A year ago like a bird perched momentarily on a roost I was living in an apartment in Walnut Creek, California and going through the final stages of a divorce. This apartment overlooked a swimming pool—closed most of the time I was there—and a parking lot. In the distance were steep hills and, too close, a tall electric grid tower. It rained a lot, with a sharp, biting cold.
In June I settled in a small Mexican town on the Pacific coast for the better part of a year. Still in transit. It was in many ways wonderful. I could run out my door in the morning, walk along the beach, and plunge into the ocean. But I was in temporary quarters, with hard tile floors that were always sandy, no matter how often I swept and grains of sand creeping into my bed, lumpy mattresses, dangling bare light bulbs. Most of my belongings were in a storage unit back in California. Living in a foreign culture had its challenges. Although I speak Spanish with some fluency, it was not enough to join into the culture. The summer was hot, humid, with mosquitos, thunderstorms, floods, electrical outages, and computer crashes—even with a surge protector. The winter was the coldest on record. I missed libraries. I felt out of touch with the world. I missed home.
In April, I moved to Albuquerque to be near my daughter Carmen. For many years I had wanted to live closer to her. I’m now in a bland apartment inside a gated complex. Its chief virtues are a bathtub—which I missed after so many months of showers—clean wall-to-wall carpet which is great for doing yoga, thick sound insulation, and tranquillity. But then I miss the warmth of the Mexican town. There it was easier to make friends. People would strike up conversations at the market, in cafes, on the beach. There was a sense of community.
Alburquerque spreads out over the desert with miles and miles of broad streets. As I am not within walking distance of any shopping or cultural center, I drive and drive. The spirit of the land is harsh, masculine with the huge sky and the beauty of the stark Sandia mountains to the east. The city has a tough skin, and only now have I begun to sense a softer interior and the warmth of individuals.
Soon I’ll move into Carmen’s house while she and her partner Jeff explore Florida. Like me, they are filled with wanderlust. I will feed their cats, move in a few pieces of furniture—a desk, a chair, an air mattress—and prepare to move again when they return. I long to settle somewhere. To create a nest from which I can venture out. But where? Where is home? I don’t yet know.