For awhile I didn’t think I would come back to this space. It seems part of a different time of my life, so integrated with our old house, with the city and life that we left.
But I keep thinking about this blog. The title: This Pagan House. I am still a Pagan, and I still have a house. More than ever, after this past couple of years, I am more confident in the identities that I have chosen. It seems like every day I desire to walk more publicly in who I am, what I believe. To begin the walk of becoming who I want to be.
I keep thinking about how I want to take up writing again.
It’s been about a year. 10 months. Hello, again.
I look through these old entries and some of them feel familiar.
Oh, hello! I still do that. I’m still like that. I still think that.
And some of them feel very…young. And hopeful. And naive.
I read those posts with a half-smlie, and maybe a prickle of tears. To make the choice: stay, or go? Stay, or become?
I see that the last set of posts I wrote informed this space that J had lost his job. That I had Eleanor, successfully, but returned to the hospital. October 2013 was a time of refocusing, reinvention. I remember that time; everything was going pretty well, considering.
In the latter part of October I developed a severe case of pericoronitis, basically inflammation of the wisdom teeth, most likely due to a super-stressed immune system (read, the mystery illness after Eleanor) and crowding from my jaw. The surgery to remove all of my wisdom teeth had to be done immediately. This wiped out the last of our reserve money from selling the house. In December, we broke our lease and moved in with J’s parents. J also had the chance at a Supreme Career Maker Opportunity, the kind of job that only comes along once-in-a-blue-moon. He was told by the HR rep after the on-site interviews that he was a virtual lock. They loved him. They’d be in touch soon.
We were so excited.
Two days after we moved in with his parents we learned that he did not get the job. It was devastating.
We lived with his parents for almost six months. I weaned Eleanor and took a full-time retail job. Promising job prospects came and went, often with enough interviews to make him, us, feel hopeful. But they never actually resulted in anything.
One job, an entry-level job in a town we didn’t even have on our radar, came up. It was in the right field, not quiet what he wanted to do, but still. Something. Enough to keep going to the interviews. They flew him out. They offered the job. At the time he tried to leverage it into another job, another promising prospect that was another Supreme Career Maker Opportunity. It looked for a few days that it might happen.
And again, disappointment. The preferred plan again fell through. But he accepted the other job. We had to at that point. Everything in our life at that point was brittle: our relationship, our relationship to our children, and to his parents, the atmosphere at my job. We had to leave.
Two months (due to security clearance) later we found ourselves moving from Texas to the Midwest.
And here we are, in the suburbs of St. Louis.
To prepare for our move, I flew up to St. Louis to find a house to rent. We both agreed that if we could get it as settled as possible before we actually moved that would be best. I met with a rental agent, we toured the city, I settled on a house in the County, to the north-west of St. Louis. I signed the papers, reassured that we could pick up the keys as soon as we got in to town. Everything was ready.
Well. In St. Louis County there’s something called an occupancy permit, that can only be obtained after an inspection of the property. It’s basically a (corrupt) moneymaker. I was told when I signed the papers that the inspection was done, and that the permit would be waiting for us when we got to town.
J went to the City Hall the first day in town. The leasing agency hadn’t done the inspection, thus, no permit.
I was livid. The leasing agent gave us the run around. J’s new company began legal proceedings. They had one inspection done later that week–and they failed it, meaning no permit. They greased some palms, got a date for another inspection less than a day later, and passed it. Yeah, not suspicious at all.
When we finally moved into the house…it was a mess. Not at all like I had been shown. They had contractors come in during the week to fix some things so they could get the inspection passed, and they had left the house in shambles. Broken kitchen drawers. Three cups of sawdust in the carpets from cutting off the bottoms of the doors so that they would fit in the doorway–and then, the cuts were jagged and crooked. Nails sticking out of cabinetry.
To top it all off, when we turned on the shower to clean the tub, water began pouring from the pipes into the basement. The leasing company hadn’t overwintered the property, and all of the water pipes in the basement had shattered.
(So…how did it pass the second inspection? You tell me.)
Needless to say, we broke the lease and demanded all of our money back.
