Why do we move? Perhaps by investigating the process, we will learn about the nature of moving. Climate causes a need for movement. Things dry up or move away. Sometimes movement is a form of tracking; pursuit in the form of a quest. We move towards comfort and beauty, but beauty is changeable and comfort has an appetite and so maybe moving follows a flickering compass.
After striving towards a regular and somewhat ritualistic way of life, I now need to move. The act of embracing change is harder when you are comfortable. Days drift into one after another and seasons change and yet you remain resolved and stable, but then you aren’t. I think that it is called a tipping point. You realize that your grasp is untenable and envision a future laced with dismay. So, you decide to move.
Maybe the catalyst is a whim that carries you like a current. Maybe the allure of floating downstream becomes an overwhelming desire. Sometimes it is just inevitable. You’ve known for a while that it was in your future and then all of a sudden, your future is now.
Logistics can grow complicated. What was here before can affect what is here next. Something buried that you never really knew about or something hidden away in some attic wall- Those things that you have ignored reappear.
One tries to tidy up the present but who knows what about history needs cleaning? History plays more of a role in moving than one ever imagines. Sometimes trees are to be envied. They refuse to move. Part of me wants to be a tree.
What happens if you love a place and it loves you back? Can it manipulate you into not leaving? I think that my home may be doing that. I think my place wants me to stay. There are relationships here that are evidence of the existence of magic. Fate may very well be a form of magic and one of the elements of moving. It may be easier to detach to a future than it is from a past.
The decision to move had been urged for years but it was finally mine. Activities that once brought me joy were being contracted out, paid for. I used to mow my lawns and walk my property with a feeling of self-discovery. For a while now I have paid a man to come and ride over my lawns and keep them in shape. I parse out work that I once did amid a sense of triumph, but is now a painful effort.
I miss the crevices and dips that I learned from mowing. My home always surprised me. There was new growth and here was something I thought gone but come back in some other form, maybe even something new created from something that was. The outcroppings of rocks were like emerging ideas. I paid them respect once they gained notice. They were like something pushing up through the ground. They seemed like life.
I have such warm memories of mowing, walking my gardens and cutting the grass with Keats resetting to guide each new pass of the mower, back the perfect distance each time. Our eyes meeting with love as I passed, both of us eager and faithful. And I would complete the pass and he would move back the perfect amount for the next pass. I gained strength and gloried in those moments. But now it is kind of a ghost. Perhaps that is one more testimonial in favor of moving. My wonderful dog Keats is only with me in spirit as I move from the only home that he evert knew. Perhaps where is less important than if. Perhaps that is just the order of things.
Regulations create roadblocks. A roof that has never leaked but is about to leak- A septic system that has never been a problem but is about to be a problem- A well that is deep and wonderful, but no longer meets code- These are things that urge you to both stay and go. I want to fix my home but not be buried in the repair. I need to leave my home but want as small a part of me ripped away as possible. Moving from something that you love is not a joyful act.
And then the very effort may weigh on you, the mover. Perhaps your back gives out or your knees crumble and you can’t manage what you have planned. Perhaps you wonder if you should even try. Are relationships with people that different from relationships with places?
In your memory, the place remains and so does the person, but is either true? Does anything truly remain or is it all just memory? Is memory a place to remain?
I look out my windows each day as if I will never see that way again. I think that this is an accurate view. The sadness is overwhelmed by the joy memory delivers. Perhaps these memories mean that I am not as obsessed with a future as I once was. Perhaps that seems unhealthy, but it is true.
This was real. This was true. We were real inside of it but it may have had its time and ties. This may be the way of life.
What do we leave when we move and what do we carry with us to the new place? We don’t always leave what we expect to leave or carry with us what we need to move on. It’s a hit or miss game. We are blindfolded and tempted to throw darts. Sometimes the temptation comes from the place itself. Sometimes it is only us.
Bob Dylan wrote: “I hear the ancient footsteps like the motion of the sea
Sometimes I turn, there’s someone there, other times it’s only me
I am hanging in the balance of the reality of man
Like every sparrow falling, like every grain of sand”
So, it turns out that my roof that has never leaked, needs to be replaced. Ok, I contribute half and the buyers do as well. Then, it turns out that my septic system does not meet code. Ok, that costs twenty thousand dollars and I am convinced that if I say that I won’t fix it that they will pull out. That’s what I say. “I won’t fix it.” The buyers say, “OK, we still want the house. We’ll do the repairs.” I’m flabbergasted and impressed. I mean what can you say to that? And so I am moving, we are moving.
The question becomes where you will make a new home and why you have selected that place and how much influence the pressure that you are now moving has exerted upon your choice. There are time constraints. They exist everywhere. They are one of the causes of moving.
There was this house owned by a gentle but sad woman. Something had been taken away from her and left her damaged. She needed to leave a place that she had once loved but could no longer love. It had become a place that pointed out her shortcomings and they increased her damage. She had been trying to move for a year and had been unable to do it.
