Monday, November 18, 2013

A Tale of Three Cities

It is always the best of times and the worst of times, but maybe a little more so just now.

I’ve been in my new apartment for almost a month and have gotten used to it as my new home. It’s enough for me, and most of all it feels great to have a little place of my own. I’m not someone who likes change which will incline me to just stay here if I find a tolerable job, but even if I stay in Duluth, I’d likely want to move to a place that has a better kitchen.

As well as having a place for privacy and solitude, the big advantages for me living here are having a library, public transportation, and occasional arts such as dance performances--an enthusiasm lingering from my Boston years. Minnesota is also by far the most enlightened state of the options. 

I can’t actually see much of the Lake from my window but I can see the sunrise sky of pink and red over the Lake, and the evening full moon.

After a month of unwinding, I’m ready to start looking for work but not sure if I’m ready to actually work. I read the description for a part time job at one of the better places in town and cringed at the thought of actually doing the job. Oddly, I never thought of what I was doing at Yellowstone as work—I didn’t get much money and in my mind it was more of a barter deal where I got food and a place to sleep in exchange for my time. Somehow I felt a lot freer (even though I also at times thought of Mammoth as my pretty prison since I was unable to leave it) with that arrangement, and I sure as hell don’t want to go back to full time employment with only a couple weeks off a year. But I’m not rich enough to never work again which would be my first choice if possible.

I definitely miss the natural world and wildlife of Yellowstone, the fact that there were few (permanent) people and the resulting village atmosphere though I never felt as much a part of it as I would have liked. I would have fit much better working for Yellowstone Association (except that all their jobs require a driver’s license) or NPS. I’m also left with the feeling that my life there isn’t finished. I’ve filled out the applications for Yellowstone and Glacier.

The west feels like the part of the country where I belong now, based on the open landscape and wildlife (and the weather—I’ve never been bothered by Duluth’s constant gloom before but this month has had me longing for the Rockies), not the right wing politics and violence of the region. I still check Yellowstone webcams just as I always checked Duluth’s when not here, and I look at several Montana newspaper websites and am happy when High Country News arrives in my mailbox.

7 Minutes in Yellowstone
(a video)

Before I left Yellowstone, it crossed my mind to visit New Orleans for a festival in early November, but I wasn’t at all settled here yet. I see now that Anders Osborne is playing there on my birthday in a few weeks. Checking schedules, I’d also be able to see three of my other favorites on that visit (but not my latest discovery The Revivalists, swirling saxophone and pedal steel in my head as I write this). I won’t be going to New Orleans in December either though—money is an issue while I’m unemployed and uninsured, and I’ve realized that planning these possible vacations gives me as much pleasure as I have when I actually do them solo. If I should go back to work in a park in the spring, I might make a visit to New Orleans for an April festival though.

At this point, I don’t think I’d ever actually live in New Orleans unless it was short term or as a final stopping place. Maybe I should have moved there 25 or so years ago when the idea first crossed my mind, but life (like this post) is full of these maybes. When I was there last, I got along well with the folks sitting on the sidewalks just as I always did in Boston (I liked them a lot more than the folks in the suits). Hey, it’s Yellowstone, said a couple women the second day they saw me, and one guy asked if I’d been told I looked like Jerry as I stepped over him. I don’t feel the courage or strength needed for that life, but I’ve always expected that’s how I’ll wind up, and when forced, we adjust and adapt. 

In the past few months since I knew I was coming back to Duluth, it always felt more like going home to die than like going back for a new start. This is where I lost everything that mattered to me four years ago and then I returned east for a few months and lost the rest. The promise of Yellowstone kept me from walking off into the New England woods four years ago; maybe one of the parks will extend things again. Maybe a pretty prison is the best that’s left. Maybe there’s a far, far better thing for me to do.

No comments: