Wednesday, August 20, 2014


I dreamed the other night that we were at Kyoto Station, and there was a huge crowd waiting to board a train. The kids and I were getting pizza across the street, and when we turned around again the crowd was gone. They had all boarded the last train, and we had missed it.

"Like you were stuck in Kyoto?" Jason asked when I told him about it.
"No, like all of Kyoto left me." I replied.


Back in January, Jason did this thing where he applied for a position at a university in Oxford, England. I knew he was on the look-out for job openings, but I naively assumed any possibilities would bring us closer to home, not around the world in the other direction. He applied almost as a warm-up for the slew of postings that come available in the fall of every academic year, so I put it out of my mind and forgot about it until he found out he'd been short-listed as a candidate, in early March.

A couple of months later, he had a phone interview. Because of a time-zone calculation error and further delays, the call ended up happening at 2 o'clock in the morning, in the freezing front foyer of our Kyoto machiya. The following morning he summed it up like this: "I bombed it."

I reminded him that he usually dramatically underestimates himself, and that he probably did better than he thought. He was adamant, though, and actually a little relieved to be free of the torturous post-interview wait.

We were both genuinely gobsmacked, then, when they called barely four days later to offer him the
position. I was too shocked to even muster an I-told-you-so about his middle of the night interviewing skills.

ENGLAND?! I wrote in my date-book. And then cried for two hours straight.


As our remaining months in Japan unspooled, I tried my best to keep an even keel. While we worked through the logistics of an international hop-scotch move, I mapped an inner topography for the emotional trade-off and energy needed for yet another beginning.

I couldn't imagine going back to Rhode Island, I couldn't imagine what life in the UK might be like, and I couldn't figure out how to enjoy the waking present moment in Kyoto. I felt unmoored and brutally homesick.

I just had to make it here, to this day, then. Things would become clearer.

"We don't have a home," Auden started telling people, "We just rent a house and then move to another country."


Jason left last night, the kids and I will join him in three weeks. Now is the limbo, the space between the things. After all the moving we've done, you would think I'd be all practiced and limber and enlightened about Living in the Now, but it is painful and graceless every time. 

No, not graceless: while we wait for our future to take shape, we are being housed and fed and entertained and shuttled about by my gracious and generous family, who ache just as we do in the bitter and the sweet of this move. And there is the lake.

But because all our moves seem to be pushing us to the ocean and to islands, I have taken to heart this line from Neko Case's "City Swans":

And it breaks my heart just like the day
I looked down and realized
I'd been sailing so long, I'd become the shore.


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