When I did a move-out inspection a week later, the representative hopped out of his car and came up to me with a puzzled look on his face.
“Are we doing a move-in inspection?”
I paused. “Um, no. We’re moving out.”
His frowned deepened and annoyance clearly showed on his face. “What do you mean, move out? I’m the agent who okays listings to be put on the market. I expressly did not approve this property.”
We went into the house, I showed him around, and asked him if he wanted to see the basement to make sure it was okay.
He gave a half-laugh, the kind you give when something is not very funny. “I don’t need to go down there. I know it’s a mess.The pipes are shattered, and there’s a leak. We have those water-absorption buckets all around. Now tell me. Who was your leasing agent?”
We found a new house. We moved out a week after living in the Broken House.
The new place is homey. The new leasing company is responsive, kind, and eccentric. The hardwoods shine. The kitchen is stuck in the ’90s, but that’s okay, because there’s a three-season porch, and a finished basement. It’s taken awhile, but we’re painting the walls and decorating and making it home. It’s only a rental, and we’ll probably be leaving soon-ish. But it’s our home, for now. Probably for the time that we stay in St. Louis.
Two weeks after we moved to St. Louis, J got a call from a company that had initially passed on his resume. They’re exciting, a lot of influence, research, and innovation. They were very keen to interview him, wanted to talk to him about a new position that had come up.
It was in Texas, close to family. Close to friends. Good benefits. Awesome opportunity.
We laughed and laughed and laughed. Then I rolled over and cried.
I go to therapy now. I like her. She’s earnest, beautiful, and I detect a bit of kookiness. I enjoy it. Some of our sessions involve talking, some involving trance-meditation. My kind of therapist.
I’ve struggled to cope with this move. Hell, I’ve struggled to cope with the past two years. My first therapy session I finished a long tirade with: “How did I even get here?! This is not the life I wanted. This is not the life I want!”
She nodded, very calm, like a therapist should be, and told me that we’d figure it out. But it was going to take some time.
One thing I love about St.Louis is that it rains. Right now it’s thundering and lightening and just pouring down. Before the storm began, nature became a visual and sonic cacophony. Clouds purpled and multiplied. Lightning pierced the suburban sky in eerily straight lines. Thunder clapped and rumbled. The cicadas roared a deafening tune.
So loud that C stood in the driveway, clapped her hands over her ears, and yelled at All of the Forces of Nature to cut it out. They didn’t listen, much to her consternation. Her four-year-old self is giggly and joyful, but also imperious. Of course Nature should obey her, and why not? All she wanted was a gentle, cool summer evening so she could play outside.
But only the downpour ceased their racket.
Now it’s the sound of softly falling rain, distant rolling thunder, and the gentle song of crickets. Green leaves, a bit on the tired side of summer, weighted down by heavy drops of rain. A cool breeze, finally, in the wake of the storm.
It’s taken me a few days to write this. I went back and forth on whether or not to post it, but if I keep up this space here—which I intend to—then this part of the story needs to be told.
One last thing.
Being a pagan in a strange land can be difficult. I intimately knew the gods and landspirits of Texas, especially Central Texas. I felt them in the cliffs and brush and oak and dry creeks. In the searing heat of summer, in the sharp stillness of those brief winter nights. I celebrated Dionysus in the vineyard I worked; I touched Aphrodite in the silky softness of May evenings. I saw mischievous faces in the hedges of the park where I ran.
Here, I feel displaced. I intellectually know that this is a place of rivers and waters and hills. Trees tower over the suburbs. It is so humid that the mornings shimmer in the sunlight sometimes. There is emotion here, so much of it, and so much hurt and displacement and regret. It is an area with a deep and complicated history. You can feel it simmer over St. Louis, and indeed, it burst forth a few weeks ago in tragedy.
I find that in these places–there is deep, deep magic. Old magic. It’s palpable here. As I write this I feel a certainty that even though this land is unfamiliar, that there is a rightness of me being here at this time in my life.
Even though this place is complicated, and I don’t always like it, I know that I am supposed to be here.