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Homefull 1.2: High Touch

Packing requires a lot of touching. Yesterday, I packed the books in my office, thirty one boxes, authors in alphabetical order, segregated into non-fiction and fiction. I touched every blessed one.

I sneezed my head off. My present seems like my past with dust. My treasures were dusty after three and a half years on the shelves. I found many old friends lurking; like touching my past.

I couldn’t feel anything but wealthy after a day perusing that past, recalling the times and places those titles first found me. That copy of Münchausen’s Pigtail, which, twenty-five years ago, fell to my feet off a shelf and changed my life. Sheldon Kopp’s remarkable parables which have inspired me so. The Saturday night dates spent rifling through the Powell’s Books sales stacks. The many titles that accompanied me on long, otherwise lonely night flights back home. Those remaining copies of David Pye’s The Nature & Aesthetics of Design, a book which undermined my faith in methodology and process. My future came into sharper focus while I immersed myself in this past. Slip over here for more ...


Homeless 0-71: Homefull

melted rims
A short time after a wildfire burned his home, a man explained that several of his fellow fire victims were suing their insurance companies. He’d volunteered to participate in a citizen’s watchdog group to oversee the claims processing, and had found no evidence that anyone had much of a case against their insurers. “The problem,” he concluded, “is that the dissatisfied seemed to believe they’d purchased home insurance, when they’d actually insured their houses. There’s no such thing as home insurance.” Slip over here for more ...

Homeless 0-72: Hard Reset

The landlord agreed in an email this morning to extend our tenancy to mid-November. This offer transforms zero minus twenty seven days into zero minus seventy two. Still no word on the possible next home, but our transition promises to be less complicated than it might have been. Still, Amy’s ordered packing boxes and I suspect I’ll wear a fresh trail between here and the storage place over the coming few weeks.

I’ve read enough detective novels to appreciate a plot twist. I might see one coming and still feel whip-lashed by the experience. Slip over here for more ...


Homeless 0-28: Caretaking

I asked the property manager to tell me the story of the brick colonial he was showing. “Don’t know a thing about it,” he replied. “I just open doors and turn on the lights.” His cold approach seemed to have seeped into the brick, leaving a clammy stickiness in the place. Some rentals come as anonymous as a no-tell motel room, a cynical financial transaction. Hard to imagine these places ever becoming home-making material.

Others come resplendent with history, so bright and present I wonder if there’ll be room enough for me to make any new history there. Slip over here for more ...


Homeless 0-29: Paperwork

Say what you will about the greatest works of man, not one history ever mentioned the paperwork involved. Leonardo’s great struggle requisitioning the marble for his David sculpture or Columbus’ great inventory innovations, history doesn’t care. Though history, I suspect, was always written on the back of paperwork, and not the other way around.

As the search narrows, paper appears: applications, tenancy forms, hazardous building materials warnings, credit checks, recommendation letters. Most of this blessedly occurs electronically now, but the crinkle and clutter persists. So much to specify, so very little to actually state. Slip over here for more ...


Homeless 0-30: Third Thoughts

Sleepless nights have never been strangers in my bedroom. I was every bit as sleepless as a child as I’ve proven to be as an adult. I often wake at two or three, then lay there staring at the inside of my eyelids, channeling some idea or feeling; rarely fretting. Sleep never refreshes me the way these long, isolated, early morning reveries seem to.

These days fill up with notions, first thoughts. These usually swarm around me, most prominently when I’m taking my quick, cold morning shower. Many of these turn into some piece of writing, a poem or short piece like this one. They simply appear, a few of them catch, carrying some clever twist or pleasing sound. Later, I’ll add an extra room, perhaps landscape their exterior a bit, and call them done, but I rarely second-guess those first thoughts. Slip over here for more ...


Homeless 0-31: Thunk!

Few sounds come close to resonating the way the good, solid Thunk! of hitting a bull’s eye does. For some, this sound means that they’re skilled. For the rest of us, merely lucky. Might not matter which, the satisfaction’s the same.

Any search means you don’t know yet, until, suddenly, you do. Or you finally think you do. Then every complication shrinks, barricades evaporate, and self esteem, whether fairly earned or not, soars. Inside the bull’s eye, feeling clever becomes the same as actually being clever.

We might have hit the lotto yesterday. In the grand game of chance, sometimes I find myself holding the right number in the right place at the right time. I can, as a result, recommend no strategy beyond sychronicity, which can’t be rigged, outsmarted, or cleverly planned for. Slip over here for more ...


