There’s No Place Like Home (again)

Two months have passed, almost to the day, since I have posted anything on the blog. Allow me to bring things up to speed.

The beginning of October was difficult. Everything in Grant Village was closed and I began to feel the walls closing in. The isolation felt visceral; heavy; a pressure on my central nervous system, not unlike being underwater. But during the second half of October, my heart began opening up. My friend Ruby came to visit and stayed for nearly three weeks, renting the apartment next door. She was (and still is) on an open-ended cross-country soul-searching mission, and she arrived in Yellowstone just in time. For three weeks we hiked, cooked, made fires, passed the baby, and passed the time.

The end of the season brought a subtle change in the other remaining Yellowstone residents, a sort of nostalgia and warmness and extension of inclusion, as though I was now almost one of them, having survived at least this long in the Park. At the end of the season maintenance potluck, I felt like I was a part of the living community of Yellowstone, for maybe the first time.

And just the last week we were there, I made a strong connection with the only other mother in the area. Melia has two daughters–Ava, 5, and Svea, 5 months. Svea was born during the summer at a hospital in Jackson. Melia’s husband Eric works maintenance (like Rafal) and they live in the Park year-round. I’d met them numerous times and we’d even had dinner at their house, but during our final week, Melia and I (and our little ones) began taking morning walks together. Snow had started to fall daily and our three-mile route traversed empty snow-covered streets among glorious pines bearing the weight of the snow. Ruby, Melia, and I even had a girls’ night, sharing tea, tarot cards, and talk of our pasts. In short, I finally made a real friend.

We then packed everything back up into our 5X8 storage trailer. Ruby set off for Carson City, NV on the 29th and Lydia, Rafal, and I headed north toward Missoula, MT on the 30th.

We spent four days in Missoula staying with my friends Mikki & Max. We celebrated Halloween, enjoyed the quintessentially autumn weather, visited with friends old and new, experienced the wonder of the Festival of the Dead parade, and drank lots of delicious Butterfly coffee. It was the perfect decompression after half a year in the woods. And then, we turned our compass east: back to the city where we both grew up, back to family, almost back in time.

Three days and 1600 miles later and we arrived in Island Lake, IL, a far north suburb (maybe so far as to not even be considered an official suburb) where Rafal’s parents own a home and where we will park in intergenerational harmony for the next half-year or so. We’ve already been here for several weeks, bouncing from time with my mom & cousins, to time with friends, to another surprise visit with Ruby! In the mix was my birthday, complete with a massage, real Chicago-style deep dish pizza, a hike in the local state park, board games, carrot cake, and sleepover with my BFF. It was a wholesome and delicious day. Cheers to 32.

Now I am typing in our bedroom, as Rafal spins records in the kitchen. I can hear Lydia laughing. She is just about ten months old now and is the proud owner of 6 teeth. Any second now she will be walking, and before we know it her adorable babble will find the shape and texture of words. A wholly unique person is emerging from the ooey gooey softness of a baby,  with preferences, idiosyncrasies, and a sense of humor all her own. It is enough to move me to tears, watching her take shape. I can scarcely remember the pain of childbirth, and I forgive the pain of lack of sleep. I am just so grateful to be in her company.

Eight inches of snow fell here last night so we are all tucked in with winter delight. Soup simmers on the stove, coffee swirls in my cup, electronic music fills the house.

We are here, Chicago. It feels so very good to be home.

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