On this first day of the year we woke long after dawn to a sun high and hot enough to burn off the fog. The ground was glazed in a thin sheath of frost, the cats mewed restlessly at our feet. The night before, we clinked wine glasses fizzing with pink champagne and lit and released the last of our paper lanterns at midnight, watched as they rose up and away from us and disappeared in the distance. It felt sad and beautiful all at once and filled us both with a kind of longing and sudden affection that we clutched each other in our arms and watched in silence.
After breakfast, Jon deemed it time to try out his hand-built wooden kayak for the first time in the water. He joked all year that he wanted to try this alone, because if it failed he didn’t want witness, but in the end he asked me to come regardless.
His kayak was flawless in the cold, clear water. Of course it would, of course. Jon is meticulous, hands of gold, nothing he builds fails. He paddled up creek and around the corner, returned and considered going down but hesitated at the rocks jutting above the surface. I took a turn in it, feeling shaky and amazed, pausing to watch bass the size of my calves flash silver in the water below me. Back on shore as I watched him carry the kayak back toward the truck, I carried the wooden paddle over my shoulder and felt a flash of nostalgia for this exact moment, felt the burst of gratitude to be alive, here, now.
It was a good day, it was a good day.
In the afternoon, Jon drove to Tulsa with a friend to pick up a motorcycle (the friend’s, not his). I cooked a long, slow New Years dinner (Hoppin’ John, greens, cornbread) and settled in to watch House Hunters, beach. The second the first landscape shot flashed across the screen, I knew the episode was in Oregon, and I felt a pang of homesickness.
My grandmother is long dead and everyone else I loved from the coast has moved on and moved away, so the longing I feel for that place from my past is that—place, the physical place. I miss the coarse sand, I miss the tumbling ocean. I miss the savage coast, the plummeting cliff faces, the clumsy sea lions sunning themselves at low tide. I miss it all.
I missed it so much during the 30-minute episode that I poured a glass of wine (an Oregon pinot noir, of course) and while I settled back into the sofa, was caught off guard by the beauty of my own home, this farm, the view from the covered porch that peers down the long valley dotted with cows, and the cardinals flitting through the bare branches of trees (how I longed for trees with bare branches in the evergreen-stuffed forests of childhood!) and the rustle of deer in the meadow behind the house. The sky was streaked with pink, there’s threat of snow on the horizon. It’s a different world, somehow softer and cruder all at once. But it’s where I live, a new part of who I am now.
Change is hard, growth is harder.
Breathe in, breath out. Tell myself: Home is now. This is good. There’s magic in these moments, too, in the life ahead, too. Happy New Year.