Some transactions are deemed “short sales,” which is a way to avoid bankruptcy and still sell a place when the selling price is less than the mortgage. In this case the bank has to agree and, as is their process, agreement is an arduous task that proceeds on their timetable.
We loved the potential of this new house and made an offer. The bank did not respond. We waited and then we bolted. We found another house and came to an agreement, but inspection revealed that there was asbestos and some structural weaknesses. These were chilling discoveries and we pulled out. We looked at other places but one day our agent said that we might wish to go back to look at the sad woman’s home and we did.
And so we renewed our offer. We’d first gone there in December. It snowed the night before and the woman, who had shoveled and salted the driveway, led us into a tile floor entry that stretched back to a solarium. Off to the right, through a nicely crafted wooden and glass door, was a pretty standard ranch with a finished basement and a hardwood attic. It had a ring of beauty to it. It was so very different from where we had come that comparisons would not be likely or natural.
Timing was critical. We had sold our home. They gave us a check. We were given 30 days to leave and halfway through that time, we had not secured a new destination. Where do you put your things? What does it cost you to be without them? What does it cost them to be without you?
Do you resign yourself to the death of the two hibiscus that you have lived with for the last seven years? How would you kill them? Would it be neglect or cold or a combination of that coupled with deprivation of light and water? Perhaps the new owners would take them in as orphans. Perhaps you could put things in storage and have a shot term rental. Perhaps you could rent a room in a pets friendly motel. These things can occupy your mind and there is an endless procession of them when you are moving. It makes me marvel at the nomads who were always on the move.
I’m glad that I am moving before my gardens start to come up. They need to seduce someone else into tending and shaping them.
My new solarium will need repair. A sixty foot almost dead maple tree must come down without crushing my house or the large above ground pool that sits in the back year. Mold must be remediated. Electricity must be repaired and I am feeling strangely at home with all of it.
Moving day is an event. You prepare for it and when you have a large amount of things, you designate what you will have moved and what you will move yourself.
Most of our furniture are older pieces that I have refinished. They are heavy mahogany or ash or maple or oak. We are told that we may leave soft objects in the drawers. I wonder about what constitutes a soft object. Is it merely a matter of weight and density?
We wrapped some of our art in bubble-plastic and blankets. We held it all together with a thick, highly adhesive, clear tape. The largest pieces were crated and insured. The movers hit a stride that would last for almost ten hours. They wrapped, they lifted and carried. It was a normal day for them. There was a hierarchy on their team of three. It was a respectful organization of labor. They relied on my direction, not from any sense of expertise but because I was the customer. They were like guides who would take me wherever I wished to go. They were basically indifferent to my choices as long as they did not inhibit their task.
That first night there were boxes everywhere. There was a bed set up and there was a kitchen table. Nothing else was working yet. Val and I considered pulling out for the night. Stella was staying with our daughter, it would not have been hard. We got as far as the driveway, and then it felt as if we were rejecting our first world problem in favor of convenience. We went back inside and just talked until we fell asleep.
The next day we felt closer to our new home. The next day we felt closer. It’s going like that. There are expenses and inconveniences but they come with a promise of something new. Don’t they always?
There was this maple tree in the backyard. It was dying and mostly dead. It was sixty feet tall and would fall on us when it came down, maybe in a year and maybe in ten and maybe next week. It pained me to see it that way and so we took it down.
The tree was rooted in a place where a house and a fence and an above ground pool had sprouted up around it. The challenge was to bring it down without damage. They were a team of five. They were all from Peru. They worked with one man aloft with spikes on his feet and a chain saw. The men on the ground used pulleys on ropes and then the carted the felled branches to a wood chipper. They worked flawlessly. I sat in the solarium and watched and felt like I was becoming more a part of my new home. Was this addition by subtraction?
During the move, I lost all of my rings. There were four that I chiefly loved. A wedding band, that Val and I had created, a ring in the design of a yin yang symbol that was made from melted gold and saved diamonds from people long gone but part of my heritage. A chessboard ring that Val gave me one year and the silver ring that my daughter gave to me on the day that I adopted her. They were gone. They were not to be found.
At first I was told not to worry, they would turn up. After a couple more days, suspicion was raised about the movers. I called the company and made sure that I was just saying that I did not have them and that maybe they had slipped out of some box somewhere. They were sympathetic but could not help.
At night I dreamt about the days when I received them. The memories were vivid. My friend Tom had been telling me that we cannot be owned by our possessions and I came to a sad acceptance that he was correct. Maybe it was my old home claiming a part of me. Maybe it was my carelessness for not having hand carried them. I was saddened but age has taught me about the price of moving. I mocked myself thinking that at least I didn’t have to decide to whom I wished to bequeath them.
One day they were just there in a little box which was so unassuming that no one bothered to open it. I made the joyful calls to the movers. I held Valerie tight. There was a price to pay for moving but at least it wasn’t a hurtful toll. Maybe the rings were deciding whether or not to come back. Maybe I needed to reconsider their value to me, just as I had been foolish enough to think of any place as mine.
Last Sunday we went back to our old home, now empty and being prepared for new partners. There was a silence between us, like lovers who had decided to move on.