Residential Purgatory

“It’s weird being here without all of my stuff.” I said to Lee on the phone yesterday afternoon.

“It’s weird having your stuff all over my—I mean our—house without you here.” He returned.

It is official. Living in an empty house is depressing. All of my things are in my new home while only a few necessities remain here so that I can continue to exist having contact with the outside world as I tie up all of my loose ends.

After three days, I finally put my finger on it and found the right words. I feel as though I’m in residential purgatory. Now, I’m not catholic or anything so I don’t know much about purgatory per se… but from my limited understanding of it—it seems an appropriate term. I am merely waiting here in between appointments, lunches with friends and niece’s/nephew’s winter sporting events.

I know I mentioned this on the blog earlier but with nothing but a single bed, a 13″ TV, a stereo, one place setting of dishes, one set of silverware, a pot, a pan, a cheese grater and a computer with a lawn chair in front of it… I am beginning to feel like a bit of a squatter in my own home.

I loved this house the moment I saw it and it has done a great deal of restoration in me as previously noted in a post from last week. But I realize now that it isn’t so much the walls of the structure, but rather what they contain.

Pictures of my family, photo albums, journals, books, gifts, pieces of furniture and knick-knacks with special memories attached to them. These are the things that make up a home.

And if you’re lucky enough to have some or even one person also inside those walls who loves you, talks to and listens to you at the end of the day… well then that’s just gravy.

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Wanderlust

I climbed up the ladder to the loft above my bedroom in search of a place to store a journal I had recently filled. I opened the cabinet doors, slid a couple of boxes out from their resting place and peered inside, unsure of their contents. Suddenly a clear plastic storage bin caught my eye. I put down the cardboard box I was rummaging through and switched my attention to this container. Removing the lid I quickly realized that this one was a treasure trove! It was filled to the brim with old photographs, journals and letters from my high school and college days.

On a rainy Sunday afternoon, this was quite a find! Inching closer to the light from the plate glass window, I situated myself high above the world below and dove in. It was so entertaining to flip through the photos and read the words I had scrawled 18 years ago on the yellowing pages. It felt a bit surreal awakening so many dormant memories from my more “adventurous” days.

Of course I found a lot of journal entries comprised of the usual hopes and dreams of an 18 year old girl: Where would I end up? What kind of job would I have? When would I fall in love? How would we meet? What would he be like? Would I ever get married? Would I ever have children?

But even more interesting than those things, was a recurring theme in my writings. I was obsessed with escaping my small Ohio town in search of adventures and experiences in the wider world. My mom used to tell me that I had “wanderlust,” and I believe she was absolutely right. The dictionary defines wanderlust as:a strong, innate desire to rove or travel about. And I certainly had that! There were so many fascinating places I wanted to see and interesting people I wanted to meet… and I couldn’t seem to begin this wandering soon enough!

Fortunately, from the time I turned 18 I was able to do just that. I had the unique privilege of working on a beautiful Colorado Dude Ranch during the summers while in college. And I lived and worked in New Mexico for 12 years after graduation… allowing me to experience a completely different culture from the one in which I grew up.

During those 16 years I was fortunate enough to climb 14,000 ft. mountains—literally standing on TOP of the world! I spent time rafting white water rapids and exploring miles and miles of untouched Colorado wilderness both on foot and on horseback. I learned to fly fish in the Tetons and Yellowstone … catching, cooking & eating my fair share of indigenous trout. I learned to scuba dive… soaking in some of the Caribbean’s most active and colorful reefs. I plunged into the freezing-cold waters of Lake Tahoe and experienced the lengthy but rewarding struggle of pulling King salmon out of the open Pacific (throwing up the entire time).

I searched for banana slugs while feasting on the sweetest wild berries in the rainforests of the Pacific Northwest and took a 6-passenger sea plane into British Columbia where I participated in the carving of a community totem pole with native people. In New Mexico, Arizona and Texas I blistered my feet backpacking into (and out of) some deep canyons, visited various haunts of the legends of the “Old West,” herded cattle on horseback, learned to shear a sheep, brand a steer, breed a horse, and cook a rattlesnake. And my ultimate claim to fame: I once took first place in a grape-stomping contest at a local vineyard.

Please don’t misunderstand my intention for sharing these things. I didn’t list them to boast. I am proud of doing them. I am thankful that I got to experience those adventures. But mentioning all of these things helps me emphasize how totally mystifying I find the place that I am in right NOW. Today I come home to a peaceful old house with creaky-but-charming wooden floors. If there’s a foot of snow of the ground, I can simply pull on some boots and walk next door in my pj’s to enjoy a hot meal with my family. In the summer I can watch lightning bugs from the porch swing, enjoy a burger off the grill and sing obnoxiously during the 7th inning stretch. In the fall I witness the world around me turn a thousand different colors while tailgating before a big football game.

I’m not scaling mountains, carving totem poles or herding cattle. But strangely—unlike the person I was 18 years ago—I am not restless anymore. I still have that same wanderlust and I know I’ll still travel and seek out adventure, but these days I seem to find infinite amounts of joy in watching fluffy, white flakes fall from the night sky and in laughing with childhood friends over a cold beer.

Life is such an unpredictable journey. I tried so very hard to get out of Ohio—and away from home—only to discover years later that “home” is exactly where I now CHOOSE to be. Sometimes you have to surrender to your wanderlust and strike out on your own in order to travel back around and discover the fact that you’ve come completely full circle.