Back and Forth

It takes me a little while, in a new place. I should remember that about myself. I seem to need a day or two (or three or four) to get acclimated. It takes a second for me to successfully shrug off my routine, drop my shoulders down from up around my ears (we’re going with the flow, here!), and remember what fun it is to be somewhere else.


And it is fun. It’s so much fun. The second half of my trip was wonderful, everything I’d hoped it would be. Everything I’d wanted and needed.


I’m on a plane back to Portland now, rereading what I wrote just a few days ago, and I can’t help but think: feelings are so temporary. What was true in the moment (or a moment, in a whole series of moments) is no longer true now.


I didn’t feel very mature after I wrote that post. I feel more mature now. I make no promises about tomorrow, I’m sure things will flip-flop again, but I’m beginning to think that’s fairly normal. Par for the course. Don’t we all do a fair amount of weaving back and forth? In an admirable (if drunken) attempt to close the gap between the people we are and the people we’d like to be?

Arizona may not feel like home to me, but it doesn’t have to. It can be a touchstone for me, just like Maine. And Connecticut and Philadelphia, and all of the other places that house someone I adore.


I think I’d been nursing the quiet hope that I would love Scottsdale this time — that it would feel as right for me as it does for my mom, that it would be the shiningly obvious answer to what to try next — and I was disappointed to find it didn’t feel right.


Scottsdale remains, however, a great place to visit. Particularly when Portland is on something like day 25 of straight rain.


Can I clarify something else, too? While I’m at it? I don’t regret having taken the trip. Even though I questioned right up until the last minute whether it would be too hard/too soon to see everyone, and despite the fact that at times, I did feel justified for having worried. For having wavered.


The beginning was hard. I doubled back down on restricting my food, went wild exercising, and cried five times a day for the first two days. (Are we seeing a pattern here?) It felt just like a weekend in Portland. Only I wasn’t in the dreary Pacific Northwest; I was in the sunny Southwest. Surrounded by my family, and these giant Saguaros and trees thick with citrus fruits, with every conceivable reason to be grateful and cheerful and good grief, when are you ever going to be happy.


But at some point, and I think it was after I’d blurted out that really hurtful thing in the car — that I wished I hadn’t come — a switch flipped. I stopped screwing with my food. I stopped feeling so sad, so self-conscious. I stopped getting stuck on so lonely, so unlovable. I just plain stopped thinking so much, altogether.


It was glorious. Like the way it had been over the summer, when recovery had been going so swimmingly. When I’d stopped thinking about it as *recovery* because that had begun to feel like too big of a word.


I can’t tell you how nice it was to have a break from rattling around my own head, from sitting in front of a computer, from my same old same old. It was so nice to figure out, if only for a few days, how to just be present. How to consider the past passed, and not immediately leap ahead to the future. To worrying about how things will be when I get back to Oregon. Which I’ve apparently started calling “home”, in speech.


I had the best time cooking with my mom. Ham and cheese omelets, the first morning. Chocolate chip pancakes, the second. Poached eggs, the third. Salads and soups and sandwiches, always different, for lunch. Spaghetti sauce and meatballs, simmered slowly on the stovetop, for dinner one night. Barbecued chicken and grilled zucchini for the next two, a unanimous vote. Then a gorgeous piece of salmon, pan-seared and glazed (maple syrup + cardamom + paprika + cayenne) and spooned straight from the skillet.


Later, there were golden, crisp eggplant rounds, dredged in cornmeal and flour, and kept warm in the oven. Row after row of roasted vegetables, rapidly caramelized on battered baking sheets. There were fajitas another night, with lots of leftovers. A chocolate zucchini cake that tasted exactly the same; a maple walnut cake that did not. And sweet and spicy pecans, as always, for holiday. For snacking, for the coffee table, for fun.


There was so much variety. So much pleasure.

In the midst of the twelve trips to the grocery store and repeated dashes out to the dumpster, there were also brief snatches of sun, in which we’d drop everything and race outside.


There’s beauty in the desert; upon closer inspection, it’s not all brown and beige. All of a sudden, I’m even a little fond of the thousands of carbon-copy complexes and plazas that seem to make up so much of the city. That type of suburban sprawl isn’t for me, but I can see why so much of it makes sense for my mom. For right now, at least. For the time being. (We’re all still figuring it out.)


I was happy there, too. Watching the spectacular sunrises and the hummingbirds zooming in and out of the trees, just these tiny twists of emerald and pink. I think we were all pretty happy. To be together, in our festive pajamas. Even when we weren’t all talking or doing the same thing, it was nice.

Shared solitude — that’s what was so nice. To be alone but not. To be sitting or standing or walking next to someone, and feel comfortable enough to each fall silent. To have the easy, awesome ability to come in and out of conversation, each time just picking up where the other left off. Or close enough, anyway. Close enough not to matter.

“Be merry, little ones.” -C.S. Lewis


And for fun, links from the first time I went to Scottsdale, two years ago: before, during, after.

{1st cacti via @lawfree, sunlit succulent via @tracyshutterbean, little red house via @andreadabene, 2nd cactus via @davepmorgan, rainy Oregon road via @sammydiamondz, snowy Oregon road via @andyto, Weaver’s Needle via @arizona_hiking, Oregon moon via @nicholaspeterwilson, 3rd and 4th cacti also via @davepmorgan — all on Instagram.}


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