Christmas in Gloomyville

December 31st, 2007
On the Kitsap peninsula outside Seattle, it was snow and ice, ice and snow, sleet and rain. The sky was mostly subtle shades of gray, so I renamed my daughter’s house “Gloomyville.” In actuality, it was a beautiful week–waking up to views of the Olympia mountains, seeing deer tracks in the snow, hoping for a sighting of the coyotes that live in the woods behind their house. But if I lived there I would have to have light therapy. It was just too easy to sit in front of the fire, watch movies, eat huge meals and suck down red wine. Go to the gym? That would require too many clothes and a slippery ride on black ice. Playing Candyland and Happy Hippos was much safer and warmer, even if I was in danger of being mistaken for one of the hippo game pieces by the end of the week. When I headed West, I thought I would write every day, check off the Skirt! to-do list for the February issue. But I didn’t write anything, didn’t think of work, didn’t miss work, didn’t want to go back to work. I finished last volume in His Dark Materials, slept like a 3-year-old, marked time by breakfast lattes, snow clouds moving over the mountains, 5 o’clock Prosecco, the Netflix movie of the night. Even the cross country flight was a mini vacation …trapped in coach with my Blackberry turned off, I read all the way there and all the way home. My brain was in another time zone, my soul slapped awake. I was On the Road in my mind, headed west, leaving behind the path I wear down between home, work, grocery, gas station, Friday night drinks after work, Saturday errands, Sunday angst over the waning weekend. Flying over the U.S., I wanted to be literally on the road, driving from coast to coast, part of the lonely Grant Woods/Edward Hopper landscape/cityscape that America used to be. Or is that just a leftover romantic illusion/delusion? Maybe the only thing down there on the blue highways now is Walmart. But when I look out a plane window and see its shadow passing over the fields and winding roads below, I get the same hollow spacious feeling I used to have when the train went through my hometown late at night–the lighted windows, people going Somewhere, the train whistle as it came to our crossing–that urge for going that Tom Rush sang about.