Raindrops crawl down the windows like drops of saltwater down a cheek. Sheets of gray sweep through the pines, and the needles droop with silver orbs that reflect the spherical world. Inside, two logs licked with flames crisscross within the hearth, cozy in a bed of rippling embers. I sit beside the warmth watching the rain fall as piano or Enya’s voice fills the cabin.
When I first arrived here six months ago, I began a new series of notebooks. I used to buy those fancy leather-bound journals made in Italy or Asia, but years of writing have demonstrated to me that leather doesn’t invoke any deeper creativity than the $1.79 spiral bounds from CVS. I consecrated Notebook 1 on my first day in the mountains, and I began to title the notebooks as I filled them:Notebook 1: Ruminations Notebook 2: Perseverance Notebook 3: Movement Notebook 4: A Collection of Pages That Used to be Blank Notebook 5: Taking Flight
Yes, the titles did at one point correspond to a deteriorating mental state. I began the Movement notebook three months ago when I set out to thumb my way across the country back to Miami, well aware of the irony of leaving my Perseverance notebook unfinished.
Returning to Arnold, I did not know how long I would stay. Maybe I’ll leave once I see my first snowfall, or maybe when I finish my Perseverance notebook, I told myself. But days of rain in the forties and dozens of blank pages made neither seem likely.
After dark, I climb into my car in the cold, miserable drizzle. A downpour follows me in and out of the grocery store, but I find a layer of ice across my windshield when I return to my car. As I drive back to the cabin, rainfall turns to sleet and ice in my headlights. I step into the firelit warmth and press my nose to the black glass. As I watch, the icy rain turns to flakes of snow. So I do the only sensible thing I can imagine: sit outside and drink red wine as the snow falls.
When my toes freeze, I step inside and add a log to the fire. As the light flickers, I flip open my Perseverance notebook and realize that I am on the second to last page. It’s time to leave this place.
In the room that I used to consider mine, I throw books into a box and clothes into bags. My stomach turns as I pull cards and notes and photographs from the walls. These relics that used to fill me with comfort and happy reminiscence are now spiked with antithetical meaning. I should have torn them down three months ago, but it was easier to just ignore them. I throw them all into a shoebox that I will open one day and uncage a fermenting agglomeration of memories and shards of nostalgia. I rip posters from the walls until the room is as blank as I found it when I first arrived. Hours later, every trace of my brief presence in this place has been expunged. Finally, I sit by the fire and write a letter to myself on the last two pages of my Perseverance notebook as the snow continues to fall.
How long have you been living on the road since boxing it all up and filling your car? I write. Have you found what you are looking for? What advice would the Dave reading this have for the one writing it? How much wiser are you than me because of the mistakes I will make? How much wiser am I than the Dave who came here six months ago because of the mistakes that I made? What if I could have known at the beginning that I would be leaving this way, having gained certain beautiful things and lost certain beautiful things? Would I have done things differently? I think for a moment. Yes. I would have. Yet if I hadn’t made those mistakes, I could never have reached this point of understanding. Can I make peace with that?
It’s cold, but I go back out into the snow. I no longer live in the mountains. In the morning, to hit the road and continue to develop my understanding of “home.”