Early October was spent in a flurry. We had so much to do before leaving Portland and renting out our house. The plan was for me and Waits to depart as soon as possible, land with family in Santa Barbara and get to work securing a place to live.
Damian would stay behind, finish up the house, and get it rented. I’d packed up almost everything, so all he’d have to do is load up our stuff and the dogs (the hens had already relocated to an awesome neighbor) and drive it all down (with help from his best friend, who he would be living with in SB). It was a lot for him to do.
And thus, the start of October was all lists and errands and tying up loose ends, prepping and packing and planning, and trying to include as much “Portland experience” as possible. It was generally just an overwhelming flood of emotion.
The days right before I left were such a roller coaster, interchanging total numbness (my involuntary defense mechanism, thank you childhood trauma) and incredible sadness. I got to spend one day all by myself, hours just driving around Portland, listening to music. Re-living the past 5 years. A lump lodged squarely in my throat. I was drinking in that incredible city, and thinking of all I was leaving behind.
October 9th. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the day I left was the very first morning the heater kicked on since the previous winter. I was getting out just in time.
I loaded up the car and got Waits all settled in, hugged the dogs and Damian goodbye, and took one last long look at that house that was no longer my home. I met my step-sister for coffee and pastries at the gluten-free vegan bakery (oh, Portland), where we ate our breakfast and said our goodbyes. And then it was time.
Just as my wheels hit the freeway on-ramp, I got a text from Jo:
I am so excited for your journey! You and Waits are going to have so many new adventures. Drive fast and take lots of chances.
And that’s when the tears came. I was so sad, and so scared, and also filled with excitement at the infinite possibility that my life had become. The “anything-ness” of it was at once thrilling and terrifying. And also, goddamn I was leaving some amazing people behind. My heart just felt broken wide open.
But I kept going. I pulled myself together, at least enough to drive. I won’t pretend I wasn’t still a mess because I pretty much wept intermittently all the way to California. Thank goodness Waits likes his music loud.
I drove into Santa Barbara the back way, over the mountains. Through wine country, up the backroads cutting their course through the Los Padres National Forest, up and up towards the crest, all so that I could round the top and see this:
Dry mountainside, scrub brush and sage. Gorgeous green valley. Lonely oaks. Ocean and islands. Azure sky. That’s Santa Barbara – my Home.
I drove straight to my Dad’s house. We ordered Thai food and set up a makeshift bedroom for Waits and I. I opened a bottle of wine and stayed up late, all alone. It was exactly what I needed.
The next morning my only focus was on finding a house. I’d been scouring Craigslist every day for weeks, and the outlook was so grim. Our price range relegated us to studios, converted garages, and the occasional 1-bedroom apartment. Everything said NO DOGS ALLOWED.
It took me 4 days to seal the deal. I was persistent practically to the point of badgering, but the guy said he got over 40 calls on the first morning alone, so I’m glad I took the initiative. I was elated when I got the news.
But that night, exchanging money for keys, my mood had changed. And it wasn’t just the dirty walls and sagging floors that were bringing me down. No, the place had potential and that’s a good thing. It was . . . well, it made everything very real. I’d found an amazing home for Waits and I, but that was just it. This new life.
The rest of the month was spent working on the house – which I dubbed “Independence Manor” but always just refer to as “the little house” – and damn, it needed a lot of work. Massive amounts of cleaning, paint on absolutely everything, etc.
We ended the month with Hallowe’en and our first trick-or-treating adventure. That was a really special night for me. Waits liked going up to the houses and always wanted to hang around and chat, but he wasn’t much interested in the candy. I gave him a Dum Dum and ate his Smarties (both vegan) and the rest went to our companions.
November, coming soon . . .