Hi Internet! I promised a summer hiatus, and despite the fact that Seattle is in a “heat wave” right now with dry, warm days on end, everyone is starting to talk about fall, so here we are and here I am.

I said Seattle, and you may not be surprised to know that I moved back here at the beginning of August. My return to Minneapolis never really took. I struggled with unbelonging, unemployment, and an unease that I could stuff down for a little while but never left me in peace entirely. At the risk of sounding over dramatic, I explained it to people as a feeling of being “haunted” by the past life I’d lived there. I came back in 2016 expecting everything to be like 2014. I was ready to pick up where I left, but everyone and everything had moved on, which is one of the most obvious things about this situation that I completely, willfully missed. It simply reached the point where there seemed to be no reason to stay. I’m definitely grateful for the friendships I rekindled and the new friends I made in my year back there, but feel I can still maintain them even if we are not in the same physical location.

So, at the end of July I trekked back West. I’m currently staying in a house with a lavender jungle in the front yard, shady trees and a hammock around back, a deck that gets full sun midmorning, and a nearly bottomless coffee pot gurgling in the kitchen. I have a lot to do this fall. I’m currently working on the first of two grad school theses, and I need to find a permanent place to live. There’s also still that unemployment thing. And there are self-care things to square away, like exercise and social time and time for jamming and pickling and music and walking.

It feels a bit overwhelming most days, to be honest. Still, sometimes I walk outside and run my hands through the lavender stretching towards me on my way down the stairs, and I have to stop and remind myself that this is mine again. This city that’s green all winter, whose steep hills and winding water make me feel inexplicably alive, I am here to stay now. Maybe not forever, maybe only for years, not decades. Who knows? I know that I am inherently restless, that my contentment now does not mean my contentment forever. But instead of that knowledge feeling scary, as it often does, I feel thankful to be here for now, right now. I am where I want to be.

I’m doing well. I hope you are, too.

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Today I walked through my old neighborhood
Under the bridge, down the big broad hill
my feet knew the path
my dog knew it too, trotting beside me, trying to pull towards our old home
we’d worked so hard to learn these streets
we still knew them like we deserved to.

Cheeks rosy cold, fingertips curled into palms into pockets
I found myself holding my breath
trying to name the feeling rushing in my body
the quiet whish-whish of traffic
the night clean and clear.

“I’m thinking about moving back to Seattle,” I told her earlier.
In a tumble of confession, of shame but wanting no shame
I spoke the thing aloud
where it had so far only been heard in my head
and in the ears of my Beloved when I felt the most sad.

I crossed at the light with strangers guiding us
and hopped a bus to Ballard
just so I could be alone a little longer.

Last night I dreamed about Seattle and woke up near tears. If I read this in another context, one where I hadn’t written it, I might have scoffed. I don’t generally hold any sentimentality about dreams, nor do I find mine, (or anyone else’s), particularly entertaining. And yet, I’ve been awake for several hours and still can’t shake the way I felt in that dream. I dreamed of a winter, though wet and gray with low-hanging skies, where I could still go outside every day. I could wait at a bus stop for 15 minutes without freezing the tips of my fingers. I could see life growing in January, a different kind than in summer, but life all the same. I could curl up for hours in my favorite tea shop, the pot warmed underneath by a tiny lit candle, the daylight waning outside.

I know I loved these things about Seattle when I was in Seattle, but I don’t know if I love them more now in the act of missing than I did when they were my reality. I wonder if the fact that I am still thinking of Seattle two and a half months later and missing it as fiercely as when I left is important, or if it’s just something I need to let go of.

When I first moved to Seattle, I met and talked with a disproportionate number of transplants from other parts of the country. I heard an overwhelming number of people say they were drawn to the West and wouldn’t ever leave. I assumed that this was largely due to the scenery and the mountains, and without a visual reminder of the climate, I would not be similarly drawn back if I left. But I have left, and it wasn’t the mountains at all. I don’t know what it is. I suppose it doesn’t much matter, all that matters is that I feel it and understand it deeply.

