There are levels of problems. I think I worry a lot but only to a limit for primarily no more than 2-3 things at a time. When I was in the bay area it was sometimes more than this because you think you have all you want to worry about and then something unexpected happens. I hate surprises and there were always surprises there that in time led to my decision to come out here to the middle of nowhere.
Some of these things were little things, like not being able to find parking at Trader Joes or taking up smoking again and all of the consequences involved in that and the look my dad gave me when he found out and reminded me that my grandpa’s last words were asking for a cigarette.
Some of these things were bigger, like the DUI, and the near fatal accident that caused it, and the crazy lady craigslist move into the city, and the mugger in Berkeley and alcoholic neighbors in Oakland.
Some things were continuous. The traffic. The Alpha type A personality people and the lack of sincere friendships. Maybe it was me. Maybe I couldn’t hold down to a friendships because I was too wrapped up in my own problems. And the effort involved in seeking and holding onto a friendship wasn’t ever inspired there. The first month in the bay area and I had run from the farm and used the money mom wired me to find that little basement apartment with the manic depressive girl. The first month I was unstoppable and exhilarated to be free, so I got a job and befriended the creative artsy girl and soon after walked around Halloween night with a cute coworker who was also a Triathlete at Cal and had pretty eyes. I became close to both of them and just as soon as it started it was over. She was jealous and flighty, as I learned most of my artist friends were, and he had a girlfriend abroad who would be back in December. So it was over by the end of autumn and I never carved out any potential long-term friendships after that. Just acquaintances and small gestures of affiliation like a concert here or a one night stand there. It wasn’t always by choice and I’ll probably talk about that more later.
But back to these problems and how I tried to leave them behind and remain in the bay area. The last year of grad school I moved to the north bay, at the foot of Mount Tam and only a 40 minutee drive from the ocean and the redwoods. I could hike and explore. I could park without too many problems. It seemed like the perfect solution and the weather, though one of the driest years recorded in California, seemed closer to how I remembered it in Oregon with mist and fog. The only snag was the price of everything, from rent to food to gas. I couldn’t afford it and so I graduated and I came here for $1 a month. The parking is even more incredible here. I can park anywhere I want, within reason, and only once have I seen a sign for $3 parking and that was for the Fourth of July when the town park played free music and had a fireworks show I could see and hear from my hilltop on Saturday night, the day after the 4th.
The land here isn’t covered in mist and fog. It’s dry dry dry. They said a dry year, watch your water usage, and I see signs of this everywhere. Yesterday the soil around my camping chairs in front of the house started smoking. It was literally turning black and smoking. I couldn’t figure out what it was from or the accompanying smell that reminded me of toxins we’d studied in safety class at the beginning of entering my fine arts school. Here was a little black spot next to another little black spot mysteriously starting to catch fire and I grabbed the hose behind the house and soaked the whole front lawn down. And by lawn I mean patches of gold grass I’ve been watering morning and night since no one is here to scold my water usage and I want a garden. The black spots blended in to the rest of the soil, and everything turned a dark brown but I couldn’t figure out what the smell and smoking was caused from, and now I have a little problem with only a couple of hypotheticals. Is it from the two stumps I brought from my MFA exhibit? The dark spots were near enough one of the stumps and so maybe it has chemicals on it. I found them in a junk yard after all. The other idea was that it might be something already buried in the ground, but if that is the case, and this is the second time the soil has smoked, then I am in trouble. I’ll have to be near most of the time just in case it happens again and I need to hose it down. I’m not sure if this is a big problem or a little one. It seems like a big one but that’s only in relation to the lack of problems I have here, which are this, a problem receiving my mail, and the problem of knowing no one and doing nothing social, which are both problems I can fix if I just go out and do something about them. The latter, regarding mail, I’m working on. The former, regarding people, I will get to when I’m sufficiently tired of being alone, but with a dog and cat seeking other accompany and the problems they could initiate seems unnecessary.
It’s early and the sun isn’t out with full form yet, so this could be a good day to drive to Yosemite. The drive would be about the distance it used to take me from Eugene to Portland, and with less traffic and more winding roads. I fill up my camelback and nalgene, and a ziploc bag of dog food. I’m still debating between that and watching the tour de france in England online. Each morning is a decision like this- remain on the hilltop and do little rings, or go out and explore new unknown things. I think today I will explore. Every other day seems to be good for an exploration. The sky is still calm and the rooster down the hill is still sleeping (I think it doesn’t come out until the heat is unbearable) and a humming bird is occasionally dropping by my cup of coffee as if asking for a taste. My dog is grumbling at every little noise and the mouse is still hiding in a corner of the house ignoring my death bucket of water and peanut butter held by chopsticks
If you are quiet and sitting right at the edge of the hilltop looking over Murphys, you can hear the clouds moving. I’m not sure if it’s the clouds or if it’s traffic or a plane in the distance near Columbia, but I always assume naturally that it’s clouds, and they’re rumbling in the distance, and that maybe it will rain and it will be the greatest welcome surprise of all.