July 9, 2010
Today is the eve of my 31st year. Last year on this very day, Drew and I were driving down the coast of Oregon on our way to Portland after spending a couple days in Seattle. It was one of the most beautiful drives I’ve been on with twisty roads through evergreen forests, tiny washed up beach towns, unbelievable vistas where mountain meets ocean. There were moments when the view literally took my breath away. We camped that night, hanging out on the beach drinking beers and eating smoked salmon, watching a group of people fly one of those pimped out turbo kites, the kind where you have to have brute strength to keep it up in the air. It was the perfect way to close out my twenties.
I had just come off a bad year, one of those years where you keep thinking to yourself, “you know, if things all of a sudden got better I think I’d be just fine. I’m pretty sure I’ve learned all I need to learn from this.” Thoughts that were reminiscent of spending ninth grade in Indiana. I started out the year with a bum hip which made walking, sitting and everything in between feel, less than desirable, shall we say. In August I had surgery, spent the next four months in physical therapy relearning how to walk, and in the midst of all that, lost my job as well. At times I just had to put my head down, grit my teeth and plow ahead, even if the light at the end of the tunnel was barely flickering.
So a few days before my 30th birthday, with a long awaited spring in my step, I bleached my hair blonde, hit the road with Drew and drove out to the Pacific Northwest for a much needed adventure. We came back having fallen in love with that part of the country, packed up our stuff and moved to Seattle a few months later. That was 10 months ago. Now, I have brown hair again and live in Nashville. So much for plans.
I’ve always been one of those people who can never decide if I’m a city girl or a country girl or something in between. Maybe part of it was growing up in Michigan with parents from New Jersey so I’ve always had a foot in both worlds. Everytime I’m out east there’s this part of me that radiates with the energy and I love that feeling. But when I’m back in Michigan I easily slide into the laid back vibe of the Midwest. Drew had the same experience only opposite growing up in Connecticut and Long Island with parents from Kansas. Perhaps that was part of the attraction.
Lately, I’ve found myself thinking a lot about the Pacific Northwest and cannot wait to go back to visit. Those were a special three months of roaming around Capitol Hill with a cup of coffee in our hands, taking the ferry, buying fish at Pikes Market, driving down to Portland, camping in the damp crisp weather. A piece of my heart is still out there and always will be. As well as in Minnesota and Colorado and Michigan and the East Coast. And here, in the South.
In my many years of searching for a home, I was looking for a place that had it all. Even though my definition of “all” kept changing. Now I am almost 31 and find myself living in the heart of everything east of the Mississippi and I see so clearly that this has been the missing piece all along. Finally I don’t have to choose! I can have it all in a few hours with a car, a map, a highway and a few sheckles in my pocket. Fresh shrimp on the bayou (if they’re not all lubed up in oil), the mountains of North Carolina, Mississippi (what do people do there?), Savannah, Georgia (I’ve heard some crazy ghost stories coming out of those parts), blues and barbeque in Memphis, I could go on…
So in honor of my approaching new year, here is my top 10 list of things I’d like to do and places I’d like to explore. I’m sure it won’t happen the way it’s mapped out in my head, but a girl’s gotta start somewhere.
In no particular order…..
1. New Orleans – po’ boys, red beans and rice, jumbalaya and gumbo
2. Savannah, Georgia – ghosts and aristocratic southerners
3. Charleston, South Carolina – islands and seafood and fancy cocktails
4. Key West – I’d like to scuba dive and ride around on the back of a scooter with Drew
5. New York and Connecticut – I’d like to finally see where Drew grew up
6. The Jersey Shore – I haven’t been back since I was 17 years old and I want the smell of salt water mixed with suntan lotion again
7. The Pacific Northwest – I want to camp on the beach with all our friends out there and have a big clam bake
8. Asheville, North Carolina – I hear it’s cool like Ann Arbor
9. Austin, Texas – BBQ and music, simple as that
10. Ann Arbor in the summer – It’s been far too long