I wonder if there are places we all dream of returning to, and what percentage is just plain nostalgia and what percentage, if any, is actually worth paying attention to. Do you dream of places you’ve loved and lost, and wake with fierce yearning to return? And if you, too, are inexplicably but insistently called West, maybe I will meet you there someday.

A month and a half here, and I still am confounded by my neighborhood. I keep reminding myself that it’s not like I was some uptown superwoman when I lived in Minneapolis, either. I didn’t get lost much after I’d been there for a while, but “a while” was at least a year. I remember (and some of you remember) the raging battles I fought with Hennepin as I learned to cross it, diagonally and all. Lyndale never tripped me up as much, but its super long blocks often made me forget which one I was on. I never encountered bridges on a day to day basis, but I know there were some, somewhere.

I keep reading that Seattle is a really walkable city, which begs the question, walkable for whom? It’s probably really walkable for people who can read street signs or walk in a straight line. (Yes, I know, most of you will tell me you can’t walk in a straight line either, thanks for reminding me. But, most of you you do have your eyes to get you back on track.)

I live close to a bridge, which I must walk under to get pretty much anywhere I want to go. Under the bridge, I must navigate a street which is not straight, various structures I don’t have a name for but which my friend Nina calls pile-ons (thanks, Nina!), and usually about a thousand kids on a class field trip. And-or, a thousand adults with their dogs. Why the kids and dogs? Under this particular bridge there is a troll, which is a big tourist attraction in my neighborhood. I get it, trolls under bridges are pretty awesome. The street which branches off from the bridge is called Troll Avenue, which I also admit has some kitsch value to it. Oh, there is also lots of mud.

Because this can be a confusing bit of space to navigate for me, it is confusing for Kiva as well. It’s hard enough getting us through there without the extra kids and dogs and dogs and kids, but when they’re around, I know I’m screwed. There are many cries of, “Doggie!” There are many sniffy, wet noses (those are dogs, not kids, I hope). There are piles of mud that Kiva thinks really need to be investigated. Damn kids, damn dogs, damn mud.

Then there are the streets. I’m not sure which clever person thought to put Fremont Avenue, Fremont Lane, Fremont Place, and Fremont Way close to one another. But thanks, clever person. There are so many streets that don’t go all the way through, or streets that turn into other streets, that I’ll often look at my GPS to tell me which street I’m on, and all it has to offer is, “near unnamed.” Thank you, also, technology, I’m so glad somebody paid for you. There is a big island in the middle of 35th. There is a bridge at the bottom of 34th; it’s called the Fremont Bridge, who knew?

Some days, I get it right. We go under the bridge, and because I am urging her with food and praise and that Tiffany collar I still haven’t gotten her, Kiva ignores the dogs and kids and kids and dogs. And mud. We cross 35th and manage to do it without wandering into traffic or tripping over the giant island. We avoid the Fremont Bridge. And I feel like I’ve really accomplished something spectacular. I feel like someone cute has just asked me out, or I wrote something I actually stand behind, or I got a job interview. Instead, I just walked a few blocks without totally effing up, something that most people do every day and don’t even think about.

And then there are the days. The days that I do none of it right, and I feel embarrassed because I’ve done this how many times now, and I still can’t get it right? I feel dumb, and even though I know “dumb” doesn’t really exist and even if it does is completely subjective, I still feel it. I always think of something an ex told me once, when I was having a hard time getting Kiva through a parking lot to a spot where she could pee: “You’ve done this how many times and you STILL get lost.” Never mind that there are good reasons for this, that parking lots are open and unpredictable and it’s valid that I might loose my way in them. Bridges and giant islands are the same. I know this and yet I still can’t help that voice in my head that tells me I should know how to do this by now.

It’ll be ok and I’ll figure it out, because I have before and I can. But in the meantime, if someone has an idea of how to keep the kids and dogs and mud at bay, I’m all ears.