Dream-Boat

I had a dream last week, and though as time passes I cannot remember the vivid detail, of which there were many, the premise lingers and with that, the significant truth and weight that this dream bears to my life, as it is now.

I don’t write down my dreams. I don’t recall doing it once in my (nearly) thirty-three years. I submit the ‘nearly’, because my wife thinks it odd that I’m always aging myself. It’s true, I do this. The new year comes and I’m only halfway into my newest age, and with six months yet (I was born halfway through July), I begin listing that age. I’ve done this since just before thirty, yet I’d never done it prior. Now I do it each year, with just as much tradition as a birthday.

When I first woke, the morning after the night in which I had the dream, I remembered it in startling clarity, which is also unlike me, yet I didn’t write it down right away. Perhaps I wanted to process it alone first, and then a few days would pass and I did indeed share it with my wife, and when I did, I told her I’d been thinking of writing it down too, and then still more days passed, though the dream did not leave me as I went about my days, the long ones I've been knowing. Even now, in writing it down, I have created this story and intro because I can’t just dive right in, since I've never written about a dream before. It feels strange to do so, yet there is a wonderful segue - dive - and I should get to it, because the dream involves water and boats and diving automatically alludes to water, because you cannot (or should not) dive into anything else, really.

It was nighttime, and there was first a ferry boat, from a mainland to an island, I think. That’s the part that has become more fuzzy, and it’s not as important as the second boat: the little dinghy from the island to the final destination on our route, which in my mind I could picture, like a map from a strange vantage point, not quite above and not directly on the horizon, but somewhere in between and in full color, which was dark black and charcoal and brown and backlit with tinges of gold, the way a city lights a sky, but much prettier than the dull orange tinge of reality. 

The boat was moored to a meager little dock, one that ran horizontal to the water’s edge, and did not protrude vertically. Alone, I began to load our things into the little boat. I was traveling with my daughter and my wife, just as we do now, and we don’t own much in the grand scheme of things. As I loaded the boat, I was careful to distribute the weight evenly: after all, we’d all three need to fit inside and it wasn’t large, and I would need room to row. 

I’m not sure where my wife and daughter were, they seemed to be nearby. There was a building behind me, and I think they were there, waiting for me to load the boat, as if I had some prior knowledge they did not possess and I needed to be the one to do it. It felt maternal and paternal all at once, my work, and I was doing it willingly and not with a lick of grudge toward the lack of help. I felt strong and powerful, as it were, and glad that my wife was taking care of our daughter while I handled the puzzling game of packing our wooden boat. 

Yet as I loaded the boat with bags of our things, the essentials…the clothing we needed, and food, and a laptop and camera, because I needed them to work - to earn and survive - the nighttime scene that had felt slightly menacing, but only slightly, as nighttime tends to do, embraced it’s full potential. I would load, and people swimming, not joyfully, but lurkingly, would swim up alongside the dock to topple the boat. Like it was a game. They were certainly taking it lightly, yet all my worldly possessions and means for survival were inside. The water would dip into the sides of the boat, sloshing around, and the people would do it while my back was turned, and some of them right in front of me. I would reach for our things and pull them out, back onto the dock, and hope they would stop, please stop, yet I was voiceless. I could not speak. They kept pulling and pulling on the sides of the dinghy, and I was simply trying to load my boat. The boat was sinking now, and I’d gone back to where I’d piled our things for too long to gather more, and everything we owned was on it, and I was yelling for help but nothing was coming out. Still voiceless, and my arms were weak against the weight of the water in the boat, and our things were drowning in the dark water, and I just kept pulling and pulling, and the people in the water left, they swam away and onward to wherever they got to go, and I was left with a sinking boat, defeated and breathless.

Less of Proving

I was going to shut it down.

I spent several sweaty hours yesterday morning in a patch of sun working my way backwards, archiving each post manually. I'm a bit of a speed reader (okay, that's not true, I read extraordinarily fast and can basically glance at a few paragraphs and have them read), and I started to note that though a lot of the things I'm still struggling with are the same as they were when I began to write here, many are not...and more so, I began to see how clearly undefined this blog has been, and how that's not as much of a problem as I once thought. 

More than anything, I started to notice how I wanted so badly to be perfect in the beginning of all of this. I had very little understanding of how I could be messy and vulnerable and painfully honest, and I kept it fairly well-masked in the beginning, with only the occasional post where you'd see a glimpse of who I truly was (then). I was desperate to be seen and to have a voice and to be heard, though I'd very little concept of who that was at all, and that now, I still want to have a voice, and be heard, but simply because I'm a writer and there is story to tell and I've begun to know and accept who I am evolving as. It's less of proving and more of being. 

