We bought our first place outside of the city in 1994. In the suburb of Chelsea, we shared our first actual house, not apartment, together, building our new life as a married couple.

Adaline spent her days at home, quilting and sewing, cooking and cleaning, and watching the lunch hour soap shows. I felt bad about leaving her alone every morning when I went to work in the city as an ad consultant, but she assured me that she was fine. She managed on her own, she said. She kept herself busy, mowing the lawn and writing poems.

At night when I would come home, she would be waiting in the tiny dining room, aside from the kitchen with a meal on the table. Adaline was never the greatest chef in the world, but I kept telling myself that food never tasted as great as hers and I came to believe that was true. After supper, we would sit down on the couch and talk about our days, watch television, and then she would retire to read in bed, and I would go to my office and work on reports and statistics that I almost always had to have ready in the morning.

The first time Adaline didn't have supper on the table when I got home was in April of '96.

"Cole, we need to talk.... This just isn't making me happy. We've lived here for two years and never made this house a home. You're gone with the sunrise and you come home in the evening only to wind up working at your house. You're making trips on weekends and meeting with clients, while I'm alone here. It's boring here, Cole, without anyone to share this with."

"We moved out of the city because it was too hectic, and now you say this is too boring? I don't get it, what is it that you want?" I was trying not to turn this into an argument, but seemed to be failing.

Adaline was my angel, I would never want to hurt her, but sometimes she just made things so god damn confusing. I couldn't tell what she wanted anymore.

"It's just,.. here isn't...This is not," she paused, because she was confusing herself. "When I married you, you promised me we would settle down, find the right place. You know, you promised me the world. You've never come through. What happened Cole? Why is our life not turning out the way we planned? I don't get it. We were supposed to be on a farm somewhere, raising a family, not in Chelsea staring at the old buildings, feeding a cat and making trips to the city. Don't you remember we were supposed to grow our own garden and live in the mountains and, oh, I don't know...all of that."

Of course I remembered, I just didn't know how to get away from everything that I had built up in New York and everything around the suburbs. I had a good job here, and I've always been one of those "If it's not broken, don't fix it" sort of people. That's when I caught that Adaline was broken and needed fixing.

I called a real estate agent in Colorado the next day. I asked about expenses and climate and what he could show me in the line of a log cabin in the mountains. None of that stuff really mattered, no matter how much it cost or how cold it was going to end up being, we were going. This is what she wanted and I was going to give it to her.

By the winter of '97, we moved in. I was uneasy at first about how she would take the move. This was clear across country, and the first time that either of us had ever really been away from the city. My nerves were settled one evening though, when I came home and saw my angel lift up her wings. I guess that this was the place, this is what she wanted, she was fixed.

I worked shorter days at an ad company in Denver, and she stayed at home and rode horses during the day, milked our cow, and collected eggs from the chickens. Supper was on the table when I got home, made from mostly homegrown things. In the spring time, every year, we planted a garden. By the next winter, we had added a new room to the cabin and a new son to the family. I had never seen Adaline as happy as when she held Noah in her arms. She's spread her wings wide open and flys as she wants to now. She tells me, flying was never allowed in the city due to other air traffic.

"Thank you," she says as we tuck Noah in and turn off the lights, "for letting me fly us out west where we belonged. Thank you for the family, thank you for the house, thank you for the mountains, thank you for loving me."

I've found that I don't lose myself, usually. I do, however, give it up in small pieces.

Being a ritualist, this is partially physical. Objects are a source of memory for me, of associations built atop and accreted year after year. The sheep skull? Three years studying paganism, magic, the runes, bonfires passing bottles of mead at midnight with coyotes howling, Otter lifting the skull from a pile out in the boneyard.

DANGER: HIGH VOLTAGE reads the sign above the old-fashioned, black iron intercom, a piece of a data center I no longer have access to, a bit of trash doomed for the dumpster before I rescued it. The fig tree bought in the midst of mourning for Matthew. The stack of Tarot cards, free-association tool and reminder of who and what I am. The mirrored elephant from the Embu marketplace: the woven wooden and steel ribbon box, a gift from my estranged mother. Teapots, Chris's hospitality. A string of bells from Minneapolis, and throw pillows from Kennewick, Washington DC, Oakland. Glass floats from Philadelphia.

And, like a ritualist, like an engineer, my tools at hand are a source of confidence, of easy workflow. The charger by the couch arm, the knives readily at hand. Scratched notes and a pen: the dream gaining velocity and refining trajectory. Keys, with Natasha's glinting, a reminder of freedom. The lines and piles of books, an altar to every dream and inspiration, every bit of my mind expanding out beyond my current situation, a reminder of how limitless it all is.

I don't do well as a minimalist. I never have. Ritualists must gather their tools. We are not our tools, but oh, how they can serve as touchstones of who and how we are.

A throw pillow picked out and placed on a sofa. An expanse of shining wooden floor. The sheep skull above the door, and cats snoring softly, sprawled over whatever the hell they want.

I'm a sullen, suspicious person, living with others, I've found. The slightest hint of disapproval, and I'm more apt to pull inwards than to push back. The pillow doesn't return to the sofa after being moved, generally. Offending decorations, or those likely to, find themselves shoved into corners. The sheep skull is put in a bin at a mention of disgust in animal parts. The piles of books find themselves exiled from sight, and it's easier, far easier to duck my head, bite my tongue, than it is to rationalize all these things, the need for a certain clutter, a certain integration, to someone else.

Emotionally, it's easier for me to do the same thing. It's hard, sometimes, rationalizing, talking out what hurts when you get poked and prodded for it every time. Sometimes, it's hard to read acceptance when the method of delivery is criticized, when you speak too quickly sometimes, and not quickly enough other times. Trust issues? Me?

Oh yes. You can gauge the state of my mind and comfort by how spread out I am, physically, and how much my smile is tense and controlled, emotionally. Given a wall, I will put my back against it and hide the things important to me behind me until I find myself, my tools, and no more space.

And yet, here I am. In Oakland, I packed all my things, waiting to unpack them and spread them through my new home. And I did - the least offensive pieces of them, the ones I felt comfortable placing out. But as I found myself withdrawing more and more into myself, becoming inoffensive, becoming unthreatening, lowering my eyes and flinching, the more I tried to explain myself - well.

My bedroom became a crowded prison, a one bedroom apartment's worth of tools and trinkets crammed on shelves, nailed to walls in profusion, a manic, bright attempt to celebrate and find space. Closing the door, I found I couldn't breath, any more than I could breath with all my words shoved between my teeth and the altar of my books hidden away from ready access. The instincts scream: get out, get out, I must get out.

And yet, here I am. On Sunday I moved, thanks to mordel, karma_debt, reinsarn, and another non-noder friend. The sheep skull is above the door. The books are on the table, and the expanse of polished oak, the throw pillows, the tin of tea, the fanged wooden fish, the glass floats, and the mirrored elephant, are spread out, dispersed through my new home. The tightness in my chest, the weight, has passed.

Having unpacked and repacked twice, I find that I'm home - finally home. And I can breathe again.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.