Monday, August 3, 2009

the fog of maybe

We were helping my grandmother pack up her things when she showed us an old drawing of a small house on a beach and told us that she and my grandfather had bought it as a young couple when it seemed to them that a small shack like that was all they could ever really want.

As we drove across the country Dennis and I were overwhelmed by the number of small abandoned roadside structures we saw and we fantasized about what our lives would be like inside of them. My arrival to San Francisco was a traumatic re-entry, one of romantic processing and housing eviction. I just spent a month moving, a month making decisions and a month of self-sufficiency. I remembered that living in a city means that although you're never really alone you can be bewildered with loneliness. Daily navigation through a city is full of compromise.

settle, v: 1) to place so as to stay 2)to establish in residence 3) to furnish with inhabitants 4) to cause to pack down 5) to make quiet or orderly 6) to fix or resolve conclusively 7) to arrange in a desired position 8) to come to rest 9) to sink gradually or to the bottom 10) to take up an ordered or stable life 11) to come to a decision 12) to become clear by the deposit of sediment or scum
settle for, to be content with
settle one's hash, to silence or subdue someone by decisive action
settle the stomach, to remove or relieve the stress of nausea or indigestion

Here I am, settling back into San Francisco. For people in their twenties and thirties, a community of transience, settling is at times desirable and others absolutely terrifying. We are aware that stability does not always ensure safety, decisions are not always the right ones, and easiness doesn't provide satisfaction or the reward of challenge. Contentedness seems like a safe but pale state of being.

At a house party on Saturday a group of friends inspected the hosts collection of snow globes. Most, once shook, whirred dizzily with activity before settling after a few minutes. But one, once shook, clouded with particles and eclipsed the skyline of a small San Francisco inside. A fog globe. This seemed funny to me-- to think of fog and the confusion of it's opacity, it's local significance to the Bay Area, and it's stubborn refusal to settle much like the community of friends that I have come to know here. I think that this refusal comes from a self-awareness that settling means sacrifice-- my grandmother never got her shack. She had children and settling into her life with them meant a settling of her own.

I've moved many times and each time it has disrupted a consistent desire to settle. Driving across the country I kept thinking about how nice it would be to be sedentary upon my arrival. But upon getting here I realized that the fog of being twenty still stubbornly suffuses the air-- which is confusing and dangerous and exciting. It's nice to be reminded that sometimes it's not right to settle and empowers the helplessness of feeling constantly in motion.

When we left the party the fog globe, over an hour after it had been shook, was still milky and churning. But the whiteness of that small encased storm made it seem like anything could be inside of it-- the skyline of San Francisco, sure maybe. But maybe also another city, or not even a city but a person, or maybe two or three, or maybe not anyone at all, or maybe a small shack on a beach somewhere, or maybe all I could ever really want, though I don't know what that is, but maybe.

1 comment:

Cassiemarie said...

I can totally relate to that urge to settle somewhere. I also imagine myself in small places like those abandoned along the roads. More and more I want to be in a small town which is the opposite of where I always thought I would end up.