Let me start out by saying that my situation is nothing like the division of Germany after WWII. I have not been separated from the rest of my city, country or had my freedoms restricted by a totalitarian regime. But the metaphor of wall may work.
Some of you know that I have spent the past eight years living in the tippy-top of western Washington in the city of Bellingham. It is hard to get much more northerly without bumping into the Pacific Ocean or Canada. The year after I graduated from WWU I grew a little antsy. I let myself dream about living somewhere else. I also applied to graduate MFA programs, which allowed me to dream a little more concretely. I took the Edward Abbey approach to choosing my program: “Nothing east of the Mississippi.”
So time passed and I heard back from the schools. The University of Idaho and I began courting and that is where I ended up. Moscow, Idaho. Population roughly 24,000 hardy souls. Incorporated as a city in 1887 and sitting at 2,579 feet above sea level, Moscow is where I have a temporary address. However, I am not a resident of the state of Idaho. Now you may be asking yourself, “Why is he telling me all of this?”
Allow me one more digression. When I moved to Bellingham eight years ago from Missoula, MT, I never thought I would get over calling Montana’s “garden city” my home. Around year six, I’d been away long enough (most of my friends had moved and things had changed ) that Missoula didn’t feel like the place I came from anymore. But for some reason, Bellingham didn’t sit quite right as my home either.
In the four months that I have lived part-time in Idaho, I am starting to remember all the things I loved about Western living that I had forgotten about: friendly people, short lines, little traffic and an abundance of space to breathe in. Coming back to Bellingham now feels cramped, busy, noisy and more than a little grubby. But Idaho isn’t my home either. I catch myself saying of both cities as “I am headed home to…”
So I am a drifter. I am a city divided. There is no “center” to my sense of geography. I don’t know where I will be headed to once I finish up my graduate program in Idaho, but I hope it is to a place that sings to me and calls me to call it home.
While in Bellingham, all I did was write about Montana. Now that I am in Idaho, my writing has become jumbled and confused. I am investigating dreams, the imagination and popular culture. The landscape in my work is largely internal. Perhaps when things settle down, I can start to write about Bellingham and the good and bad things found there.
I have a place to hang my hat. What I need now is a place that feels like home. Center. Connection.