Feels Like Home

I went for a long walk last night. I started out just wanting to stretch my legs. I’ve been awfully sedentary the last little while and my restlessness is finally getting the better of me. It’s a restlessness I’ve felt in all aspects of life. I’m not as busy as I want to be (though if you’d asked me about it two weeks ago I’d have had a different answer). Not with work *or* with my personal projects. I missed a major opportunity last spring to disappear into the woods for three months and avoid *gestures broadly at the world*.

So I was restless and started walking, aiming for the nearest hill and a direction I don’t usually go. I didn’t have a clear idea of where I was going but about halfway there I realized I was going to the beach. Up hills, down them again. Up more hills… until I found myself on a pitch black sidewalk under a hooting owl. Rabbits racing through the bushes kept startling me. Dark and quiet, in a place full of other people, is unsettling. I could see a crackling fire off to one side and avoided it. Looked hard through the windows of the cars checking for strangers. I aimed for the beach and walked softly, trying not to alert the person at the other end of the shoreline.

It took a minute, but once I assured myself no one was coming to bother me, I settled in to watch the water.

I love being at the water’s edge. Something about the sound of the waves rustling, the reflection of the light on the water, the pebbles, skittering as they come in and go out again. It felt soothing. Calm. But not quite right.

Light from the east side reflected off the clouds and the water. Only the very brightest stars were showing. I could hear someone coughing. I would see a flicker of flame, hear a breath, then a cough. I tried not to think too hard about what exactly he was smoking. The drum circle didn’t feel safe and welcoming, it made me nervous. Everyone kept to themselves, as I expected. And everything was fine, but I was unsettled.

I realized it wasn’t home.

For the first time, I realized that Seattle isn’t quite home anymore. Sure, I love the restaurants and that you can find culture wherever you go. I love that it’s an enormously sex positive space full of people striving to do better. But sitting in the sand, listening to the waves, my feeling wasn’t what I had hoped it would be. I wanted to be out at the lake.

It took another forty minutes to get home. Once I got back to the land of the street lights I felt much better and started to dissolve into imaginings. A warm barn with bleating goats and crooning chickens. The smell of alfalfa hay. A walking path that smells of balsam and dark earth. The lake lapping at the sand just a few steps from my door. The dark a welcoming blanket instead of nervous veil.

I remember one year, at Christmastime. I couldn’t sleep. It was late and dark. Everyone was asleep. I sat by myself in the living room, watching the tree. Some of the lights were those blinky ones, the ones that go off and on at a slow tempo. With my glasses back in my room, the halos around the lights that stayed on grew and shrank as my pupils dilated and contracted over and over. I don’t know how long I sat there, childish wonder keeping me awake.

Just a few weeks ago, in Charlottetown, walking to the pier at 2 on a Tuesday morning. The only people around were clustered at the only open bar. The only sounds at the water’s edge were the swish of the wind, the tinkle of rigging against masts, the shushing of the waves as they came in and out. Even though I wasn’t home, I felt safe.

Sitting by the lake in the middle of the night under the milky way feels safe. It might not actually be any safer from human encroachment than the city, but it *feels* like it. I feel ownership and responsibility. I know the people who might come down and join me. And that they probably won’t. I know the steps of the trail such that I don’t need light. The sounds of the bats and the swallows as they skim across the water. All familiar.

I’ll be there tonight. At the lake, listening to the bats and the birds and the waves and my own heartbeat. Tomorrow I’ll tear out some undergrowth and try to build something. Always building. Or fixing. I love it. It feels like building a home.