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Starting over

Starting over

by Wolf Pascoe on March 25, 2012

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.

Silence, nothing.

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.



Oh, dear. It seems I’ve touched on these themes before. Suppose you could do anything; True stories; Five year plan; The Muse of Failure, to name a few.

I do go on.



Zen Mind Beginners Mind. Like Deuteronomy, this book needs be read five times.


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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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

jeff skorman March 25, 2012 at 11:30 am

Too soon to worry.They say worry works 99 percent of what you worry about never happens.Happy Sunday.


Wolf Pascoe March 25, 2012 at 12:05 pm

Don’t bleed before you’re shot?


Alameda March 25, 2012 at 4:10 pm

Just think of all the immigrants throughout this world. Cliché “a man does what a man needs to do”!!!


Wolf Pascoe March 25, 2012 at 10:21 pm

I do think of all the immigrants. Especially the ones that come with nothing to start over.


Privilege of Parenting March 26, 2012 at 1:00 am

I’m struck by how “a fatherless boy of eight” is at once an eight-year-old boy and, perhaps, the son of eight… spirit fathers, or eight men in a group, or eight mothers, or eight houses, or eight books that he, along with his eight sprite spirits, making a complete nine, dream into being in the eternal moment arising to meet him every place he is.


Wolf Pascoe March 26, 2012 at 7:12 am

“a complete nine, dream into being in the eternal moment arising to meet him every place he is.”

From your keyboard to God’s ears.


Barbara March 26, 2012 at 9:41 pm

When we moved to Austin years ago, away from everything familiar… my family and friends I’d grown up with… I felt just like you did and had so many doubts and fears. But what happened was I met a few people through our kids and through our kids’ activities, and now they are my basilica in the desert, despite the fact that those kids are all grown and gone. And thanks to the internet and my car, I’m as close or closer to those we left behind.
But you’ve got two years. I say pray about it, think about it, but don’t worry about it.


Wolf Pascoe March 27, 2012 at 12:41 am

I like that. Thanks, Shallue.


Kristen @ Motherese March 28, 2012 at 10:01 am

I’ve got a few stories of starting over, and another one on the near horizon, none of which I’ve been able to put to words in quite this way. I can relate deeply to the sleepless night, to the anticipation of living in a home and a life potentially around the corner.

Have you seen Portlandia? It makes me think Portland would be an awfully nice place to live. Funny too.


Wolf Pascoe March 28, 2012 at 10:38 am

I know you’ve been through this.
Yes, we’ve watched Portlandia, the first season. It is a bit like that.


dkzody March 28, 2012 at 4:25 pm

It’s ok to start over. I left a teaching job hoping to work for a nonprofit in San Francisco. It didn’t happen. No one wants to hire an old school teacher. So, I’m back in our little house in Fresno, but I am thriving while finding my way. I’m writing more, taking more photos, and meeting new people.

As for Oregon, it rains a lot there. Our daughter went to college in McMinnville, about an hour west of Portland. Lovely little town. Picturesque. But gray and wet for most of the year. I like sunshine and warm temps way too much to ever live in Oregon. Visit? Sure. It’s delightful.


Wolf Pascoe March 29, 2012 at 9:42 am

Thanks for dropping by, dkzody.

We went to Oregon in the middle of winter to be sure Portland was for us. Cloudy, drizzly, gray and brisk. We loved it. Go figure.


Chopperpapa April 3, 2012 at 11:36 pm

“raising a basilica in the desert”

Wolf you’re much smarter than I am, please unpack that reference. It intrigues me.


Wolf Pascoe April 4, 2012 at 9:43 am

A man came to Jung with a dream that nobody could understand. The dream was that he was with a group of people in the desert and they were building a basilica.
“I know this dream,” said Jung. “They are building the new religion. The work will take about 600 years.”


Pamela April 16, 2012 at 6:29 am

Oh Wolf this is the best writing on moving I have ever read! We move every 2 years and this is how it is. What I will also tell you is that moving is the best way to become friends with yourself. The tchotchkes that annoy you come with you and you begin to love them and know that they will keep you company in any house. We want to end up in Portland or Ashland someday so maybe our paths will meet. Have you looke at Ashland. Great place for playwrights and my friend has an amazing men’s group. Xoxo


Wolf Pascoe April 16, 2012 at 11:58 pm

A men’s group in Ashland? Hope, there is. But you should move to Portland! We’ll start a writers group there!


The Exception August 8, 2012 at 11:21 am

We spend much of our time living our lifes as if they are problems to be solved over seeing them as being mysteries to be lieved. Having moved numerous time in several countries – it isn’t an easy challenge but it is an enlightening adventure. And it doesn’t take moving for it to happen – trying facing unemployment or any huge life change… adventure – a mystery to be savored and lived. Beautifully expressed post.


Wolf Pascoe August 8, 2012 at 12:45 pm

Your perspective had me reading this post and all the other comments over again. Not a problem but a mystery . . . I need to dwell in this. Thanks.


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