Settle In

Room With a View

We’re losing light up here fast, by almost three minutes a day. These final weeks of summer–brilliantly cloud-free summer–are pulling out all the stops to make up for its tardiness.

Soon, it will be dark by 5 p.m. Then 4:15. Mornings, I’ll watch the sun rise over the Cascades on my way to work. A few weeks later, headlights and coffee alone will signal morning. The geese sailing overhead are a harbinger of routines, rain and all.

Years ago, Erin (beloved teaching partner/running mate) and I developed mantras to get our asses up the hill behind Valhalla High School. It was glorious to run down the hill, then out into the brushland and scrub. But the way back–oh, the way back. A Goliath of a hill. I knew to put my head down and not look to the top of the hill. But the burning in my lungs and legs unnerved me. Then it dawned on me: that’s exactly where I was–running up hill, out of breath, about to die, blood pumping, pumping, pumping. And the feeling wasn’t going away unless I simply gave up on the running. My mantra was born: Settle in. I remember that moment of discovery: the hill did not shrink nor did my legs find some new source of power, but my mind did. For many agonizing blocks and minutes, I ran with my pain, not beside it.

And contrary to my belief in those moments, I did not die.

Erin soon found her own mantra: Easy. (As in eeeeaaaassssyyyyy. And there’s a hand gesture too, like a pushing down of the air with both hands.)

So we charged up hills, mantra in mind.

Years and continents and states later, Settle in has not left me. I summoned the saying while in India, riding the bus back to Kolkata in the sticky, swampy heat only India can manufacture. A herd of uniformed school girls sang songs in Hindi at the top of their lungs and the bus paused, then sat, then turned off its engine in the middle of a traffic jam. It had been a long day. Men in kurtai’s with scraggly beards peered into our parked bus. Despite the green light, not a single car moved across the intersection. The smell of too many pre-pubescent girls on one bus wafted down the aisle. Sweat beaded under my salwar kameez. The other white girl on our school expedition consulted her watch: “We’ve been sitting here for 27 minutes” she said. The bus windows only cracked open halfway. The nun on the bus wouldn’t let us open the door or let us out in the middle of the city. Undoubtedly, in an ironic twist of fate, I found myself in Dante’s Inferno while volunteering at a religious school. The girl in front of me kept checking her watch. And I thought about running the hill behind Valhalla–I decided to settle in. It was perhaps the second time in my life where I didn’t let the overwhelming nature of the situation consume me–where I found a bit of zen–nah, “zen” is too nirvana sounding, and believe me, there is not an ounce of nirvana to be found when 49 adolescent girls, rife with body odor squeal a rendition of Britany Spears at the top of their lungs for twenty minutes in stopped traffic. No, decidedly not zen. Peace? Acceptance? Yes, I found acceptance  with my surroundings.

So, up here in the PNW, I am getting ready to settle in. I am squeeing at the prospect of the rain forcing me inside to read a book, to graph out the raised garden beds, of researching and interviewing for the new book idea I’m so fired up about. I can’t wait to drive towards the sunrise. Can’t imagine how simple life might be: no moving! no monumental life-event to plan! no commuting via plane to see my honey! no world trip to plan! no world trip to pay off! For the first time in perhaps four years, I am ready to settle into serious routine.

Alley Berry Breakfast

But first, with what may be the final glory days of summer, I must pick the ripe blackberries down the alley and paint the garage.

Respirators always help while settling in--(before)

Remind me, will ya, when I start bitching (around the second coat) to settle in.

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