Homeless 0-32: Creaking Floorboards

The landlord was late. I knocked on the door and waited in that self-conscious way I have, feeling like I was trespassing. I might have the wrong address, it’s happened before. I double, then triple check, then mosey around back for a look-see. Plastic-wrapped couch. Cracked concrete parking pad. Low cyclone fence, painted black.

A car came zooming down the alley then, and the landlord emerged, apologizing, reaching to shake my hand. The actual walk through didn’t take more than five minutes. Moving detritus everywhere. A kitchen crudely made-over, designed to look great in a photograph, laid out like a galley, a frozen encumbrance to navigation in practice. What might have once been a dining room transformed into a nook. What must have once been a living room, cut up into a way too small dining room and an equally too small living room.

A twisting stairway, two turns bottom to top, every stair screaming with every footfall. Slip over here for more ...


Homeless 0-33: Face to Face

Prospective landlords were out of town, so we drove by a couple of places and stopped in on a housewarming convened by one of Amy’s co-workers. I’d met this co-worker last week in Colorado, and we’d had a vigorous chat about her new neighborhood. Or ‘hood, as she referred to it. Her and her husband have just bought a place in Brookland, a neighborhood between our current Takoma Park and Downtown; closer in.

We’d looked at a place just around the corner from their new place when we were first searching for a home here three and a half years ago. That place had been decked out as college quarters, with huge rooms connected by remarkably narrow passages. Its most prominent feature, a spiral staircase to the second floor. The place also had a third floor, so moving anything larger than a toaster would require removing windows and winching, like they do in Amsterdam.

No, thanks. Slip over here for more ...


Homeless 0-34: Roam, Roam On The Range

We are roaming now. Having rejected several possibilities, we’re feeling increasingly untethered. The landlord’s dropping by with a realtor Tuesday morning to come up with a price for this place. Our realtor friend provided a cocktail napkin estimate, something greater than my lifetime earnings so far, and any possibility that we might buy this place and avoid the unrooting evaporated. The latest postings’ landlords all seem to be out of town, so we’re hanging with thirty four days until launch date.

Yesterday, we drove our rented rig North into Pennsylvania to buy our canning tomatoes. There and back, we passed through a few dozen alternate universes. Shady suburban subdivisions. Rolling Maryland horse farms. Ancient, stone-foundation barns. Small towns. Small cities. Sprawl. Backroads. Freeways. Feeling homeless all the way there and back again, mentally trying on each changing venue, not knowing where we might belong. Roaming. Slip over here for more ...


Homeless 0-35: Loose Beginnings

I might be over it, though I know I’m not. Leaving leaves loose ends. Beginnings seem equally ragged.

I read a lot of novels, most of which feature tidy endings, resolving all mysteries. There, now I know that it WAS the freaking butler all along. The story might be a roller coaster ride, but with a clean finish. Real life feels messier. Slip over here for more ...


Homeless 0-36: Possibilities

Woke up this morning smack dab in the middle of a brand new net of possibilities. Sure, I inhabited one yesterday, too, and also the day before that, but those seemed less populated than the one I woke into this morning.

I could stride through life if only I could sense such a rich network of possibilities every morning. My myopia might be my own worst enemy, because there’s no practical reason that I shouldn’t and couldn’t continuously renew my sense of possibility, except that I seem to have unlearned how to do it. Perhaps I outgrew this once familiar sense. Slip over here for more ...


Homeless 0-37: Cat's Feet

I’m proud to say that I’m a cat person. Amy, too.

We live in dog town, USA.

We watch as neighbors’ dogs drag their owners around regardless of the weather, pooping in appreciation, I guess, and indifferently leaving the mess for their owners to snag.

Dogs grow up to be eternal adolescents after an overlong babyhood. By which I mean they never seem to really grow up.

Also, chuck your typical dog. Will it land on its feet? It’s as likely to land on its head!

Being cat people, we seem to land on our feet. Slip over here for more ...


Homeless 0-38: Prospecting

At a picnic last night, a friend demonstrated how to pan for gold. He explained how to quickly determine likely spots, sieve and winnow, and, finally, how to pan. This is one meticulous process, apt to bore anyone to death before paying off. The flecks produced in a day might sell for to a thousand bucks, but you’ll earn every penny the tedious way.

I’m impressed by the difference between the myth of prospecting and the actual practice of it. The myth insists that dedication produces results. The actual practice requires more brains than brawn. Learning how to quickly determine likely spots is worth immeasurable effort; an ounce of technique seems worth more than a pound of gold.

These same principles might hold true for any sort of prospecting. Slip over here for more ...


Homeless 0-39: Homesteading

I’m supposing our search for new digs qualifies as a kind of homesteading. The wilderness we’re crossing might be more in our heads than beneath our boots, but we’re still wandering through unknown territory, imagining a home somewhere out there.