I wrote very little on things like motherhood, though that is so much of who I am and there's a reason for not writing about it and I'm waiting for those words to come, I've been waiting for years now...and when they come, it'll be exactly what I want to write, and the best writings on travel were the ones I wrote when in it, translated from a written page in a little notebook from my sister, not the ones I wrote to account it to take on the title of 'travel blogger'. I tried to pose for the curated sorts of shots but I fucking hate being in front of the camera and jut out my belly awkwardly and never know what to do with my hands when a lens is pointed my way, though I want my daughter and perhaps one day her children to see me when I was young and doing all of these wonderful and unconventional things. I gave too many shits about content that would please and fit into the parameters of the time, back when moccasins were being worn with maxi dresses. 

I write, now, with blazingly truthful words that aren't typical of blogging, but really, what the fuck is blogging anymore anyway? It's less defined now to me, it's less defined and rigid. I remember wanting to have the right things, and to share the right things, and I did it. Those things grew my following and readership and got me interviews and features that grew my following and readership and it felt good. I wanted it. It gave me a sense of pride in myself and got me through and in some ways, that's okay, but in the grander bit of it, not so much. 

I've settled into these bones and this softening skin and the way my life looks and is, that it's beautiful when I don't try so hard, even more so, because it's less about you and more about me and us and isn't that what matters? The light I find is still the light I find, the shadow is still the shadow, but I see more light than shadow now anyway. 

What I know, after this weekend of reading back, is that deciding to travel had nothing to do with anyone, it was only later that it did, later when I started sharing and thought I had to keep up. Doing all we did to get there was the exact right thing to do, and though none of this looks the way I thought it would, and I didn't get the epic shots I thought I would-should-could or have the epic moments I thought we would-should-could because Instagram told me so all those years ago, I still had the privilege of being changed because of those first seven months on the road, and I've allowed it to slip in and weave its way through whatever it is that makes up my being and I'm better for it not because I did it, but because I allowed it, and it's part of me in a beating and pulsing way as I muddle my way through some of the hard places and the things that I don't yet know. 

The Love Mugs

"Wanna grab a beer with me after work?" 

She nods and asks if I'm sure. I'm not drinking as much these days, keeping the wine and beer out of the house for the most part. We'd been using it as a way to cope, me especially, as a way to relax my shoulders from their tensed position. It's been too much, and it's always too much, but now I soothe with sparkling water and tea and the little oils and jade roller I keep in a wooden bowl beside the bed.

"I just need to get away."

What I wanted was to sit at a table, and not have dinner in bed again, our plates balancing on our laps, and one less stain on the linen duvet that I spent my hard-earned money on. What I wanted was to not see work, the hunk of aluminum and the scattered bevy of tools and supplies that litter the yard that isn't ours. What I needed was to just be us, the people who've lost their sense of self and privacy and adulthood and autonomy while living and working on someone else's property, and not look at the construction zone that is our own home, with half finished walls and a ramshackle kitchen with a sagging shelf and a jug-to-bowl-to-bowl system for washing dishes. 

So we went and we sat amongst college students in a college town at a decent pizza place with a bar and had a slice and beer, and we stayed for hours, setting up our own little version of home at one end of a long table. We can make ourselves at home with ease wherever we are, and no doubt because we live the way we do, our homes together fleeting and everywhere. 

We've lived in separate houses, four hours apart, and made home together on those early weekends. She'd drive the miles to see us, me and a tiny babe, arriving late on Friday night and I'd burst out the door to greet her, and we'd kiss so strongly that it's a wonder we were never injured. That first kiss after five days apart, five days of strangely orbiting through our own worlds in our own towns, shopping for groceries and attending class and going to work, sitting in traffic and all the while, knowing that this other person is somewhere far away and doing the same, and you feel strange and distant and close and special and connected all at once. 

There were mugs that have since broken, made by a woman who we now call a good friend, in the place that is the most home either of us know, at a lake that is frozen this time of year. We simply know it in the summer, when we walk barelegged up to Tara's studio, the place that when we met was just her, and now it's her and Cait and Jude and the little one in Cait's belly, and Devi the cat. The mugs were made, and Ellen bought them that only summer I wasn't able to go to the cottage, and the year she left early to come back to see me.

She presented them to me as we sat with summer tans at the edge of my bed in that big old house, these hollow, swirly bits of fired clay with hand-painted love, wrapped carefully in newsprint, and they became home. We'd pack the mugs into our weekend bags and whether here or there, they represented that we were together, connected, and though our houses were big and filled with others, we'd slip into this little shiny globe where we pretended it was only us and we didn't live and shift and shape in different worlds all week. 

