13 December 2010

Should I Stay or Should I Go? The Berlin Wall and Mixed Metaphors


Let me start out by saying that my situation is nothing like the division of Germany after WWII.  I have not been separated from the rest of my city, country or had my freedoms restricted by a totalitarian regime.  But the metaphor of wall may work.

Some of you know that I have spent the past eight years living in the tippy-top of western Washington in the city of Bellingham.  It is hard to get much more northerly without bumping into the Pacific Ocean or Canada.  The year after I graduated from WWU I grew a little antsy.  I let myself dream about living somewhere else.  I also applied to graduate MFA programs, which allowed me to dream a little more concretely.  I took the Edward Abbey approach to choosing my program: "Nothing east of the Mississippi."

So time passed and I heard back from the schools.  The University of Idaho and I began courting and that is where I ended up.  Moscow, Idaho.  Population roughly 24,000 hardy souls.  Incorporated as a city in 1887 and sitting at 2,579 feet above sea level, Moscow is where I have a temporary address.  However, I am not a resident of the state of Idaho.  Now you may be asking yourself, "Why is he telling me all of this?"

Allow me one more digression.  When I moved to Bellingham eight years ago from Missoula, MT,  I never thought I would get over calling Montana's "garden city" my home.  Around year six, I'd been away long enough (most of my friends had moved and things had changed ) that Missoula didn't feel like the place I came from anymore.  But for some reason, Bellingham didn't sit quite right as my home either.

In the four months that I have lived part-time in Idaho, I am starting to remember all the things I loved about Western living that I had forgotten about: friendly people, short lines, little traffic and an abundance of space to breathe in.  Coming back to Bellingham now  feels cramped, busy, noisy and more than a little grubby.  But Idaho isn't my home either.  I catch myself saying of both cities as "I am headed home to..."

So I am a drifter.  I am a city divided.  There is no "center" to my sense of geography.  I don't know where I will be headed to once I finish up my graduate program in Idaho, but I hope it is to a place that sings to me and calls me to call it home.

While in Bellingham, all I did was write about Montana.  Now that I am in Idaho, my writing has become jumbled and confused.  I am investigating dreams, the imagination and popular culture.  The landscape in my work is largely internal.  Perhaps when things settle down, I can start to write about Bellingham and the good and bad things found there.

I have a place to hang my hat.  What I need now is a place that feels like home.  Center.  Connection.

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