So here I am again, in the sky, at 35,000 feet. I have the best spot on the plane, as it is both an aisle and window seat, which puts into perspective the size of this aircraft. If I could stand up straight, I would be able to put both arms out and touch either side of the airplane.
I left this morning, eating at Michael’s, a must if you visit Taos, and leaving by some dusty highway in a large red pickup truck driven by one of my closest friends, a future Marine, headed toward the Sante Fe Municipal Airport. She and I talked about how fast the month went by, and how things were slower, relaxed, older in this little town.
The talk turned to the future, of times after college, when we would have to be real people. This was scary, the worst being the lack of friends, how when you are a real adult, friends aren’t always there, just down the hall in the next dorm room. For the last three years, I have been living with friends, eating with friends, drinking (water) with friends, going to Rangers games with friends, talking story (what people call ‘chatting’ in Hawaii) with friends, and just BEing with friends. You come to love them, and cherish their company. They are your family. They are the ones you come to depend upon because Mom is 4000 miles away on a tiny island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
Then, just like the leaves on a tree in Autumn, everyone falls slowly away, floating listlessly this way and that, landing far from the leaves they had been with since spring. The season of college is over and Jennie, the Marine, may end up back in Taos, while Tyler, an old roommate, may end up in New York at Columbia Law. Some get bagged up with a few other leaves, ending up in the same city, reminiscing about the time you sent an email to the provost and got a school cancelled because of excessive snow. Some leaves fall into the neighbor’s yard, mixing with the leaves from other trees from all across the neighborhood, never to see them again. Some leaves are meant to get married, have children, be happy, and others find misery and disappointment. Some die young, struck down by cancer, and others star in movies, sing at Madison Square Garden, and act in plays on Broadway. Many have their hearts broken and some never do, which for the lucky few can be a curse. Some become lawyers, doctors, engineers, bankers, accountants, and science teachers. Many do great things and others break the law, spending life behind bars. Others save lives in Africa, reminding us that there are good people in the world. Some have plans, ideas, dreams, and they reach them, meeting wild expectations. Others fall short. Some dreams die.
This leaf is unsure. He looks down at the gathering pile. Yellow, red, orange, brown, and some green leaves litter the yard. He wonders where he will land, which way the wind will blow and if those leaves around him, the future lawyers and accountants, will fall with him. The last days of summer are slipping away. The air thickens with anticipation and fear. This leaf looks down again, and his sees his feet sitting on top of his backpack, which is stowed beneath the seat in front of him. Below he sees fields, some yellow, some red, some orange, some brown, some green, some circles, some squares. He wonders if he will end up in the little town below, the one where the river runs through.
This leaf is unsure. He spent the past month in the mountains of New Mexico working on a novel, which when completed, will be the greatest accomplishment of his life. He hasn’t finished yet, but he will soon. He is headed to Oxford University in England to study Shakespeare and the Gothic Novel for six weeks. Autumn approaches.
Airplanes make me feel this way. There is something surreal about sitting in one place, in seat 4A, and going nowhere, unless the potty calls, and yet going somewhere, usually somewhere far away. It is like purgatory. I am in the “in-between”. I feel transitory yet stationary, vulnerable yet safe, here yet not. I think of leaves on airplanes and of falling (which is maybe why I do not enjoy flying).
With that, goodbye, Taos. I do not know if I will return, if my leaf will blow your way again. I do know that you got me started on something that will change my life.
“I wrote there,” I will tell my children. “I started my first novel there.”
“Where did you finish it?” They will ask.
“Somewhere else,” I will say. “The wind blew me away.”
I started my life in Hawaii, floated in to Dallas, and will finish somewhere far away. These sentiments have haunted my writing lately, because just like an airplane, college is a transitory thing. I am here, but only for a little bit. You are at your home, your childhood home, but only for a little bit, because home is not a place, home is a time, and home was yesterday.
Here is the opening chapter of my novel, My Father and the Goodbye Home…