Year in Yosemite: Moving On
I'm a person who looks for signs everywhere. Not the "Eat Here" or "Gas Ahead" type, but little messages from the universe that I interpret to mean I am, or am not, on the right path. I know I'm being foolish, but like the fortune that comes at the end of a Chinese meal, I tuck away the ones I feel lend hope or meaning to my life and discard the rest. Lately, I’m questioning this practice. Because all the signs regarding our move to Yosemite National Park seem to be weighing in on the negative side and I've begun to wonder why we're here.
A year ago, I felt like I could easily have been cast in a Boeing commercial. At the time, their "We know why we're here" slogan was my daily mantra. We had moved to Yosemite for our daughter Karis and to feed my hunger for adventure. Tired of the noise and distractions of Los Angeles, both Karis and I needed time to regroup and quiet down — she in the classroom, me in life. We found that here. Amid the quiet and the beauty, I felt at peace.
Staying far away from the madness of Yosemite Valley, we settled in Wawona, a tiny hamlet at the southern end of the park where the year-round population hovers around 150. Our daughter started at the one-room schoolhouse and my husband and I tried to make a home . . . but that was not to be. We were so desperate to get up here and enroll our daughter in the local school, that I made a fatal calculation. I agreed to move into a house from which we had to move every time the owners wanted to use it themselves and/or whenever they could get more money from someone else — a "deal" which produced the odd sensation of feeling homeless while paying a rather sizable rent.
Now in the middle of our 17th move in 14 months, I realize how deeply this constant feeling of instability has colored our time in the park. I'm not calm. I'm not relaxed. And I'm looking everywhere for signs that it's time to leave. Nature complied by dropping 28 inches of snow the day before our latest move, then sending temperatures plummeting to Arctic lows. Our daughter's school complied by becoming, once again, immersed in the seemingly endless drama to keep its doors open. Our daughter even seemed to comply. Her lack of focus in the classroom was our main motivator for making this move, so my heart grew heavy as her teachers complained about her inability to stay "on task" (this in a classroom with nine children and three adults). Listening to them, something inside me broke and all I could think about was leaving.
Then, in the midst of it all, there appeared signs that maybe we belong here after all. On a Saturday morning, a friend offered to help us move our wood. Our soon-to-be new neighbor called to lend us his truck. One of the women I hike with declared a moving/cleaning/painting day at our new home in lieu of our usual rovings. Another friend emailed to invite us to live with them while we vacated one house and waited for the next one to be ready. Our beloved across-the-street neighbors (who were the very best part of where we have been living) let us store our things and took our daughter at a moment's notice whenever we needed to pack. Every time we walked down the street, people stopped to ask if we needed help. Even the librarian offered her assistance.
On a day when the snow was constant and my mood at its lowest, the Seventh Day Adventist Camp staff (we are not Seventh Day Adventist ourselves, but they have been extraordinarily kind neighbors) called to say they wanted to help us paint and fix up the house we’re moving to (a lovely place but in much need of TLC). When I asked what it would cost, they answered, "It's our Christmas gift. If you insist, you can make a donation to a worthy cause."
That's Wawona. That's our home. In a place where being kind is a necessity, not an indulgence, once again community trumped all—my fear, my feelings of wanting to run, my deep dislike of snow, ice, and cold. (The next time I want an adventure, I'm opting for some place warm).
Every day last year a family of deer grazed outside our bedroom window. I came to think of them as neighbors, too, and was cheered by their daily appearance. This year they didn't come, even once. Then, on our final day in our move-in/move-out house, there they were, led this time by the most magnificent buck I’ve ever seen. As I stood transfixed, he raised his head and stared directly at me. Was this a sign that we belong here? Or a last farewell before we move on?
-- Jamie Simons