What I Learned in Belvedere: I am officially a cat person. Duke and Duchess were fun, loving, and well-meaning, but this is what they have taught me.
no, that’s unfair. the house is as idyllic as it ever was. inside it, i’m the one who’s changed. the gilt’s been rubbed off of the concept of solitude that shone so gloriously in the shade of familial discord— now that i’ve been reminded of companionship’s joyous chatter, of my own laughter’s heinous volume, of the utter rightness that settles into the air around two individuals who truly understand one another and stick around regardless—which is what friendship should always aim to create, if you ask me. how gloriously full this airy house feels when story after story is let loose as weeks apart are divulged with precious few details omitted, until yawns outnumber pronouns and questions need repeating a few times before an answer struggles forth. daphne’s back in the city, and the next two nights will drag along, ponderous, impregnated with silence. of course i’ll make my own music, but now is one of those rare instances in which that won’t be enough, i’m afraid.
from these ten days i’ll take the sensation of honest serenity. true peace. i so often forget what that tastes like. the fantastic actually outnumbers both the mundane and the morose. I’m just not a solitary species.
the indigenous climate is hardly conducive. the dogs’ metronomic sleep-breaths may as well be ticking off seconds. this neither reassures me nor heightens my unease. that time passes at all has little meaning when it osmoses through a pigeonhole one particle at a time. its illusion must have never sunk in, despite how intimately aware i am of the length of a minute, five minutes, eleven. the knowledge is a scar on days such as this. i should have sung longer than i did, today, but i couldn’t be present enough for anything worthwhile to be born of the effort. has today even happened? it’s a miasma of worry, of suspended animation, of intentional disassociation. for my own sake.
i’m ready to stop being alone. i wish i weren’t alone now. not even the sea can tame the tenor of my thought.
i’m still not sure just how i finally stumbled upon my for-now home (i’m housesitting) after returning to the Further-North Bay for rehearsal. what should have been a 45-minute return trip began smoothly, with an impromptu self-indulgent In-n-Out stop just before freeway time, and developed into an almost meditative experience. the combination of salt, carbohydrates, burger, Neapolitan milkshake, soul-soothing choral music, darkness, and motion gets credit for that, i think. in any case, i was rudely thrown back into reality’s hazard when i discovered that my off-ramp was closed (road work). thank Oprah i kept my head and didn’t hit the panic button right then and there. a nearby underpass/looping sort of road deposited me on the other side of the freeway, but somehow, quasi-miraculously, literally exactly where I needed to be.
Cruising through Tiburon with all the hubris of a new conqueror, my thoughts rested mainly with the two black labs, Duke and Duchess (who i hoped had handled my absence well), following my Garmin’s directions with panache. Sloe-black road? BFD. Howling wind? Over it. Blind curve? Handled with one hand. You get the jist.
The realization that I’d missed a turn failed to ruffle my feathers. I’ll just circle around, I thought. I’ve made great time. Nothing to worry about. It’s only just now been 45 minutes. Pat on the back. But then my street mysteriously ended, and segued into another without notice, and I ended up circling the mountainous island almost in its entirety. Still levelheaded, I re-entered the address, started from square one, followed my directions, and found myself somewhere I hadn’t been before. Let’s try this again; I know where I’d erred. Oak, not Madrone. On the third try, the GPS itself was befuddled and misdirected me, insisting I had reached my destination once I was on the wrong side of the island. Now my heart rate skittered, wanted to thrash. I scanned the vicinity for a parking spot, thinking, it isn’t *that* many hours until sunrise…that half-baked plan combusted as soon as i heard some vague wind-fueled noise close to the car. I reminded myself to breathe, that there was enough air in the car, that losing it now would do awful damage to my deeply-rooted fear of darkness, much less solitude. A deer almost met its death soon thereafter by jumping out into the road on the far side of what was for me a blind hairpin turn, and I almost met actual hysteria.
Both deer and car are fine, having avoided collision thanks to my quick reflexes and the responsiveness of my brakes, but I was sure the island itself had recognized me as an interloper and was set on driving me mad, if not into the bay.
eventually, i touched down in the correct driveway, shaky, white-knuckled, but tearless, buddyless, independent. at one point, i forget during which circuit, i clutched my phone, meaning to call…who? the owners of the house, who hopefully slept peacefully two time zones away on the eve of a major competition in their daughters’ sport? my irascible mother, who still resents me for accepting this job and would enjoy nothing more than reveling in my flailing and accepting an opportunity to capitalize upon my vulnerability? my father, who tried so hard to convinced to stay the night at home? Daphne, as she spends her last night with her boyfriend before he leaves (I’m not sure where to) for a month? I thought not, then, as now. this mess was wholly mine, and if my character flaws immersed me in it, my attributes had better step up to remove me and rectify.
i am independent. i am frail. i am skittish as all get-out. i still desire company, intensely, unashamedly. but i function just fine without it, and i think i’m allowed to be proud. good night, love to you, thank you to the three of y’all who read this to the sleepy, muddled end.
to you, if you’d like;
when we last spoke, it was far too late on a Tuesday night (or far too early on a Wednesday morning, depending on your outlook) and i was flailing, trying to write out my trepidation and, as is my wont, barely succeeding in both coherency and catharsis. now, on the other side of three-ish days in Portland, i’m sequestered on Belvedere Island, with two giant black labs and music for company. the silence is as complete as the island can manage, save the keening of gulls, lapping of waves, occasional foghorn blasts, and the raucous carousing of the wealthy and wealthier from the yacht club at the base of this little mountain loaded with houses of staggering beauty and indulgence. this post already suffers from too many “me’s” and “i’s.” perhaps Duke and Duchess, upon whom my eye falls often (to make sure they’re sprawled somewhere near their beds, or at least laying quietly elsewhere) deserve credit for this (another word i *have* to stop leaning on so heavily), but i feel no obligation to do anything, go anywhere, be anything to anyone. i just am. it humbles and fortifies me, both at once. to say that i’ve maintained a relaxed state throughout the day would be an absolute lie; we both know i’m woefully incapable of that. each time my body (mind?) tenses up and Needs Something To Do Now, i pick up my Schumann biography and lose as much of my sense of self as i can manage. the clamor invariably subsides, and i return to whatever it was that i was (or wasn’t) doing. the dogs adore me—i can’t help but pay them much more mind than their family does—and although i’m sure i’ll mind smelling of canine soon enough, their desire to be close and stay close is one i wholly identify with. how could i resent them for gravitating towards me as an entity offering acceptance, stimulation, and love, when i do the same, in my way, with my pack?
if you’ve seen any of the pictures i’ve put up (most are of the view from my front porch,) i’m sure you can’t imagine why i haven’t left the house yet today, and won’t, in all likelihood, save to set the recycling out and answer the door when the deliveryperson arrives with whichever cuisine i decide to call in. surrounded by such beauty, both urban and natural, and me inside? like millions of stereotypical teenagers, i must be wallowing in ignorance, with ingratitude seeping from my pores, lazing as opportunity after opportunity wafts past, acknowledging their departures with a flippant wave, you think. and you’re wrong. i love you, but you err. i drink this in and i try to untangle the thousands of thoughts tugging at my sleeve, each ready to link elbows and lead me to its own emotional evolution, and i look as many as i can in the eye and say, okay, let’s do this. show me what i know. perhaps tomorrow i’ll see more of what Tiburon has to offer, but today, i’ve been looking at the haphazard assemblage of thought and feeling that is me. and that’s enough.
i hope you’re thriving, and i can’t possibly know when i’ll have anything to say next, but you’ll know, when i do. i’d love to hear from you, of course.