As I was driving home from work tonight, talking out loud to myself – well, talking to Batly, my car, because that is so less crazy than talking to myself – I saw a raccoon. It was a small raccoon crossing Riverview Drive and I stopped to let it pass by and said, Hello, Mr. Raccoon! which, I then thought, was awfully patriarcho-normative of me, because it could well have been Mrs. Raccoon or Miss or Ms. Raccoon or even, of course, the Honorable Raccoon. But! While it was a lovely raccoon and I have not seen a raccoon in a while, it has nothing to do with this post. This post is about what I think I might actually honestly genuinely be planning to do starting in the spring!
Which is, in the short version, to sell my house, quit my job, get rid of most of my stuff and put the rest in storage, take a chunk of the money from the sale of my house, buy a camper van or a pickup with a cap, and drive around America for a year or two. With Perdita, a laptop, a smart phone, several cameras, a futon and a camp stove. And by America, I mean America: all of it. Canada. Mexico. Maybe even all the way down, as far as you can drive, to Tierra Del Fuego, that improbably named end of the earth. Maybe up to Alaska, because I have always wanted to go to Alaska. I want to see all the places I have never seen or at least those I can drive to. I want to see all my friends, who are scattered all over the continent, conveniently scattered, actually, so I can go from place to place to place to place and mooch showers. And while I’m at it, I want to take a lot of pictures, be better about updating this blog and maybe write a book – everyone wants to read a book about a middle aged woman and a dog driving around America, right? Heh. But at the least, maybe I can figure out what the hell I want to do with the rest of my life.
No, I’m serious. Really, honestly, serious. As death and taxes.
I have just been getting unhappier and unhappier and feeling more and more trapped and eventually, enough is enough. I am dirt poor, but I am land rich, and this half acre of prime West Asheville real estate would probably sell for enough to keep me going for a while with some left over to buy a little house with a little yard in some saner real estate market somewhere. Somewhere that I could even find a job where I could sit down and have weekends and holidays off and make enough money to actually live on without freaking out every time I spend $20. Somewhere, some small paradise – that I will find during my wanderjahr.
I thought when I bought this house in the reeling, terrible aftermath of my mother’s death in 2008 that I would never leave it. I will be buried from this house, I thought, perhaps even in the backyard or the side yard next to my cat Pebble although okay, that is pretty fucking creepy except think of the joy it would bring to some hapless digger a century in the future. I mean, everyone wants to find a skeleton and I would be delighted to be that skeleton. That is the bones of the thing, you see: there is a finite amount of time left before I will in fact be a skeleton. And I am not, after all, sure that I want to spend all of it in this wacky 60s West Asheville house, working in the bookstore, barely scraping by and grumbling about my children in the basement. It has been, if not an entirely good, than at least not an entirely bad and definitely an interesting seven years, but I think it is time to move on. West Asheville no longer feels like home to me: it is too expensive now, too trendy, too full of hip and earnest wealthy young people and slightly less hip but definitely earnest wealthy old people. I am just a poor slacker malcontent middle aged person, and I don’t fit in. West Asheville has changed, I say, and I want a divorce. Really we have both changed, I know. I thought in 2000 when I moved here that I would never leave again, that finally, for the first time in my peripatetic life, that I would have deep roots and stay in one place. And I did, longer by far than I ever lived anywhere before. And it’s been great, but. Well. Perhaps I was not meant to be so rooted after all.
So I am not getting younger and eventually – not all that eventually, even – I will be, like the Queen of Bohemia is now, bounded by the edges of my living room and that will be enough for me. It isn’t enough now. I don’t have a career – let’s be real, while I like being the Director of Fictions and I love my coworkers and mostly enjoy my job, it is not as if I am leaving some big old capitalist Career, here. No, I used to have one of those – well, sort of – but now I have a job. And jobs come and go. My children are all grown up. By the time I was the age of the youngest one my oldest one was four and I was divorced, so yeah, they are Grown Up. It will actually be good for them to not have a mother around for a while. I love them and they love me and it’s time we stopped living together. It’s time for us to spend some time talking on the phone once a week and irritatedly braving holiday traffic a couple times a year for a rushed few days of slightly resentful togetherness, as is our American birthright.
And the Queen of Bohemia? That’s partly what moved this whole idea from the realm of driving home talking to car fantasy to the realm of you know what I am going to do this because goddamnit I am. If all continues as it has been these last few weeks, it looks like she may well be moving somewhere awesome where she will be safely taken care of, and that will be the for the best. I will call her every week and that will be okay.
I am scared! This is a crazy idea! I can come up with a million and one reasons why this is a bad idea! And yet, you know, if I don’t do it now I will never do it and there will never be another time as good as the time right now.
And besides, the other day on Twitter I saw a post from a photography site I follow and it said, 10 Tips for Taking Pictures of Foxes and I laughed and thought, yeah, is the first tip Find a Fox? Because honestly I have only ever seen a fox maybe three or four times in my life and only on one of those did I get a picture and then it was a pretty terrible picture. Today at work I saw an old book, Travel Photography Tips or something like that, and it was full of awesome pictures of monkeys and ruined temples and papyrus boats, the tips, clearly, being to travel to cool places. To be, in short, where the foxes are. I am not, usually, where foxes – or monkeys, or papyrus boats – are and when I am, like my brief encounter with the Honorable Raccoon this evening, I am not prepared to take pictures because, you see, I am too busy with all the minutiae: the come home from work, take son to work, feed dogs, hurry, hurry, worry, worry. But maybe it doesn’t have to be like that forever, world without end. Now, perhaps, this is my chance, and my last chance at that, to be there, where the foxes are, with time to stop and take a picture. So I think I will do this thing, this crazy, irresponsible thing. Don’t let me chicken out.