Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone?
— Joni Mitchell
Lately we’ve been visiting Oregon, and Oregon has been singing to us.
We found a school for Nick, after he graduates from Fern Hill in two years, and went to investigate a month ago. It had nothing not to like.
Last summer, we visited friends in Grant’s Pass. The picture to the right is their backyard, seen from the guest bedroom.
One could do worse than to live out one’s days waking to a view of those rolling hills.
The school, however, isn’t in Grant’s Pass. It’s in Portland, and this time we stayed in a hotel, from which we looked out on this view:
An otherwise beautiful city, Portland, at least west Portland, is criss-crossed by elevated freeways. I suppose the idea was to disrupt the existing street life as little as possible by putting the traffic up in the air.
Is Los Angelesification a word?
The school is in east Portland, across the Willamette River, and east Portland is another matter altogether. There you have neighborhood after vibrant neighborhood, old, to-die-for Craftsman houses, and people happy to talk.
Will-AM-et, not WILL-a-met
Did I mention we loved the school? We also found a splendid house for sale, ten minutes away.
Then my troubles began.
In the hotel room, I couldn’t fall asleep. I thought of the house we’d seen. So many rooms. I’d dreamed of such a house. A house to right all the wrongs of the cluttered house we live in now.
In such a house, who am I? The question filled me with dread.
We know no one in Portland. I’d be looking for a new job. I’d be leaving a group of men that is the bedrock of my spiritual life.
“You have your blog,” said Nora. “You can write anywhere.”
Well, yes. Reinvent myself anywhere.
Here is what I picture: Morning in the new house. So many rooms. Nick off to school. Nora off somewhere. I answer a few blog comments. Then what? Find work as a doctor? Write?
Here’s an idea: have coffee with a friend. But I don’t really know anyone. I’m alone in the house of my dreams.
So many rooms. What to do?
Create, out of that emptiness, a new life is what to do.
You strike a bell and listen. A tone emerges from nowhere, fills your being, then fades.
What I fear is myself.
On our return home, our old house is suddenly lovely, the familiar scent of narcissus all around. Nora’s tchotchkes overfill the kitchen, as before. But whereas before they were somehow always in the way, now I only see their charm. Even the back courtyard looks beautiful.
It’s two years until Nick graduates from Fern Hill. It’s ridiculous to think of buying that house now. We don’t even know if Nick will get in to the new school.
I call one of the men in my group and tell him about Portland. I’ve been avoiding the subject at meetings. As I speak to him, a bubble wells up at the back of my throat. I have to get off the phone. Nora finds me sobbing as she comes down the stairs.
I have been decades with this group of men, raising a basilica in the desert. What do I build now?
Everything depends on befriending that emptiness. It’s guarded by a fatherless boy of eight, stuffing houses into the void.
I do go on.
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Got a story about starting over? Just Add Father is listening. (Add your thoughts by clicking a few lines below below, where it says comments or add one. I always respond here.)
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