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Doctor recommended for optimal cerebral hygiene 

a long strange trip

Sunday, September 12, 2004

two months ago we picked up and moved cross-country.

it wasn’t job-related, this time. we moved for us. and for some others, whom we’ll talk about in a bit.

since 1987 my wife and i have lived in five cities, from one coast to the other, with a stop in the middle. phoenix, seattle, san francisco, minneapolis, raleigh, and now back to seattle.

along the way we picked up some fellow travelers. two cats (one now gone, and another in her place), two big dogs, two children.

in the interim we lived through the loma prieta quake in ’89 (7.0 on mr. richter’s scale). remember the bay bridge world series between the oakland a’s and the san francisco giants? al michaels saying, “i think we’re having an earth—.” yup, that quake.

our apartment in san francisco’s marina district was heavily damaged, so we moved across the golden gate bridge to mill valley. firmer ground, we supposed. for the rest of our time in the bay area, however, i had recurring earthquake dreams. i’d wake up too early in the morning absolutely certain we’d had a 6.5 (thankfully that never turned out to be the case).

the quake dreams stopped when we moved to minnesota, but tornado dreams immediately ensued. something to do with living in tornado alley in the northeast suburbs of the twin cities, no doubt.

minneapolis was not our cup of beer, so we leapt at the chance to move to north carolina. the triangle area (raleigh/durham/chapel hill) is lovely. mountains to the west, the outer banks to the east. the tobacco fields were disconcerting at first, but they soon faded to background. we had hurricanes to think about, after all.

bertha, in ’86, was our introduction to hurricane warnings, but she didn’t compare to fran, who dropped a dozen trees on our house. dennis did us some mischief, and floyd just skirted past us to the east, where he caused horrific damage. just last year isabel got people all riled up, but she fizzled as she came inland. instead, it was last winter’s ice storms that dropped 35 trees on our house and car.

don’t take away from all this disaster banter that i’m complaining. i mean, such things happen, and in each case others were affected far more adversely than we were. at no time did these natural calamities prompt us to look at each other and say, “we’ve got to get out of here.”

it took another disaster to convince us of that. to remind us that life is sometimes short and always fragile.

of all our stops, nowhere did we appreciate our life together more than in seattle. for a thousand reasons, from the physical and intrinsic appeal of the city, to the extravagant natural beauty of the pacific northwest, to the enduring friendships we made during our too-short stay. the emotional roots we put down grew deep and elaborate, even in the long years we were away. despite that, we could never seem to make our way back. miles and years and careers intervened, and at times we nearly forgot how integral this place was to us.

then came sept. 11, 2001, and everything changed. for the first time it occurred to us that we might not make it back to our adopted home. or that we might not get back together. it took 9/11 to open our eyes to the reality that random tragedy is a daily occurrence, and we are no more immune than the innocents who died that day.

in the months that followed, we stopped procrastinating and got a lot more involved with the course of our life. we looked in earnest for jobs and a home and a better place to raise our children. we re-awoke to the fact that if we didn’t take these steps, another 10 or 12 or 15 years would go by—years we would one day desperately want back.

it took awhile, but we’re finally home. our children are off to school, our dogs and cats are busy exploring their new environment. we’re trying to fit too many things into too small a house and too short a day. spending too much money accomplishing too little too slowly.

but we’re here.

and that fact is our small memorial to the people who died on 9/11 and the people they left behind. they no longer have the chance to do the things they always said they’d do. for the time being, we have that chance.

we’re taking it.