My little sister and I have a saying. When life gets us down, and the funk sets in, we look at each other entirely seriously and say,
When all else fails—go west.
I’m not sure how we came up with this phraseology or why we thought it was Truth. Perhaps because we are both wandering souls and according to anyone who has run away from Life ever, southern California or Portland, Oregon is the obvious place to go in order to pursue the dreams that no one in the Midwest believes in and do so without being seen as reckless, lazy, irrational, and slightly insane.
Bonsai followed through on this idea. I remember very clearly the day my mom, my dad, my little sister and I loaded into the Forerunner and drove her to the Greyhound bus station. All she had was a hiking pack.
I don’t know that I have ever seen such fear and dread on my parents’ face as I did that day. They looked around at the demographic of people at the station and were utterly terrified. Their youngest child, their baby girl, was about to go on a cross-country trip with a bus full of ex-convicts and drug addicts (not all) en route to New Mexico, and they were not convinced they would ever see her again.
But they did.
Following her Rainbow Gathering experience in New Mexico, she hitchhiked to southern California and spent the next handful of months experiencing life as a traveling musician. From there she had an Walden-sort-of-educational experience in Boston, a month of crashing on my floor in Northwest Arkansas, a very organic stint on a farm in Colorado—and eventually, she came back to St. Louis.
We spent a year there together, living in the same city for the first time in eleven years. And as much as our time together was incredible and needed and longed for, we both often spoke of the desire to leave. We were there because we had to be. We were there because it made the most logical sense. And every now and then, as we sat on her apartment floor sipping Yogi tea, listening to Pandora and contemplating life, one of us would remind the other—When all else fails, go west.
But we didn’t.
She stayed in St. Louis. And she got a job as a pianist for a winery and rocked it. And now she works at a Japanese sushi bar in the city. And I moved to Vermont. I didn't have a musician's gig and my own place and my own community in St. Louis like she did. So I moved to Vermont to build trail, and then I stayed. I stayed in a place I swore all of my life I would never, ever move. . .
I stayed in a place where I am required to purchase studded snow tires if I have any desire to successfully get anywhere ever in the coming months. I stayed in a place where apparently it is common for temperatures to get up to thirty degrees below ZERO. I stayed in a place that I came to only eight months ago and did not know a soul. And I work in a place that is emotionally draining and psychologically devastating and altogether terrible a lot of times. I stayed in a place where it is cold the majority of the year, and cloudy most of the time. I hate the cold.
I hate the cold.
But in this moment, I am sitting at my computer at a coffee shop venue in Burlington. There is a bluegrass band boasting a bass, a violinist, two guitar players, and a vocalist with possibly one of the most incredible voices I have ever heard. The sun is out, finally, and I am watching passersby through the wall of windows. In a matter of hours I will be leaving to go snow-boot shopping, and then drive an hour south to spend the evening getting paid to hang with teenage girls.
On Monday, I will for the first time in my life, obtain a driver’s license from a state other than Missouri, and I will move into a townhouse in the capitol city of Vermont—Montpelier. I will be within walking distance of the Hunger Mountain Co-op and downtown Montpelier—which is home to a plethora of book stores, coffee shops, an art supply store, a kickass bead shop, and pretty decent people-watching. On December 1st, I will be purchasing my very first ski pass, and on December 6th, I will be hosting my very first housewarming party.
This Thursday is Thanksgiving. I will be spending it on an airplane, St. Louis bound. When I get there, I will hug my little sister with all my might and tell her something new. . .
I will tell her that sometimes the best thing we can do, is stay.