I woke up a few nights ago in a mild state of orientation panic. I had no idea where I was and none of my KS or CO cues seemed to be helping me. My middle of the night reminders – the porch light from the building across the street from me in CO or the small light on my security system panel in my bedroom in KS, are my grounding devices for the bouts of confusion I find myself in while still in a half-asleep state. Last night I starred at the little green light on the security system panel and had no idea what it was. This is not my first time experiencing this kind of confusion. It happened almost nightly after returning home from one of my extended trips to Perú. More than once I woke up with a heavy sweater on over my nightgown with no memory of putting it on. Under a down comforter with the heat on, (it was winter after all), a heavy sweater was hardly necessary and I woke up hot and sweating through everything but the mysteriously added outer layer. But it felt good, because it was familiar and what I had been accustomed to while living in the Peruvian heat and humidity. I obviously wasn’t ready to leave Perú entirely and that was my makeshift way of keeping a little bit of me there. I doubt I would have ever thought of such a simple way to ease into the transition had I been awake.
I know this night-time confusion will wane as I become more accustomed to living in two places, but for now it still feels a bit like a state line straddle to me with one leg in KS and the other stretching itself into Colorado. I’ve learned the physicality of the east/west movement and am now working on the emotional leg of the journey.
I’m a true blue, die hard nester, and whether it’s my KS home, my CO home, a hotel room, a tent or my car, if I’m going to be there more than 45 minutes, I will personalize, organize and feather the nest to within an inch of it’s homey life. The end result is secondary to the process, which for me is where all of the gratification lies. In simple terms, that means that lining up spices, organizing junk drawers and stacking sweaters are sporting events for me that make my heart beat a little bit faster. It’s also the place I tend to go to for comfort and will find myself knee deep in clothes before I realize that what I’m doing is less about wardrobe organizing and more about working through a problem. I’m sure it makes little sense if you’ve not experienced this odd behavior, but if you have, no doubt you are shaking your head yes in solidarity with me.
The one person who understands this side of me more than anyone else I know is my sister, Susan, who has witnessed me nesting from Nepal, to Bhutan to Chile and Argentina and a scattering of places in between, because she’s been right there with me as we folded and stacked, arranged and rearranged in hotel rooms, cabins and several times in a tent. Dogs pee their way around an area to mark their territory but we choose to mark our new territories with neat stacks of hiking pants, jackets and shirts with boots and shoes lining up at the door in anticipation and the lotions and potions finding their place next to sinks or tucked away neatly in the corner of the tent. Again, it’s less about the end result and more about the process for me as neat stacks soon become piles, then heaps after a couple of good digs, leaving you with a far bigger mess than you would have had had you simply left everything in the suitcase and pawed your way through it every morning for the goods. But that’s OK, because that is normal for me and what I’ve become accustomed to. I’m only speaking for myself here as Susan’s stacks remain stacks throughout, which is a goal I strive for but rarely achieve.
This same nesting sister rented a cottage in the Adirondacks for several summers while she was living in Montreal and I was fortunate to get to spend enough time there that it truly felt like home to me. One rainy day, we had opted out of hiking and decided instead to entertain ourselves with what we could find in the house to do or read or make, which for me consisted of diving into a dog eared Sears catalog from the early 1970’s. If you were around during that era and saw pale polyester leisure suits in person, or better yet owned one (I’m speaking to the men here regarding ownership…), then no doubt thumbing through those pages would have had you just as captivated as it did me. If I would have had a marker on hand, I would have enjoyed taking liberties with the photographs as someone who had gotten their hands on the catalog before me had, but instead, I enjoyed their handiwork, with some mental editing as I flipped through the pages. Oh Sears, if you had any idea of how much you’ve entertained my sisters and me over the years with countless pretend shopping trips where money was no object and boyfriend selections made from page after page of clean cut models who loved hanging out together in suits. Of course the stealth searches through the underwear section, both creepy and exciting at the same time, can’t be overlooked. This is what happens when boredom sets in and you’re not card players.
While absorbed in polyester and bad haircuts, Susan started talking about a Christmas several years ago and did I remember when the mouse ran across the living room, right in front of where she was sitting, and about scared Mom half to death? This she asked me while she starred up at the wall of a house that she had only started renting the previous summer. Even more surprising, was I knew exactly what she was talking about and said yes, and added to it that Mom jumped from the couch and ran straight into the kitchen, almost tripping over the rug in the dining room in the process. There was no hesitation whatsoever with my answer. Of course we weren’t there at Christmas and Mom wasn’t scared by a mouse because she wasn’t there either, the mouse, however, I’m not so sure about. Rather, it was the feeling we had when we were there. It was home….like we had been there forever and with flawless ease, we inserted ourselves right into the history of the little house in Keene Valley, NY, because it felt like we owned a piece of it and its story, even if only in our imagination.
|The cottage in Keene Valley, NY where our memories started before we arrived…|
That is my definition of emotional nesting and sometimes, I think I’m too good at it. I’ve done this at my house in KS. It’s a home that has logged over 80 years of life and love in its walls, where every room is no doubt steeped in decades of stories. Although I didn’t lay eyes on the house until 5 years ago, I have no problem inserting myself right into the made up stories of its history. Colorado will no doubt be next as I begin to envision my 2 year-old self myself playing in the mountain dirt in places that are a county away from where I actually lived. Emotional nesting. Connecting. Finding my sense of ownership.
I attach deeply to the places where I perch and will send a tap root down to insure permanence before I’ve hung a picture or decided which cabinet the plates will go in if it feels right to me. It doesn’t surprise me one bit when I wake up with confusion as to where I am. This process for me has become a huge lesson in transition. It’s the train that carries me towards the unknown and while I may not even know there’s a journey underway, one day I realize I’ve arrived, and I’m home and I feel safe and happy and like I belong. I’ve also learned that the most important nest that I feather isn’t in KS or CO, but rather is wherever I am because it is what I carry with me inside that makes any place my home, whether it’s a house, or a tent or my seat on the bus. I guess that makes me a turtle at heart. I’ll take it.