Then there was the house, our island, where we didn't stay long. We learned one another there, the stretches of time apart no longer, and heated, passionate arguments took the place of heated and passionate sex, and we tumbled and flailed while still being madly in love until we were better able to smooth out the wrinkles and the dust settled, and we looked up with startling clarity to see we'd fought our way through and come out better for it, and how we'd created a home together, even in the hard places and stretches. 

It was soft and sweet, and we'd exposed the brick around the fireplace and laid a new pine floor, painted and drywalled and landscaped and installed new appliances and drapes. The front door had been painted a deep shade of eggplant, and the bathroom salvaged with tile and a $12 pedestal sink. There was the kitchen table we made together, my design and her brilliance, a metal base and a top with several hundred pieces of scrap wood we'd been given. It stayed with the house when it sold, and sometimes I think about it and wonder if they kept it or know how much love and work went into it, or that it was the first thing of now many that we've built together, the first something-out-of-nothing. 

There's been three Airstreams since, and a rental house next door to where we fell in love. It's not surprising that we built so much there, that so much of who we are and what we've created was born in a place where we could see the driveway she'd rattle down in that old gray Toyota pickup and we'd kiss those incredible kisses and hold on so tight it hurt. I hadn't really thought about it like that until now, that the energy of where we fell in love and made our life together might have been surging through how we made the impossible shift to possible, and we made it so we could work together and work for ourselves, and create things that only we can create if we do so side-by-side. 

I sit in the unfinished Airstream, and it's weirdly home too, though we've made home anywhere and everywhere. We made it in the back of a Toyota after selling Louise and leaving her under the coastal Redwoods, where everything we owned was packed into the back and in a cheap fabric roof box, and we'd live out of that and the guest room at my parents' and Deborah's Airbnb. We made it in June, though she was never meant for us and she was always meant for Jamie and Lauren, because they stepped in and they just fit, like we'd tailor made June for them and we didn't even know it. 

We've made it in dry lake beds in the Southern California desert, and we've made it under the oak trees where the air plants cling to the branches until the Texas wind barrels across the silver-and-gold grasses and they lift up and off and down to where I pick them up and touch their soft tendrils and make strange little art forms on the stump out front. We've made home in daytime parking lots just steps from the shoreline, where we pack up in the dark to sleep on crooked streets and hills. We've made it in the camper of our truck, with a makeshift bunk and air mattresses and the bright lights of Walmart, and under the thick and heavy dripping canopy of the Hoh Rainforest. We've made it along the river at Goldpan, where the air felt like hot sandpaper, like a giant blow dryer was positioned at one end and rushing it through the canyon and carrying with it the sounds of the train whistles as they shifted through the tunnels and along the base of the mountains all through the night. This was the place where I sat in wonder and horror, as the darkest and strangest things I've done wracked my heart with guilt and I spoke apologies into the air to the people I've harmed and broken, as if they could somehow be carried out on the wind to them. 

The pizza was long gone, and a tired but happy almost-eight Adelaide was slumped against me, enjoying the deliciousness of a rare Netflix binge, and we talked about why we do this to ourselves, why we are always seeking something else, though it's not just something else, it's something more. 

And in the risk and the clamor, there is discomfort and sometimes pain, and we know the out. It's there, like a rotten carrot dangling to the side of all of this we're doing, there for the taking and the ease, it is the life we had, and the life we left, willingly and ably, to see what else was out there, what else we could do and feel and experience and be. We are certainly messy and wayward, and our families and friends and all of you look on in bewilderment and confusion right alongside us, but we pass on the carrot and trudge on in the darkness and dream big dreams and say, look what we've already done, what else can we do and make and be and experience and feel? 

I think about the mugs, how one broke in the rental house one Sunday as I was moving things out of the kitchen to install shelving for the landlord. It slipped from my palm so quickly there was no time to save it, and I fell to the floor as if I'd been shot, a wailing and strangely primal NO escaping from the lips that can kiss so hard they feel as if they might shatter. I cried and cried, holding the broken bits in my hands and hoping they would cut them open so that I could bleed too. The other broke here, under the oak trees and air plants with the sky above so big and open it's as if you can see the curve of the Earth, though that makes very little sense, as if the sky is somehow entrapped by the confines of the roundness of the planet. The mug slipped from Ellen's hand, and it's fitting, I suppose, that we each broke one and it's not lost on me that they each broke when we were serving others, doing something for someone besides ourselves. It was strange anyway, to see one without the other, and it was somehow a relief it was gone too, and she picked up the pieces in her hand as I had, and I don't know what she did with them. 

We sang to old and ridiculous songs on the way home and I watched the glitter of the lights in the fields, the little groupings of small towns you can see from far off here, and we stepped into a dark Airstream parked in a driveway, the one without switches or working lights and laughed and stumbled about in the darkness.