Two weeks ago, lying on my back at 7,400 feet watching the stars peer down at me through a canopy of piñon and juniper, it struck me — once again — that I have been fortunate.
I was in the White Mountains, trying to fall asleep after a day of meeting with some of my fellow desert protection activists, and as usually happens on my first night sleeping on the ground it was a little hard to drift off. My mind replayed the conversations of the afternoon, the beautiful places threatened and the brilliant attempts to preserve those places, the politics and the annoyances of politics, and every now and then I would wake from a half-doze with a start and find the conversations in which I’d been enmeshed were just replaying in my head, chatter in my excited mind as the Pleiades slipped up over the eastern horizon.
Three or four times I woke that way, and last waking brought with it that realization, dredged up out of my semiconscious mind somehow.
I looked at my life, my work and home and writing and love, and then I thought of where I was three years previous. Three years ago I was broken, a life’s love dead, another on its way to dissolution. My heart had gone out. I had been coasting through my life for a long time. And then the crisis came, and the break. A smarter, more prudent man might have scrambled to save little bits of his life. There was much good in my marriage. The Bay Area was the first place that ever felt like home. I had a lifetime’s worth of friends and a garden and a widely popular website and a life that was in all physical ways comfortable.
I look at things I wrote even before Zeke died, and my isolation and my alienation fairly leaps off the page, a longing for the chance to walk away from all of it and start over. I wrote those feelings off, back then; romantic maunderings of a middle-aged man. Who doesn’t imagine another life? Who doesn’t wonder, when traveling, what it would be like to vanish into the new town they’re seeing, to rent an apartment and fill out those change of address forms? Fantasy.
And then the break came. Two years ago I jumped. House and garden, family, job, trails I loved and mountainsides I saw with a heart’s shudder each day, I left it all. I headed away from the place I’d made my home, moved to a house I knew I’d have for three months, no leads for further employment and scant savings.
A smarter, more prudent man would not have, and oh, what he would have missed. I have a community of colleagues who eat and breathe the desert. I have a mission rekindled in my life. I have a temporary home in a new city that provides me with something new to delight in most days. I have sweet new friends I never would have met. I have a cat.
And I have The Raven, who sees me better than anyone ever has.
I would have none of these if I had done the smart thing, the prudent thing.
Some years ago today The Raven came into this world. We spent the day together celebrating, a quiet joyous day with close friends I did not know not long ago, sweet details and happy errands in a new-familiar landscape, and I thought again of that night two weeks ago, up in the Whites. I leapt and I found new friends, new homes, new tasks to stoke my passion but mostly I leapt and I found her. She does not complete me: she merely makes me a better man.
Happy Birthday, beloved. Many more.