last-job-for-which-I-was-frightfully-overqualified. Something snapped—in a good way. The lightbulb went on. And I knew it was time.
Timing is a funny thing. I gave notice on a Monday and got on a plane on Tuesday for a long-planned holiday to Iceland. I expect a year ago today I was eating fried cod and pickled herring and sitting in a hot spring. It was that good and more. Then I came home on the following Thursday, signed a bunch of papers at work on Friday, had a few goodbye meals with friends over the next few days, packed the last belongings in my car, and drove south for good on Tuesday, June 3.
Over the previous year, I had moved my possessions to a storage unit in Alpine one Subaru load at a time, on all the weekends I’d come to visit. A coworker, as I was preparing for a long weekend to Marfa, asked jokingly if I was coming back. I said, yes, this time: I still have X number of carloads of stuff. And as it turned out, pretty much once all my stuff was here, I moved.
I do feel, though, that I didn’t give Iceland my full attention. And for that I’m sorry. It is a beautiful country, and maybe someday I’ll go back.
And then I began my life in Marfa. Part of my success was preparation, all the visits I made, the people I’d met. Part of it was the sheer blessing of "Marfa Provides." Part of it was my openness, my wish in fact, to camp for a month until I found more durable housing. The month at camp was so enjoyable and healing: the beetle and the wind. And then when I needed a place, one was handed to me. And when I needed another place, more long-term, that was handed to me as well. And when I wanted a job, I got one. And then it expanded. And when I really needed a full-time job with benefits and security, I got that too. When I needed time to write and digest and process and create and explore, I had that. I wish that could always be true, but I got it when I needed it and I used it. And when I needed something to make me feel like I am contributing to community, I got it, big time. And even occasionally when I want to share a meal with a thoughtful companion, I get that too.
“Take a year and make a break, there ain’t that much at stake. The answers could be relatively easy.” That Jason Isbell song was on heavy rotation in my head a year ago. In fact, everything was at stake. But not the way he means, and he is right. Eh: job, money, security. How does that compare to what really matters? I know it’s a privilege for me to say that. Most people can’t walk away. But I found a way. The other song I’ve been playing a lot lately that came out last summer is about a young couple shopping for a house. At the end, she seems to be parroting the real estate agent: “If you’ve got a spare half-a-million, you could knock it down and start rebuilding.” Well, I didn’t have a spare half-a-million, but yeah, kinda…
Two years ago I sat in the window of my favorite Fort Collins coffee shop with snow outside covering the trees and the sidewalk and the streets, already ready to be gone from there. I quoted the poet’s Oyster Bar poem in a blog post that day but then closed with a line from another in the collection. “This is the last outpost before things become what they are.” I concluded for myself, “Maybe I read that as, this is the last outpost before I become who I am. This becoming business has grown tedious and I simply want to be who I am, for things to be what they are. This coffee shop in Fort Collins looking out at the May snow feels like the last outpost."
Who knows what happens next? I don’t care anymore. This is it. (the less we say about it the better, make it up as we go along)