wandering soul

I suited up early this morning, intending to be out the door well before 7. I know that my daytime minutes start at seven a.m., and that any call that starts prior to 7:00 gets entirely counted under night and weekend minutes.

Jody lives in Atlanta, and works the overnight shift. I don't call him as often as I should, but the timing of our lives means that he is finishing up his day as I am readying to start mine. I take a perverse delight in making sure my calls to him start just a couple of minutes before 7, with earpiece tucked securely in my left ear as I drive.

We talk, and more often than not, it's mundane. Today it wasn't.

There's been a lot on my mind this week, a lot that I'm well aware I can't discuss or disclose, and I feel genuinely dishonest even referencing it obliquely here. That's been a theme of my life in the year and a half since I took the job; there are many things I need to say, want to say, and just ... can't. I've made a lot of phone calls to cope with that problem in this past year, and with my inability to write honestly here, those calls have served as my lifeline of honesty in a time when I feel I have to watch every word I write or say.

I spoke honestly.

I struggle with living in the South, and it's getting harder as I get older. I look at people who are able to be radically different from those they share their lives with and realize that they are stronger, more resolute people than I will ever be. I love my friends and I love where I work, but I hold different beliefs and opinions than most of the people who surround me, and I do not always do a good job of moderating my thoughts and opinions enough to live comfortably here.

* * * * *

I liked the Pacific northwest a lot. I am not sure why I went in with the expectation that it would be an awkward fit, because in retrospect, Jeff and I have both adored Vancouver and Victoria for years, and they are both nearby. I expected differences, but found them equally foreign and comforting.

I knew the moment I was in trouble, and I laughed inside when it happened, because I knew what triggered it and knew that if I'd had old friends standing next to me at that moment, they would have seen it coming. We had dipped into the city for me to hit up REI for hiking boots (which I bought, and threw in a new backpack carrying case for my camera). We'd run some errands and were off toward Pike Place Market for my Seattle Tourist Moment™.

We were parked some distance from where we were going, and I was striding across rain-slicked cobblestones in hiking books that were too new and unsure of me just yet. We dodged traffic and metaphorically pulled up our collars to protect against the drizzle, ending up at a concrete overlook. I'd spent most of the time across the street watching my feet, to make sure that I didn't perform a spectacular wipeout in front of my friend, his brother, and what seemed like half of the tourist traffic in Seattle, and I wasn't paying attention to where I was going.

When they nudged me verbally, I stopped. Just stopped. It all hit me at once. The buildings crowding down into the Puget Sound, the smell of gasoline and conifers and city life, overlaid with that almost-intangible something that I think coastal residents are inured to: the scent of the water, which draws me in ways I cannot explain.

I wasn't sure if Adam or Jordan was the one who asked, "Don't you want to take a picture?" It could have been either brother. I wasn't paying close attention, as my ears were secondary to my eyes. It had been years since I had been to this part of the country, and it came back to me keenly, sharply, like the scent of evergreens and salt water and conifers in winter: I remembered why I found this place beautiful, and why I'd wanted to come back for so long.

I took no photos. I wouldn't have known what to point my lens to if I'd decided to try.

* * * * *

I talked to Jody and it all came out: the remembrance of snow, mountains, conifers, water. The sharp disconnect I had when flying home, the days it took to adjust to being here again, the time I needed to make sense of what I'd seen and done now that I was back to my own life.

"I know you better than most people you've ever known," he said, and I could hear the smile in his voice when he said it. "You should be frightened by that statement."

"I'm not."

"You've always had a wandering soul, sweetie."

No one has ever said it to me in quite that fashion, but that phrase summed it up better than any other I've ever written. I tucked it between my ears when we disconnected the call, and walked in the building. My commute was over, and wandering soul or not, there was programming to do, and further introspection would just have to wait.