In a month we will pack everything we own into a big yellow truck and drive north. North! I think of lone shaggy-haired boys hitchhiking to Alaska. The arrow drawn on landscape designs. Lucie Brock-Broido: “bold as a compass// Needle pointing—North…// Your letters to me long since/ Lost, I’ve been loving you so long.”
If adulthood starts after college, I have lived in Oakland nearly my whole adult life. Outside of a two-year interlude elsewhere after graduate school, this has been my home. I didn’t know it would turn out that way—I kept thinking we would move, but we didn’t, and now we are.
Maybe that is how decades pass, when you are no longer 21 and life no longer seems a hypothetical map stretching away to the curve of the earth, but something you are living—and then, something you have lived.
It still rains in Oregon; I’ve seen it, been soaked by it in the past weeks, and watched hail pelt against the windshield we squinted through, looking for a new place to call home. After volunteering on others’ land for the past couple of years, as close as West Oakland and as far away as Costa Rica, after studying agroecology in books and tending a student garden that overlooks the San Francisco Bay, I’ll be caretaker to my own patch of soil.
I remember when I thought any place you could wear flip-flops year-round must be heaven, feeling stunned by the dailiness of palm trees, inhabitants of postcards. Since then Oakland has slipped in and out of focus for me, has deepened and complicated. It is a dazzling and heartbreaking city, carrying the weight of overblown stereotypes and overblown plans to develop it. I’m not from here, and still I hear too many people speak of the town as having potential, wiping away its rich history, what it already has, what gets traded away through plans for transformation. It is one of the most diverse cities in the country and also embodies the starkest extremes of inequity, Silicon Valley money rolling past people sleeping in the ivy along the freeway. Oakland has been my context & my backdrop, and in a month it will become part of my backstory.
I will always value this place & time & all of the evolving I did here, but by leaving, I’m not mourning California or rejecting it. I find myself in a place called Ready.
My last reading in the Bay Area for a while will be at the Fourteen Hills release party, Tuesday, May 19th, at 6:45pm on the rooftop of Convent Arts Collective—660 Oak Street in SF. Music, drinks, & a group of talented writers. Hope to see you there.
(c) Teresa K. Miller, 2015
Photo taken in Oakland, CA