Have you ever used a GPS?

I never had until we went to California in May (yes, this post is way overdue) to "look around" as we said then. If you haven't used one, I am here to tell you that they have let the Voicemail Lady -- you know the one who says, "(insert name here) is not available. To leave a call back number, press 5. If you'd like to leave a message press one, or simply wait for the tone." etc. -- out of the phone, and they've put her into your car.

With a GPS you punch in your destination, and the Voicemail Lady will tell you how to get there: "in point two miles veer left on Oregon Expressway. Veer left on Oregon Expressway."

If you miss Oregon Expressway, the Voicemail Lady goes eerily silent, then comes back with a hearty "Recalculating!"

And yes, she will dutifully dictate an alternate route to your destination.

Well, Recalculating! is my new motto. After the trip to California we are recalculating all kinds of things like:
~home ownership: where 1200 square foot houses go for $1million, we may be lifelong renters
~deliberation time: in a place where rentals are advertised and filled, sometimes in the same day, we have  had to let go of our tendency to deliberate over such decisions. We rented a house sight unseen, on the recommendation of my wonderful sister-in-law.
~Stuff: while we have less Stuff than many modern American families, we will have to have even less as we move in to a rental house smaller than any of our houses have been.
~that new car Husband needs? to replace the 15 year old one held together buy duct tape? the one with no air and no heat and no god-knows-what-else? We'll just wait 'til it falls apart on the 101 someday. Then, maybe a new car, or maybe we become a one-car family.

I'm Recalculating! wardrobes. Chilly mornings, chilly nights, warm days. Linen doesn't seem to be necessary; it doesn't get that hot. Lightweight fleeces? yes. Wool sweaters -- lightweight cashmere only, methinks. Socks often but not always. Winter gear only if going to the mountains or to Grandma and Grandpa's. But hats? mittens? Probably sometimes? Just not sure what we're all going to need. Except for skinny jeans. Skinny jeans everywhere out there. I have acquired some skinny jeans, and even though I'm of the generation who thinks the words "skinny" and "jeans" do not belong in the same phrase, let alone the same sentence, I have to say - Recalculating! - they look awesome and I love them.

I am also Recalculating! some of my own ways of being, or at least realizing that they may need to be recalculated. Seeing the Bay Area up close made me realize that we are moving into a very different culture than the one we're familiar with in the staid, steady, uber-reasonable Midwest. I'm not sure I can pinpoint how it's different yet, but I had a distinct we're-not-in-Kansas-anymore feeling out there. We are told of pressure-cooker high schools (which we'll try to avoid), people paying cash for houses, and celebrity sightings (tech world celebrities, that is, like Hello! That's Mark Zuckerberg in line at the deli!). We are also told of 320 days of sun, outdoor living spaces, parks on every corner, wonderful restaurants, and citywide WiFi. One thing I can say is that, as overwhelmed and bewildered as I was out there, I saw a remarkable number of people who look just so damn happy! I think that can only mean good things.

My landscape-o-meter is Recalculating! as well. Just as I was barely getting to know the landscape in and around South of the River (and yes, definitely still mourning the loss of my landscape of origin -- my beautiful Michigan), I'll be headed to a very different place of soaring hills, microclimates, houses built practically on top of each other, towns that blend into other towns, a bay that looks hard-working but down on it's luck, bridges that defy understanding, and just over the hills, that awesome (in the true sense of the word) Pacific ocean, its enormity, its rolling thunder even on calm days, the greyish sand it carries to shore, that far horizon, next stop Japan. Oh, and, um, earthquakes. As a person who is and has been formed by landscape, and as a writer whose poems are full of landscape references, I know I am beginning again, starting from zero, to learn my new terrain.

My poet's heart is aching. Calculating the loss of my po-friends in South-of-the-River is impossible. I blubbered like a baby when I told my writing group what lies ahead. I will miss regular coffee&poems with the Poet A.O.D. I will have to learn the pathways of the literary scene out there, seek out like-minded poets. I wonder how to do it. Believe me, I have considered putting ads up on telephone poles: "LOST POET. SHORT, GLASSES, PURCHASED BLONDE HIGHLIGHTS, OFTEN DISTRACTED. WILL RESPOND TO RECITED POEMS BY ANNE SEXTON, LOUISE GLUCK, NAOMI SHIHAB NYE, DENISE LEVERTOV, AND RILKE. NEEDS GOOD HOME. CALL *Recalculating! What's my phone number??*

I am Recalculating! what can count as a writing life. I am committing small acts of literature like: going to writing group even when I feel I should be getting ready to move; reading and responding to the work of po-friends; reading small poems, or a poem at a time, but not a whole collection; jotting down ideas, but not writing poems. Just for now.

And now the Recalculating! has turned into a counting-down of days. The movers will be here two weeks from tomorrow. This is going to happen. Soon. The thing I have been avoiding is looking Loss straight in the eye. I am moving away from a network of friends -- po-friends and civilian friends -- that is amazing beyond belief. These are not people I kind of know and like. These are people I love deeply and dearly. It will be like surgery to leave them. That loss, I cannot begin to calculate now. That loss will hit me -- when?-- sometime after the fact.

By the time it does, I hope I am also adding up all the good things about life in Silicon Valley: all the nice people I've met, the literary world connections I've made, the hours of sunshine, the smiles of my nephews and cousins seen not via webcam but face to face, the bushels of fresh fruits and veggies from the year-round farmers market (What!? Did you say year-round? RECALCULATING!)

And by then, I hope I'll know my phone number.


Sandy Longhorn said...

Hey, Molly. Love this post. Love the idea of a lifestyle-GPS voiceover guiding me through my days.

Good luck with all the details. Looking forward to the tales you'll have to tell.

drew said...

I sure appreciate your spirit, and your candor.

With your open mind and wide heart, your California future really will be golden (I know this sounds Hallmark, but I mean it!).

CitricSugar said...

Fantastic perspective, Molly. I've been doing some major recalculating myself these days...

Good luck on your new adventure and may you find yourself in the cosy embrace of a new writing group...

Ms. WK said...

You're exhaling... one day at a time. I miss you already ~~ wait. I have been missing you for a damnlongtime. Now, Cali gets you.
They win! Peace be with you in the next two weeks.

Gerry said...

This was such a good post. I'm glad you have wonderful family Out There to welcome you. I'm glad you're taking the leap with good grace--much better than I ever manage when big changes are afoot. I know you'll find a circle of poets to welcome you, too, probably right in the vicinity of one of the wonderful bookstores that still dot the Bay Area--even in the heart of Silicon Valley. It will be a grand adventure.

I can see it now--every teacher will post homework and announcements on a daily blog, and you'll have RSS feeds for each one. No more pounds of paper coming in the door. Watch out for email overload, though. (Wicked little grin.)

shaun said...

Ah ha ha! This really made me laugh (and feel sad). Wishing you much luck with your move and joy in your next adventures.

Molly said...

Thanks everyone for reading, and for your good wishes. I'm glad you enjoyed the post. It felt good to write it -- one of my more grace-filled attempts to have perspective on this move (let me assure you that many other attempts, never to appear here, have been utterly devoid of grace). I'm looking forward to being back on this blog more often once we're settled Out There.

P.S. Gerry, wicked little grin, indeed! I wonder if my tech support guy could set up filters for me.... hmmm,...