Moving On, Again

In the three months between the sale of our home and the transition to a new house in Oregon, my wife and I will be moving three times. Knowing that we would remain in Taos for four months after the sale of our home as I brought my practice to a close, we started looking for a short term rental – nothing too fancy, just basic accommodation. We started our search and discovered there are two kinds of rentals in Taos – relatively comfortable spaces for visiting tourists (translate: Texans), and rentals that aspire to be worthy of Section Eight reimbursement some day. The apartments for Texans come, not surprisingly, with a Texas sized monthly price tag. We wound up in one of the other types.

Our rental is little more than a studio. There is a second room, but the four sealed south facing ceiling-to-floor windows and the bare bulb light fixtures make the room too warm for habitation. The apartment is an icon of the disparity between Taos-the-Dream and Taos-the-Reality. Set on a plateau above the fertile Taos Valley, it sports a broken ceiling fan, a toilet, and piles of construction waste as lawn ornaments. We sit on a road pocked with so many craters that NASA used it as the primary filming site to fake the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969. The apartment is part of a triplex of sorts – there is a two story apartment adjoining ours (the connecting door between our hot room and their entryway is sealed with 35 decking screws and a handful of ten penny nails), and an additional living space that our builder-landlord is transforming into a third apartment. I’m assuming that the toilet in the yard will eventually migrate into the third apartment, dispossessing the family of field mice that have taken up residence therein. The two story apartment beside and above our space is something of a mystery. As of this writing, we have lived in the rental for five weeks. Every night there is considerable foot stomping in the room above us, but the vehicle outside the apartment changes daily. Either our upstairs neighbor is a used car dealer who brings work home every night or the space is a hostel-hovel for transients; at least, I hope that’s the case, although the term “crack house” floats menacingly in my consciousness. So far, no sign of the DEA, but then they would probably need a HumVee to navigate the cratered road.

Shortly after giving the landlord an initial deposit but prior to moving in, my wife went over to get the “feel” of the space and wound up sobbing as she faced the prospect of spending a third of a year in the rental. Within an hour of leaving she had sent an email to a friend who bi-locates between Taos and Austin asking if we could rent her house for 6-8 weeks. The friend said yes, so next week we’ll be moving again. It will feel like moving from the Rots to the Ritz. But it will be moving. Still in all, there will be internet, television, laundry facilities and comfortable chairs waiting – certainly worth another transition.

Six weeks later we will move once again – this time a two day drive in early winter through some of the snow-iest states in the western half of the United States. Next time in a box.

As much as anything, the Bible is a record of people moving on. From the first “ideal-to-real” transition out of Eden, the Bible records the movement of peoples from old and familiar places to new ones. Not surprisingly, each of these moves has at least one visionary who is either carried unwillingly to a place or senses it’s time to go. Their very names are synonymous with the transitions – Noah, Joseph, Moses, Jeremiah, Thomas, John. Each wound up in a place they never expected to be, and each struggled to find a way to flourish in new spaces. Some of those spaces and the circumstances imposed produced heroes – Miriam, Ruth, Daniel, and my favorite Old Testament trio Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego. To be sure, some of the transitions ended badly – Peter’s unconventional crucifixion, Paul’s beheading, John’s exile.

I suppose that one of the consistent themes behind the Biblical narrative is that we are always on the move between one place and another whether those places are geographical, psychological, or chronological (the famous opening line “I once met a man on his way from the City of Darkness to the City of Light” comes to mind) and the question is how to move well and having moved, how to settle quickly.

But (being in the psychotherapy business) the word transference comes to mind as well. With every move, I have taken some of the old place with me as each resting spot has changed me in some way. I am, in many ways, the product of my many environments (I’m wondering if I’ll be able to find green chili in Portland). But it is also my deepest hope that in some way, I have changed the place left behind for the good: in my investment in the community, my interaction with others, even my stewardship of the land on which I have lived. We’ve shaped each other, my homes and me, and stand ready for the next round of becoming.