Home is where you find it and where you make it; that is what I try to tell myself. I sit in a curvy, plush Victorian-esque rocker, worn on the tan armrests, with my legs crossed and a laptop perched, precariously balancing on my thigh. Outside Cora waits impatiently at the yard gate, seemingly wondering why Andy isn’t back yet; her barks of distress are every couple minutes. “Where are you? come back” she seems to say in the predawn darkness. Next to me on a small table sits a cup of tea. Things are kinda the same here.
The dawn slowly creeps in and the sky is clear, changing from the deep purples to the periwinkles to the grays and salmons all in one fell stretch of sky. The corner windows at which I sit spill this light onto hardwood floors and a dog bed after passing through a jungle of potted plants. There is no my appreciation of this space. A bookcase overflows with someone else’s tomes, telling of others who also calls this place home; Boats for Papa sits on our small coffee table, while nature guides and Russian cookbooks mingle with The Four Agreements, Arctic Dreams, and Still Life with Woodpeckers. Behind me a small wood stove sits cooly, awaiting kindling and a match, that on this frosty morning, probably won’t come as soon, we are headed out on errands.
But for now, I sit here and write. I write for me, and for you, but all my professional writing is done, at least for now. The NOLS work and the pile of SPEs are all ready to be filed. There are future writing projects on the horizon, but right now in this moment they seem similar to the breaking dawn; just still far enough away to not feel obligated to do much. Cora has come in and migrated back to her sleeping bag and the tea needs to be refilled.
I moved to the East Coast. To the place where the ZIP codes all start with zeroes. To New England. To Vermont. To the illegally and brutally taken ancestral lands of the Pennacook, N’dakina, Wabanaki, and others. To a place where those histories are not remembered, a place where those stories have been forced west, forced away, and buried under the colonial era homes of deciduous hillsides and overgrown cemeteries.
After a long summer in Lander, one of dogs, house projects, a few rock climbs, some visits from Cora’s mom, some Lander Bar Coors, and just a few goodbyes, Cora and I packed up the small, blue Toyota Prius and drove east. Dog was my co-pilot as we slowly picked our way east, north here, south there, but generally moving across the blue highways in the right general direction. Despite not wanting it nor even knowing it was her job, Cora did remarkable well in that assigned role. She never argued with my directions or made fun of me for making a wrong turn or scorned me at my choice of road trip food. She didn’t do much in the way of DJ-ing but I liked her choices in mostly leaving the radio off.
We drove out of Lander in the early morning light taking the southern of the northern routes through Casper. Beaver Rim, Sweetwater Junction, Split Rock, and the endless rolling sage and morning light did little to leave my heart whole and eyes dry. Pothole puddles in the granite domes of Cranner Rock spoke of the early fall rains of the day prior as we wandered up from the parking lot to see the sweeping vistas on one of our first rest stops. We turned left at Muddy Gap, then after filling the tank for twenty dollars in Casper, headed east through Southern South Dakota, navigating the windy road through canyons and rolling prairies of the Pahá Sápa and Black Hills. Cora, that Day One, was ever-present and always on as my co-pilot, despite the “calming treats” I provided for her early on. They did have a noticeable effect in that she TRIED to lie down more, but mostly she just sat next to me staring, panting, and watching things go by. By mid-way Day Two though, she had learned to sleep, but like any good co-pilot she would startle awake at the slightest rumble strip encroachment or loud whine of a diesel engine mere feet from her head.
Together, like the pioneers we were, we survived an in-tents 😉 lightning storm on the high plains, where, on the banks of the Missouri, the lumbering cottonwoods and oaks creaking overhead were illuminated non-stop for an hour by unharnessed electricity. Cora curled into the foot of the tent, so mastered by fear she even let me cover her with a sleeping bag. We recouped the following morning with a dawn squirrel chase on sandy river banks under a Michelangelo-esque clouded sky. After loading up we squinted our way east into the rising sun, only to settle once again into a routine of coffee and gas, sunflower seeds and pup-peroni. We navigated the two lane roads, passing endless giant fetuses—swaddled, of course, in Let’s Go Brandon flags—screaming “save me!” from every other billboard while God equally implored me to find Him by dialing (83) FOR-TRUTH, from the other ones. Cora only peed on one of them, but I think it got the message; they mostly faded into legal cannabis advertisements as the cars turned from domestic to foreign, diesel to hybrid and the traffic from light to heavy. No doubt the algorimithis were confused by the hybrid with Wyoming plates, driven by someone wearing camouflage and a pride pin.
After a night with relatives in upstate New York, we found our way to our New England rendezvous. Cora stole the show by jumping from the car and aggressively protecting her territory against the two other dogs outside, but after some quick shuffling, she did her prance-y dance of affection to her person’s arms before the usual zoomies took her around the maple tree filled yard. Re-united the three of us headed north in two cars to find our spot on a Southern Vermont hillside, long since illegally taken from the Pennacook, N’dakina, and Wabanaki Peoples.
Here, with Andy on pre-dawn drives south to an internship, some mornings of the week have been mine, sitting and working or sitting and writing, usually drinking tea. The days had been filled with brushing and oiling timbers, cutting braces, walks through the woods, and various forays to the grocery stores, vets, and amenities of the Brattleboro metropolis. Horns honk, traffic sits, left turns take forever, and traffic backs up; there is plenty that grates on me, but the color of the leaves, the crisp mornings, and the process of erecting an over engineered porch are things that don’t, and are each probably topics for another time.
For now I find purpose in making tacos and moving wood. I find pleasure in the creating the routines of checking the mouse traps and splitting kindling. Sometimes we try to rock climb. And today, that all gets temporarily set aside as I migrate homeward for a few weeks of climbing in the desert and a short stint in Lander, enjoying the things, people, and places I also call home.
Featured Image: autumn foliage in the Kilkenny Range of Northern New Hampshire.