I saw this weekend's blue moon rise through the skylight of our new bedroom as I rolled a fresh coat of paint over the ceiling's slope. The radio was playing "Tiny Dancer," and I was belting out my best Elton John impersonation for Mr. Magpie, "Blue jean baby, L.A. lady, seamstress for the band . . . ." My own jeans were spattered in shades of Mountain Peak White (BM), French Gray (F&B), and Palladian Blue (BM). Every bone and muscle in my body ached from the past week* of painting, cleaning, hauling, weeding, and mowing. My shoulder protested when I swiped the roller yet again over the ridges in the paint tray, but as I glanced back up at the skylight, the moon stared right back at me. I shivered. Suddenly it hit me: I was home.
And then again yesterday as I alphabetized spice jars and sorted through teaspoons in the kitchen, I felt it. All around me loomed the chaos of boxes and tables and chairs piled in precarious pyramids, yet I knew just where my favorite teaspoon was. Somehow this knowledge translated to something bigger; I knew just where I was, too. It's atavistic, this sense--as primitive and visceral as the feeling of sharing a meal around a campfire.
I've lived many places, but not all of them have felt this intensely like home, no matter how lovely the floors or sturdy the walls. For a few years before we moved back to Portland, we lived in a beautiful loft in an old mill beside a canal. It certainly looked like a home, but for us it had become a prison, simply because of the circumstances of our life at the time. When we had the opportunity to move, we seized it with both hands. We knew that meant renting an apartment for a couple of frugal years rather than living in our own home, but all that mattered to us was the chance to rebuild our lives, to start making a new home within ourselves.
I believe a place can save you, if you let it. This city where we met a lifetime ago as students has always called to us to return. When we finally were able to, we did so with our hearts and eyes and minds wide open to the changes this return would bring. Have I ever told you Portland's city motto? Resurgam, "I will rise again." It refers to the four devastating fires the city has survived, especially the great fire of 1866, which led to the building of Portland's famously beautiful West End. We have always found that motto fitting for our own lives, and I suspect we are not alone. This city at the far northeastern edge of the US is a good place for starting over, for rebuilding, and for making an even better go of things a second, third, or fourth time around.
Over the past two years we have revisited our favorite haunts and discovered countless new ones, mentally bookmarking certain leafy neighborhoods as we went. And now we are here in one of our favorites of those neighborhoods, in this little house with its maples and white pines and its gardens full of hydrangeas, lilacs, and nasturtiums. I know that like anything real and good, home is a feeling that grows over time, but it has already begun to take root, and I think this is the realization that made me shiver as I watched wisps of clouds drift past the moon's surface the other night.
I like that a blue moon is rare. I like that we must remember to pause and look or else miss it and have to wait years for the next one. The past couple of years have been a lesson in taking the time to pause and look. This means noticing the moon rising as well as the sun setting. It means listening for the sound of a fog horn on a damp night or watching out my window every morning for the baby herring gulls to take their first flight. And it means searching through the piles of moving boxes for the one marked "silverware," so I can find my way home at last.
*Note: We got to close on the house a week early, so we've been here since the 23rd.