migration

Most of the Groucho Terns are gone. (Also known as Royal Terns, but take a look at them — don’t they remind you of Groucho Marx with his eyebrows and cigar?) I only saw nine this morning, instead of the regular flock of fifty or a hundred. The Snowy Plovers have disappeared, too.

It’s time for me to move on. I was raised in Los Angeles County, then moved to the Pacific Northwest for 20 years. It was good to come back for a bit, if only to remember that this is not where I belong. It is familiar, which is not the same as healthy.

I am moving north again, though not so far this time, just 200 miles. I enjoy the slower pace, the fresh air, the clean snorkler-friendly coves. My neighbors will be horses, and my studio (part of a larger house) abuts a state park with copious hiking trails. I can see the sea from the window. SLO (San Luis Obispo) County. Love the acronym.

Despite all this, I am beset by doubts: Moving AGAIN? Are you out of your mind? Why can’t you be satisfied where you are? It’s probably the same everywhere. You’re making a huge mistake.

But tolerance is over-rated. Sometimes you have to say, “No. This is NOT good enough.”

Just because you grew up in Fear doesn’t mean you have to live there.

Just because discomfort is comfortable, and violence familiar, doesn’t mean it’s good for you, or the planet.

Fear can be a great motivator, though. I just received another complaining text from the current landlord, which motivated me to pack up the dishes.

Stoicism (learned from my mother) is also over-rated. “Pain can kill you,” said Dr. Saloom when Emmett was sick. Hermosa has been painful, with a volatile, toxin-using (Trump-voting!) landlord; near-constant construction; vacant vacation homes with homeless sleeping on benches nearby; huge, fume-spuming sand-grooming machines; and occasional oil and sewage spills. That’s not even the worst of it. I have biological family here who are completely uninterested in seeing me. Dreams of connection with them, and with childhood friends, have finally died.

But the water is warm. 63 degrees lately.

I’m learning a different way to swim, and it’s hard. I have to be conscious of every part of every stroke. I practice rolling over to breathe instead of lifting my head. Intellectually I know this new method is more efficient, which means I’ll be able to swim longer distances without tiring. But when I’m already tired, or scared, I revert to the way I learned as a kid: flat as a board, arms straight like a windmill.

“Swim like a fin,” says coach Dave Walters, “not like a brick.”

Ah, but I’m a brick house, dontcha know! Which maybe ain’t so good in the H20.

The old ways are still attractive, especially when I’m frightened or lonely, but the glamour is fading. Soon the thrill will be entirely gone. I turned off the latest Star Wars movie last night. Same old stories, same old characters, same old dialog. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon seems melodramatic and sad now, not romantic and gorgeous. Beauty is not enough. Hermosa isn’t enough. But I am interested in Harmony (a teeny hamlet in SLO County, not far from the new place).

Meanwhile, I keep practicing the new way of moving through the ocean.
Like a fin, not a brick. Maybe I can catch up to the Grouchos.

GrouchoTern

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