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January 25, 2011

The Angular Distance

A few years back I had a weirdly visceral experience of nostalgia while just walking across a post office parking lot. We'd been living in Seattle for about 4 years, and rather than get used to the place, it seemed that as each day passed, I felt more out of synch. My intellect said time would ease the feeling but I doubted this.

Then that day, a sunny-ish day in a soggy Seattle fall, I walked across the parking lot and I was hit by the smell of wet leaves. And I mean hit; I stopped short, and breathed in...and then I was crying. Not sobby crying. Just weeping a little. Something, some feeling of loss which I did not understand at the time, mixed with a powerful memory of playing in leaf piles in the front yard growing up, mixed with another memory, of the briny smell of the Long Island Sound, came up and out and stood in front of me and blocked my way for a moment. And this is a "something" I've found impossible to paint.

There I was, four years into painting full-time, just past 40 years old, and I missed home? That moment, I now know, was the beginning of a process. The feeling remained beneath the surface for some time, and then with our relocation to California, it seemed to literally run my mind. And my tongue. When we visited the east coast this fall, I looked out the train window at one point and randomly blurted out to my husband "Hey, there's home!" -- not consciously knowing what I was looking at, just the places blurring by, all those towns on the once so-familiar train line.

That feeling is extant, and it has come to matter dearly. So now, due in no small part to the fact that my husband is a remarkable person, we have rearranged our life. After 10 years of living and working and learning and painting on the west coast, we are off, in a few weeks, with our things in the big yellow truck, driving 3000 miles, heading for the east coast. For home.