What it is exactly that I want, or, The new graffiti
The yoga studio is filled with women who closely resemble one another - straight treated hair falling a few inches past shoulders, trim waists, Lulu Lemon clothing, and the right tattoos (which particularly mystifies me. Do they get them as adults? All together? Or do they do it young and then, aging, are drawn to one another like beacons?) The correct tattoo can be found inside of the wrist, or on the top of the foot, where one might notice the symbol for "Om." They talk together conspiratorially as I gather my things and quietly leave at the end of a great class.
On a recent night out with beloved nieghbors, we were joined by several local women I don't know well, and the conversation turned to malls - visits to area malls, and comparisons of different Targets. My family doesn't go to malls, just because they feel almost unbearably overwhelming and depressing. I don't know how anyone does it. Am I just too sensitive? But it's not just me - I convinced my husband to walk to a nearby BJ's once and we both left empty-handed and bereft at the sight of endless flourescents and obese children stuffed into shopping carts. At the table, I am left in familiar silence.
This is how I feel about my adopted hometown. I don't always fit in, and sometimes it is awkward. I love our home, and I honestly love our nieghbors. I love seeing my girl riding her bike (a street hand-me-down refurbished by Daddy) up and down the little hill at the top of our street, and joyfully communing with the kids that linger everywhere. But I have a hard time seeing a space for me as the full person I really am, inhabiting home in a complete sense. I think a shift in my perspective might change this, but I don't know where to shift to.
I do always feel like I fit in, however, on the river that runs alongside our house. Biking home in the dark with my daughter's wagon hitched to mine, knees bumping my growing belly, single light shining on the packed earth path flying under our wheels and nothing but the sound of dark water flowing fast beside us. I'm fully there. Or jogging in the middle of the afternoon, nodding greetings to Guatemalan men walking to and from work and school. In the night, encountering a coyote and wondering what to say to such a wild and beautiful animal standing feet away from me, looking at me with - what? What expression in those intelligent eyes? Picking up trash left by others. Doing yoga on a mossy bank as ducks float amiably by. Taking a walk by a romantic young couple kissing near a waterfall. Kids smoking pot, faintly suprised by me running around the bend. Watching turtles from the bridge overhead.
And now along the river there is some beautiful new graffiti. It looks like a chemical dreamland with wild shades and floating bubbles. Colors leaking from a pipe that I'd never noticed before, a runoff from the street into the river. It's exactly what I would paint if I had the courage and organization to do it. Who painted it? Could I be friends with this person? Whoever it is, I am inspired.
Tonight some old friends are coming to dinner, a person who meshed with me utterly perfectly in graduate school (another place, come to think of it, where I had trouble fitting in). A lot has happened in the six years since we've seen each other and I don't know if we'll connect so seamlessly again, especially since we both have children to bring a lively minute-by-minute interruptive quality to our conversation (it's just what they do!). But I honor her anyway, and our complicated, loving friendship.
Who does fit in? Graffiti painters? Turtles in an urban river? Shoppers in Target? Friends who have connected and fallen out and connected again and had hope for one another? Kids trying to keep up with each other on bikes?
My old record player playing in our basement is a gift from my husband, and my old music wafting upstairs makes me feel connected to this place. It's a shift, a flow into the river.