The beginning of June always makes me a little bit introspective.
My birthday is June 8, and that usually meant a fresh journal that I would promise myself I’d commit to writing in, this year. It would fall around report card pickup day, which felt like a mini-commencement of sorts.
And then, nine years ago, my dad died, three days before my 18th birthday. His struggle with depression and strokes during the years before deeply impacted my outlook as an optimist who also veered toward the morbid. I did a lot of introspective work — which sometimes manifested in teenage anger, so as not to make it seem like that time was super Zen for me — and really spent time putting onto paper what I believed.
Five years ago, right at this time, I moved to Iowa not knowing a single person and never having spent any real time in Des Moines. (I did spend about five hours in the Meredith building in college, but I won’t count that.) There were times that first summer when I was really lonely. I worked with great people, but the weekends would sometimes stretch out and I’d bring a blanket to the lawn of the Art Center, ride my bike by myself and read books under the trees in Waterworks park. I still remember that feeling in the pit of my stomach when the reality of having set off on my own truly set in. I lived by myself, without TV, and those were quiet days. A long phone call here and there, but I’m glad I learned how to be comfortable with just myself.
Today, a story ran in the paper about non-native YPs who are sticking around. It was fitting timing. I could nod my head along to all of the sound-bitey things that they said about living here, because I agree with them all, and they translate well to people who want to know: Why Iowa?
But in my heart, it’s the little things that make me feel like I’m a transplant who’s taken root. It’s the layers that these places around me are taking on. Greenwood Park is now those lonely reading days, layered with the spine-tingle I felt when Joe and I heard Opera music wafting from a house on a training run, layered with the times I’ve stopped to pet the velvety noses of the horses at Irish Run. It’s leaving the salon in the East Village and finding Garrett basking on a square of sidewalk that he shows me is oddly warm, thanks to the sun’s reflection from the neighboring windows. (And then realizing our friends at Ephemera have been standing and laughing at us from across the street, while we mime at some spot invisible to them.) It’s walking Wilbur down Kingman on a full moon night, like we’ve done so many times, and noticing a house that never before caught my eye. It’s friends in the backyard with sparklers. It’s the 18th papusa from the Farmer’s Market, but the first of the year. It’s simple. Simple. Simple. You wouldn’t understand. The most mundane moments can catch my breath.
I was talking about this with a friend tonight — about belonging to this place and things taking on all of this meaning because I chose them as my own. New moments open up, the city grows and I love it best not for the newness but for the promise of so many layers to come.
A pioneer should have imagination, should be able to enjoy the idea of things more than the things themselves. — Willa Cather, O Pioneers!