I went home for Christmas this year. That is, my husband, dog and I packed up the car and drove the 13ish hours to from sunny San Diego to cold Logan, Utah. It took us two days — I just don’t like to sit in a car for that long, and I have a rather nostalgic fondness for Mesquite, Nevada, where we can stay with our dog at the Virgin River Casino for $35. Hallelujah!
Being back in the town I grew up in is strange, and brings out many emotions. It’s the place where I grew up, and so in many ways I know this place better than any other. I know the shape the Wellsville mountains make on the horizon; how the air smells when cold winter air is trapped (as it often is) in the valley, causing an inversion; every inch of my beloved ski resort, Beaver Mountain, where I spent a majority of my youth skiing; and how the red-winged black bird’s return to the valley wetlands is a sure sign that spring is on the way. And although I feel welcomed by the soft hills, tree-studded mountains, and my parents sprawling spa-like house on the bench, I always feel a little abrasion from the place I grew up. Yes, abrasion mixed with nostalgia for the past mixed with a very clear distinction between the culture of the majority and the small counter-culture that I am part of when home.
My parents are great. My mom is The Most Creative Person Alive and we spent hours in the sewing room, making a dress or two for my upcoming trip to India. She’s funny and welcoming and a bit of a clean freak and keeps the best garden you could ever dream of. My dad is a container of oxymorons: excited, loud, hard-working and too easily frustrated (read: cuss-o-ramma), but also gentle, friendly, caring and shy. They’ve built a home that my husband and I affectionally call “the spa” for it’s floor to ceiling windows looking out over Cache Valley toward the Wellsville Mountains. If there was a brochure advertising their home it would say something like, “Sit in the massage chair and watch the clouds float over the valley towards you as you sip on a ginger martini. Later, sit back and watch the stars from the comfort of your own private hot tub, set alongside our beautiful gardens.” Anywho, it’s fantastic, just like my parents. So being home is great.
Well, kind of. Life is funny. You know how when you are a kid, you understand the expectations put on you, even if they’ve never been written out? Like, I knew when I was in maybe seventh grade that I was expected to finish a bachelor’s degree in some type of science and complete a master’s. And perhaps “follow in my father’s footsteps” as an environmental consultant. So I did that, and then a few years ago I realized it wasn’t as fulfilling as the expectation made it out to be, and so I switched careers for yoga and Ayurveda and a life as a person who helps others heal. “Ahhhh!” Can you hear the sound of the universe singing when I say that? Because I can, and it sounds good! But, apparently it sounds more like kids banging on pots and pans to Those Who Keep the Expectations (aka Dad). And so the days of being praised for accomplishments are over and instead I’m asked . . . well, nothing at all actually, since I seem to have chosen a career so outside of the comfort level that it is unspeakable. To make a long story short, although I love being home, I often feel like an outsider.
I’m eccentric. I think. In my world I’m normal, but I think to others I come off as a bit . . . out there. Well, let’s see . . . I have an herb cabinet instead of a medicine cabinet, I rub oil on my body everyday, I eat turmeric as a tonic and recommend herbal concoctions when people are sick. I talk about digestion (every. part. of. digestion.), I fight online and in my community for gay and lesbian rights (and for equal rights, period), I support the Occupy movement, I’m super-super-duper sensitive, I track the moon and pay attention to astrology, I believe in fairies, I live a spiritual life that can’t be defined by one book or scripture, I love cats and dogs equally, I paint my walls when I’m bored, I fall in love over and over again during the course of a day and with parts of my past and I enjoy the chaos! But I have a hard time explaining it, and I often end up feeling like I’m trying to defend the way I live.
I love the Logan counter-culture that I feel a part of, although I wish that such a thing didn’t need to exist. We sit at Cafe Ibis and drink coffee and ski at Beaver Mountain on Sundays where we drink beer in the upper parking lot at lunch. We tend to be liberal and accepting of others and to care about the environment and Free Choice and such issues. My mom volunteers for a local nature center and planned their big fundraising event of the year. She planned a lovely event she thought would entice both the main and the counter culture. But she sent an event invitation which included the line, “Wine will be served,” and received a barrage of hate mail instead of donations. So the rift remains.
But I did the best I could with the time I had there. I met a friend from high school, and we talked for hours about life, good beer, aviation, and life’s unexpected turns. I spent a day at my favorite spots — Cafe Ibis and The Italian Place, where I saw old friends and made new ones. I skied a day. I showed my Dad what YouTube is. I spent time with my mother, who is worried sick about my trip to India. I Skyped my grandparents. And I made my family watch old family videos on Christmas Eve so that we can remember the time when we were so cute it didn’t matter what we did.
My Christmas vacation was too long and not long enough. I wanted to see more people than I could and our schedules just didn’t coincide. I wanted to be able to explain to my family why what I’m doing now is important and will make a difference in people’s lives. But I’m also leaving for India in two days and this packing is making me crazy (er). And I wanted to spend some time with the place and people that make me feel normal — the big, diverse and embracing city of San Diego, my dearest friend who is moving away (it breaks my heart although I’m so happy for her), my pets, and my husband who also thinks that I’m eccentric but at least is along for the ride. This transition into the new year is happening so very fast and there are so many emotions running at the same time inside of me — excitement, fear, sadness, loneliness, nostalgia, hope, love, worry . . . so many to where I feel almost ambivalent. But I’ll do like I always do, and figure out a way to march into the new year with a smile on my face and an oracle deck in my back pocket, ready to face whatever comes. Happy New Year!
P.S. I’m going to India for the next month, so stay tuned for updates!