After over a decade in California, we're joining the mass exodus northward.
(Can you believe it?)
It's rare these days not to run into someone who knows someone who just moved to Portland or Seattle, or who is thinking about moving to Portland or Seattle, or who just put an offer on a house in Portland or Seattle.
We are some of those someones.
It's been coming for awhile now, really. About three days after Duke was born, overwhelmed and exhausted and feeling quite alone, I turned to my husband and said, "Maybe we need to move to Nebraska." And buddy, trust me: those are words I never, EVER expected to say.
Yoga philosopher Michael Stone posits that the idea that the nuclear family is sufficient for raising small children is actually a social fallacy. I so agree. There is such great truth in the cliché that it takes a village to raise a child. We learned that quickly, living there in stunningly-beautiful but oh-so-isolated Inverness. It was a hard and lonely first few months. Right away we turned our attention to landing somewhere long-term where the public schools were excellent and we could buy a nice house (not for $900k) and where we'd have family nearby.
That thought kind of simmered on the back burner until we heard from my Madison, Wisconsin-based sister Mariah that she and her husband Paul were considering a job offer in Portland. Robb works in Portland regularly, so we've always imagined that it might be a clever spot to land. And the prospect of living just minutes from my sis and bro-in-law and their two adorable daughters was exciting. So exciting.
So when Paul got the job, we got serious.
We'd looked at buying a few homes here in the North Bay, all of which were, well, let's be honest: shitholes. $400k shitholes, to be exact. 130-year-old houses needing to be gutted or torn down. Hoarders' paradises. Located in school districts that wouldn't even muster an "average" rating.
It was disheartening, to say the least.
The great news is we've bought a beautiful home in a hot Southeast Portland neighborhood full of hip cafes and cute coffee shops and libraries and parks and yoga studios (yep, yoga studios) and a sweet-ass Whole Foods-style market where I'm sure we'll spend all our money on raw brownies and organic vegetables. It feels like urbanity sans pretension, totally fast-paced and walkable, but also utterly idyllic and safe: a win-win in every regard. It's not far from Reed College, with its campus of lush green avenues, and within walking distance of a top-notch public elementary school that's not unlike something out of a Harry Potter book.
I do so deeply believe in public schools. As a proud product of South Dakota and Nebraska public schools, I have great gratitude for the populist Great Plains institutions that taught me how to value diversity and work hard and not take my economic privilege for granted. My mother was a long-time music teacher for Lincoln Public Schools, too, so it's really in our bones, you see?
But you can't send your kids to the public schools around here. They're horribly underfunded. (Don't even think about arts or music programs.) And the private schools here are outrageously expensive and competitive. (Paying the equivalent of a semester in college for kindergarten, just to be surrounded by a bunch of rich white kids and their helicopter parents? No thanks.)
Enter smart cousins who'll be like older sisters.
Enter green. Not brown, not dry, not on the precipice of drought-addled disaster. But green.
The move will happen sooner than we expected. Mid-August. (Yep, I know.) We're already halfway packed, thanks to my uber-motivated, uber-organized husband, who's filled the garage with carefully-labeled boxes and run through countless rolls of packing tape. I'll teach my regular classes through August 11th, and then we'll close things up here, the movers will pack the truck, and we'll head northward to settle into our new home before the autumn grey sets in.
So we are looking at a little over a month left here in the Bay.
It is oh-so-emotional, of course. I moved here in August 2003 (on the 11th, actually, funnily enough), chugging up California Street in my 5-speed Ford Festiva packed with all my worldly belongings. Right away I sensed that if I ever ended up having kids, this'd be the place where I'd want them to grow up. Ethnic and religious diversity, progressive politics, stellar weather, fantastic arts and music opportunities, breathtaking natural beauty; you name it.
And I will be incredibly sad to leave all those things behind. Not to mention the wonderful family and friends we've found here over the years. So bittersweet.
At the same time, the Bay Area is a very different place from the post-Dot-Com-bust San Francisco I encountered in 2003. The moneyed elitism that has come with the recent influx of tech wealth has changed it so much. The gritty Polk Street I lived next to for almost 10 years has become a tech bro's paradise of sleek bars and boxing gyms and health food stores. I don't know that I recognize the foggy, romantic, pretty little city I loved so much and for so long.
And the truth is, it's a different season of life. I'm leaving closer to age 40 than age 20, with a really beautiful husband and a really beautiful son, two unexpected gifts that San Francisco has bequeathed to me. We'll start a new chapter, and, perhaps most importantly, be near family as we age.
Last week, Paul lost his father to a heartbreakingly sudden bout with brain cancer. It has been a sobering and shattering reminder that we never know how long we have with one another. Death is this strange and unwelcome guest with no regard for our own schedules and expectations.
In April 2005, I flew back to Nebraska to say goodbye to my own father. We knew the cancer would take him soon. My siblings and my mother and I gathered around his hospice bed in the family room one last time. In that shimmering instant — I can still picture it so clearly — I realized: family is the only thing that matters. At the end of the day, when your body gives out, when your mind is too tired to go on, your house, your car, your job, your awards; none of them matter.
Family is it. Nothing else.
And you only get one shot to do it right.
So you take a leap. You leave your established life behind and begin anew, knowing there's nothing you can really count on in terms of time.
Mariah and I have a long-term vision for opening our own yoga/dance/wellness center. She's a fantastic dance therapist and modern dancer, and with my yoga and mindfulness work, we have the potential and the passion to create something really special. We're excited. That will birth itself in time.
In the meantime, please make your way to a class or two before I head out. I'd love to see you and sing with you and sweat with you. I'll be teaching my full schedule at Flying Studios until August 11th (away a couple of dates traveling — just keep an eye on the calendar for that info). I'll also be subbing a couple of Monday nights (the 13th and 20th, to be exact). And I'm planning to lead one final yoga/hiking retreat in Point Reyes, too, on August 8th. Stay tuned for details to come.
Lots of love to you all. We've built relationships here that will be dear to me for the rest of my days. (You know who you are.)
I am so grateful you're in my life. Onward.