I wonder how my ancestors reacted when after months of the most tedious traveling, they stood on the Western edge of the Blue Mountains to survey the Columbia River snaking even further Westward through bare scablands, with snow-capped peaks standing between them and the fabled Willamette Valley, the so-called Eden at the end of the Oregon Trail. Slip over here for more ...


Homeless 0-40: The You'll

I feel the tension, the opposing forces. One standing to preserve the status quo and the other pushing to undermine it.

I know too well my tacit, standing-order, status-quo-preserving force. It’s passive and surprisingly aggressive, an immovable boulder straddling the middle of the road. The pushy force seems small but wily; Kokopelli—part fertility, part trickster. Slip over here for more ...


Homeless 0-41: Sweet Breezes

I have no idea where I’ll be forty one days from now. I suppose it’s past time that I really should be lighting my hair on fire and running in manic circles. I’m reconnecting instead.

I have no freaking clue how I became so fortunate to be exactly where I am today. Sweet summer breezes envelope my present, soften my past, and ennoble my immediate future. It’s my birthday and I’m in no hurry to achieve any future or abandon any past. Slip over here for more ...


Homeless 0-42: Home of Cards

I met Amy almost fifteen years ago in the breakfast room of The Nordic Inn, where we are staying this weekend, here in Mt Crested Butte, Colorado. She was building a house of cards.

Her team was chasing the clock to complete an eight foot tall house of cards. She, the shortest team member, was balancing on a chair, placing cards on the teetering top of the structure, when another of her team members asked me, one of the workshop facilitators, if he could borrow my measuring stick to determine how close they were to finished.

That’s when her team discovered that they were trying to build an eight foot tall house of cards in a room with a seven foot ten inch high ceiling.

How did they respond? Slip over here for more ...


Homeless 0-43: Booster Shot

Suspending the search for a new home to work out of town for a week seemed like a really bad idea, finding a new home-wise, especially since the deadline clock wouldn’t be stopped for the time out. This morning, ensconced in a robber baron’s hotel in the high Rockies, the bad idea seems as if it couldn’t have been more prescient. We needed a break from our 24/7 frantic focus on finding. Filling the divot can wait.

I feel my energy cohering here and I haven’t dipped a toe into the World-famous mineral springs. The sweet mid-seventies breezes fresh from my childhood seem to be reviving my immune system as if I’d gotten a booster shot for optimism. The dry air evaporates way-too-long-believed-in impossibilities. My perspective’s widening now that I’m out of those endlessly narrow, hazy hills in the East. I’ve never worn cowboy boots, but I’m for sure a Westerner, and even a temporary transplant here energizes me—tree-mendously. Slip over here for more ...


Homeless 0-44: Home Away From Home

I might feel most at home when I’m away from home, getting by with my small cache of carefully-selected possessions, making do without my library, kitchen, and comfortable routine. I could be more present when I’m gone than I ever can be when I’m home.

I find more comfort knowing that my stuff is there than I feel when I’m sitting in the middle of it. I can only wear one pair of shoes, read one book, sit in one chair at any one time. My other shoes, books, and chairs become tacit possessions then, and I their absentee owner. Slip over here for more ...


Homeless 0-45: The Nose

I flashed back on a familiar feeling as I buckled myself into the flight to Colorado yesterday morning. I’ve traveled in my life. I know how to be away from home. I pride myself on my adaptability. I can find decent bread, drinkable decaf, and a respectable supper within an hour of landing anywhere. You see, I have The Nose. Slip over here for more ...

Homeless 0-46: Identity Functioning

I’m almost certain I understand what’s happening. Lost home equals lost identity. Just who am I now? And who the heck will I end up being on the other side?

It’s an identity crisis. A crisis because loss of identity shakes foundations, bringing all those comfortably dozing conundrums screaming to the surface. It’s a loss of identity because we humans are deeply influenced by the context within which we live; lose the context and self seems to slip away.

This process might be healthy, like pruning a bloomed-out rose bush. For a while, the bush doesn’t look nearly as rosy. But the trim encourages new growth, producing more blooms Slip over here for more ...


Homeless-0-47: Shock and Aaaah

We became homeless a month ago, when the landlords called from The Hague to say that they were selling the house. Reluctantly. We, in turn, reluctantly accepted the news. We were in shock, I’m surprised we could even muster a decent reluctance. But we did.

The law says that after five years renting out what was once a primary residence, the status of a property shifts from owner-occupied to commercial holding, and valued at the current fair market price for capital gains taxes. Some government employees stationed overseas get a pass. Our landlords don’t, because they’re ex-pats for a private company.

Unfortunate. Slip over here for more ...


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