I am relieved as we nestle into Autumn, like the way you feel when wheels hit the runway after a bumpy plane ride.
We all need a nap after that one.
The summer passed in a fog of desperation and seeking. I was utterly consumed for months with house hunting, or rather, consumed by the reckoning required of me as we crashed headlong into the current bay area housing market. If you’re friends with me on FB, you were privy to multiple rants and postings of CL postings from other desperate families, pleading with landlords to not be such greedy jerks. Just this week, an apartment complex in my hood, recently renovated from a fire two years ago, put its one bedrooms back on the market. My five person flat is frozen at the 2005 market rate (we have a master tenancy = rent control) and my own share is only $100 more than what I paid when I moved in 17 years ago. The whole flat is $3250. The aforementioned 1 bedrooms are $4000. The high prices are like the magic oatmeal pot in the old mother goose rhyme…someone else’s abundance is spilling out in a gelatinous, sticky, out of control mess, that flows over the bridges and into the surrounding counties.
At Rivertown Revival in Petaluma back in July. With cutie patootie Ella.
All of our friends have hightailed it to West Oakland. We are still steering our ship north through the storm. My dream of a rural childhood for Fern ebbs farther and farther away, and I try to reconcile my grief with the grim knowledge that we are not alone…dreams of what my life could be were born in an earlier time, before the economic, environmental, global realities became what they are today. I step back and look through the macro lens and realize…I was brought up with certain expectations of how I could live my life, as part of the American Dream. I realize now how incredibly privileged that was. The dream that’s biting the dust never even made it into the sky for so many of the disenfranchised in this country. As for my own shock, I try to tend to my sorrow while at the same time reminding myself that the middle class is dead. In case you haven’t heard. It’s a brand-new retro world.
When I was growing up, it was assumed that America’s shared prosperity was the natural endpoint of our economy’s development, that capitalism had produced the workers paradise to which Communism unsuccessfully aspired. Now, with the perspective of 40 years, it’s obvious that the nonstop economic expansion that lasted from the end of World War II to the Arab oil embargo of 1973 was a historical fluke, made possible by the fact that the United States was the only country to emerge from that war with its industrial capacity intact. Unfortunately, the middle class – especially the blue-collar middle class – is also starting to look like a fluke, an interlude between Gilded Ages that more closely reflect the way most societies structure themselves economically. For the majority of human history – and in the majority of countries today – there have been only two classes: aristocracy and peasantry. It’s an order in which the many toil for subsistence wages to provide luxuries for the few. Twentieth century America temporarily escaped this stratification, but now, as statistics on economic inequality demonstrate, we’re slipping back in that direction.
More vintage goodness from the summer. Also, my kid can be a little scary.
Learning how to use a knife. Check.
Manzanita cider, back in June.
Don’t get me wrong. I know we aren’t peasants. Things could be a LOT worse. One of the reasons we keep sticking it out where we live, is because even though it’s a compromised life, it’s a pretty good one. The architecture of my house is beautiful. I am inspired and uplifted by beauty, and it becomes even more important to me in an urban environment. We could move to a shitty apartment in Cotati, but what we would give up here is never equalled out by just simply moving. Even though I have to contend with a desire to bolt 24/7, one thing I have learned in my 40 years is that reckless impulse moves create change but you eventually end up right back where you started.
This is what happens when I go to demolition derbies. In Sonoma back in August. In Missa’s poncho.
We live in the best neighborhood in San Francisco, and even though I don’t recognize the new, polished faces of the recent wealthy inhabitants, I still know my neighbors, we are friends with the owners’ of our favorite cafe, the corner store. My landlord may have destroyed my garden, but we still have one of the best views in the city. Fern may not see stars, but she gets to watch the changing colors of City Hall (last night it was purple…anyone know why?). We have food, we have shelter, we have options…this is so much more than so so many.
The ocean is 10 minutes away and Indian Summer is here.
I can’t talk myself out of my very true feelings, and I can’t talk myself into feeling full appreciation of our situation. I was able to do that for the past few years, but the gig is up on that one. However, we are still here, perhaps will be for (*gulp*) a few more years. We have amazing housemates (right now anyway), I have committed myself to home schooling Fern until we are in a situation that offers an educational option that doesn’t tear my heart out. We have enrolled her in park-n-rec classes and are looking into capoeira at a local center. I am highly aware of the goodness of having these options…I grew up in a town where I could only dream of doing something fun and amazing, where there was no other option of making friends than the nightmare that was my elementary school. Circus, wildlife survival, art, dance, gymnastics, music…there are so many choices here that it’s hard to choose.
Far deeper than the dream and desire of a country childhood for Fern is my own aching need. If you look at that book stack in my last post, you’ll get a glimpse of what I am preparing to step into more fully. As I near licensure, I am clarifying and recommitting myself to the goal of working with earth grief and ecoanxiety…especially with others, as a professional therapist. Why did I go massively into debt to pursue becoming an MFT? Oh, that’s right, because the beauty of this world, of wildness, of nature and inter-relationship with non-human beings breaks my heart right open, exposing a molten core of almost unendurable joy. This joy can be unlocked by all of us, but we are on the verge of destroying the key. I need to live out of the city, and Wendell Berry says it best…
The Peace of Wild Things
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
— Wendell Berry
At the Musee Mechanique in July.
So now it is Fall, and the summer fog is becoming a distant memory. I still check CL everyday, half-heartedly. I’m playing with creative visualization (as a committed, regular thing), because it couldn’t hurt. Hourly, I yank my attention away from my frustration, desire, wanting. I acknowledge on the minute that the greatest dream of my life, that of having an amazing daughter, has come true. I nourish my relationships, especially the one with my heart, my body. We notice the pink sky dawning through the bedroom window. We stop to smell jasmine on the street.
I still see hawks everyday.