On the sixth day of the eighth month of the thirteenth year of the second millenium (anno domini, of course), I find myself homeless. It’s humbling, actually, to be 35 years old, married with four children, and unsure of your day-to-day living arrangements. You could ask, in the words of country-beauty Shania Twain, “who’s bed have your boots been under?” and I would take it neither as an offense nor an indictment, but rather as a serious statement of inquiry.
This is a disconcerting thing.
The process of homelessness started with a fortuitous phone call from a lanky Texan stranger who was reverse carpet-bagging his wife and three children up to Fayetteville, and who wondered whether I’d be willing to shell off the old Rock House. “Everything’s for sale,” I quipped, which as it turns out were the words that set into motion this great spate of mis-fittedness.
He made an offer.
And then, we did the next logical thing–we contacted the best realtor this side of the Himalayas, shored up financing for a replacement residence, and identified the cutest home with the bluest door in the most perfect neighborhood. Unfortunately, though, through a rather complicated set of facts that would take the better part of the morning to type (and a great deal of editing to ensure that no inadvertent curse words slipped into the mix), the perfect house became less perfect, the Rock House sold, and my family became what can only be known as a passel of vagabond tramps.
Vagabond tramps, I say.
When your brunette starts to silver, you’re supposed to have some things figured out. For instance, it’s nice to know where you’ll live from day to day. I’ve always been a little slow to figure, though, and the graying of my hair beat wisdom to the game, evidently. In any event, here’s the secret pearl in all of this—up-endedness has been healthier than I’d like to admit.
“Healthy,” you ask? What about the man’s castle, the woman’s nest, and all of that?
We’ve lived mighty small for these last 5 weeks, mostly out of suitcases and a few boxes. I’ve found this type of gypsy-living to be a sort of constructive material detoxification. The truth is, we’ve accumulated a great deal of stuff over the years, and all of that stuff has been packed away in (too many) storage units since we vacated the old Rock House. Mostly, save and except for my books and my fly rod, I haven’t missed a lick of it. Sure, I got the shakes once for my Kitchen Aid mixer, but that is neither the point nor a confession. It just is what it is.
I don’t suppose you know how you feel about material until you are without it. That’s the tricky business of being owned by all this awkward stuff of earth. Sometimes I wonder whether we pay for it, or whether it pays for us.
We’ve found the freedom in being a family on the move. We’ve depended on the kindness of friends while our new house is becoming available (this week!). From time to time, this brings a very tangible weight onto the backs of others. (For instance, in our current living arrangement, there are 4 adults, 7 children, 2 cats, one dog, and a snake. See how heavy that is?) In the crescendo of chaos, when the sheer numbers become overwhelming, it’s good to bolt, to give your friends space. And sometimes, this sort of bolting must be done on no less than a moment’s notice.
Spontaneous family vacation? Done.
Last minute camping trip? Check.
Visit to the Alabama motherland on a whim? Whimsical we are.
It’s a good thing to move with the wind, I think. There’s a metaphor there. I’m sure of it.
By the end of summer, I’ll have learned a secret to contentment, fleeting though it may be. Notice that I’m not sure whether I’ll have learned the secret to contentment, but at least a secret is a good place to start. Anyhow, I’ve concluded there are only a few things a fella needs to live the good life: a wonderful woman, a few coyote-wild children, a copy of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, a decent book of poems, and the company of friends paired with a few glasses of cheap red wine.
This kind of living? It’s simple, communal.
But more than anything, it’s sure-fire.
The old Church-of-Christers used to sing, “this world is not my home; I’m just a-pass’n through.” I used to find this song morose, especially when sung by the gent on the front row of my grandmother’s congregation who kept a hard pack of cigarettes in his shirt pocket and sidled up next to his oxygen tank when the preaching started. But as we move from house to house, as I feel a continual lack of “fit” in being on the move, I think about the words to that song. Maybe they form the outlines of a more proper world-view.
Everything is transient.
Everything is passing.
Nothing really fits here–not forever, anyway.
Another musician put it this way, “nobody tells you when you get born here, how much you’ll come to love it and how you’ll never belong.” Hopefully, and with a little bit of luck, I’ll remember that from time to time.Want to receive my updates in your inbox? Click here. Also, follow along on Twitter and Facebook.