No sooner had I begun to get used to Yakima than I was jerked away.
But already I am getting ahead of my story. It begins… No, there is no beginning; it only continues…
We take up our story in San Diego. Necessity dictated a move. We could no longer afford to live there. I wanted to move up north, to the Seattle area, closer to relatives, but Seattle seemed as expensive as San Diego. To solve this conundrum someone suggested we move to Yakima, a small city just over the mountains from Seattle. By car Seattle to Yakima takes about three hours. Rents are less than half here than what they are in Seattle, as is public transportation and many other expenses.
I spent a lot of time considering possibilities. I looked into somehow staying in San Diego but moving to a cheaper neighborhood. I considered living in smaller places along the California coast. I considered Portland and Vancouver, Washington. I long studied the situation in various neighborhoods of Seattle and the environs around. I came to the conclusion that though we might be able to survive there, it might also entail undue hardship, a continual struggle to raise enough money with which to pay our bills and put food on the table.
So I contemplated Yakima. Others who knew the place better than me investigated the housing market and located a few possibilities. And I came to the conclusion that Yakima might be the best choice for us after all. I discussed it with the sons with whom I live, and we agreed.
The decision made, we launched into departure mode and attacked the multitude of things that needed to be done to pack up, dispose of some possessions, ship others ahead, and so on. The two-day train journey north and odyssey from Seattle to Yakima with a U-haul truck full of furniture and household goods donated by relatives and friends and neighbors of relatives I will leave for another essay. Suffice it to say that we arrived in Yakima at our new apartment complex, unloaded, and set about learning how to live here.
It was disconcerting at first, as adjusting to any new place is. There was nowhere near the level of trauma, though, as that I experienced when I moved from Greece to the United States and commenced lived in the States after thirty-five years abroad. In fact, apart from the distances from one thing to another and the puzzle of how to keep ourselves supplied with enough groceries to feed my very big and ever-growing sons without a car, the transition to Yakima was pleasant, peaceful, and easy. I make most of my money writing articles for the Internet, and that I can do anywhere. My two older sons, as soon as we arrived, took off together seeking employment, and found jobs within a week. I discovered that a middle school for my youngest son was only a five minute walk away. Yes, things were looking up.
Then circumstances threw a monkey wrench into our nicely-settling domestic situation. My oldest son, who lived in New York and worked as a high school physics and math teacher, had a serious accident, dislocating his knee and tearing three ligaments. He was in the county hospital; he needed surgery; he needed time to convalesce; he couldn’t move around on his own. Leaving my two sons who had found jobs here to look after themselves, I took off across the country with my 11-year-old to tend to my fallen son. We ended up spending most of the summer there in his apartment in Brooklyn. In contrast to the wide-open spaces of Yakima, the Big Apple, especially during a blistering summer heat wave, is oppressive, dirty, smelly, claustrophobic. Well, we hadn’t come there to sight-see but to take care of my son, so we were all right with our surroundings.
But when we came back to Yakima after a month and a half in New York, I had a chance to re-enter it almost as a newcomer again. I began to appreciate the place more deeply, and to come to grips with it on its own terms. I like the fact that all the buildings are low, so that the sky is big and bounteous. I like the ever-changing nature of the sky, that it has so many patterns and colors depending on the time of day, whether it is clear or cloudy, and the consistency and size of the clouds. I appreciate its uncluttered ambiance, how there seems to be room for everything. I like the sere brown and tan hills in the distance, and the abundance of tall trees, grass, flowers, and other greenery in the city itself. I very much like the clean, well-organized middle school I found for my son.
I haven’t met many of the local residents, but so far I like the people. An anecdote will illustrate what I mean. As I mentioned, we don’t have a car, and obtaining groceries and other supplies is problematic, a problem compounded by the infrequency of the local buses. One day three of us walked about a mile to Walmart to pick up needed items. We were on our way back, toting our bags, when a car pulled over ahead of us. The woman had seen us carrying our bags and stopped to see if we needed a ride. Just like that. She saw the need and reacted. Nothing similar had happened to me in years; I had long ago thought that aiding strangers was a lost art.
True, most of the time we carry our bags home from the supermarkets while cars pass by indifferently on the roads. That’s not really the point. What matters is a sense of place. And it doesn’t matter whether you think you’re going to spend the rest of your life there or only the next five minutes. I have got wary of considering any place a permanent home; I have been disappointed too many times before. But I can call a place home if I feel that at least at that moment I am meant to be there. It’s a state of mind, an absence of apprehension. A feeling that you are centered in the universe. That’s how I feel about Yakima at the moment. I still have places I want to go. I have no illusion of settling for good. But for now, at least, I am where I need to be. Circumstances brought us here – to be specific, the circumstance of being too poor to afford to either stay in San Diego or relocate to Seattle. Those would have been my first choices. But I am at peace with how we arrived here. I am confident that hidden treasures of experience and insight lie in wait to be discovered. Sometimes lack of finances can be a great boon in giving depth to life; I pity those who glide upon easy street for the entire ride. Such a life for me would be shallow, petty, and pointless.
I close with some lines from the concluding chapter of “Walden” by Henry David Thoreau, a man who lived in poverty his entire life but is now considered one of the giants of American literature.
“I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”
“In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”
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