The Journey North

On March 17th, 2015, Jenn and I left Los Angeles for Portland. I was starting to wonder if the day would ever arrive; after weeks of staring at a neverending to-do list, the idea that we might actually get to leave still didn’t seem quite real. But sure enough, the movers arrived right on time to load up our things, we gave our Tarzana condo one last cleaning, ate leftover pizza on the floor, and hit the road north.

One of our main relocation challenges involved the fact that we have three cats. It dictated our apartment search, it dictated our route north, and it definitely dictated how much we could load into the car. Jenn thought it would be smart to buy a cat carrier large enough that all three guys could be in there together, and it proved a wise investment: on our first day of driving, north to Modesto, there was only a modest level of plaintive meowing from the back seat, mostly from Cairo. We made good time on the first leg and settled in early for the night. By all accounts it was a perfectly mundane travel day, but it felt a little surreal knowing we wouldn’t be going back afterward.

On day two, we drove from Modesto to Eugene. This was a much lengthier stretch, eight or nine hours. Beautiful travel weather, and I got to see parts of the state I’ve never been to before on the stretch of I-5 north of San Francisco. There’s some beautiful territory up there, especially around Mount Shasta, which is absolutely stunning. Alas, the waterline in the massive Lake Shasta was visibly, shockingly low; it left me with an ominous feeling about California’s water future.

I don’t remember crossing into Oregon, but by the time we reached Eugene the cats were clamoring to get out of the carrier. Once we obliged them, they seemed perfectly fine; in fact, by and large they were surprisingly resilient in the face of the unfamiliar stresses of a road trip, and they had a blast exploring the hotel room that night. We ate a rather dicey convenience store meal in our rooms before passing out.

Day three saw us covering the last two hours to our new apartment in Portland. It was the shortest driving day, but boy did it feel like the longest, especially for Finley, who spent the entire trip shouting and trying to claw his way out of the cat carrier. (He was a great sport for the first two days, but by day three he’d had it!) We reached our beautiful new little apartment around lunch time, moved in, and have loved it ever since.

We’ve been here two weeks now, and we’ve unpacked, set up the place, met new people, explored a little. I’ve gone on job interviews, on Powell’s runs, even a hike. We’re settling into our new lives.

But this post is about the journey, right? Moving is a time warp: everything slows down, drags out, feels richer and crazier and more difficult and more momentous. Moving also feels like shattering a mirror, sweeping up all the shards, and carrying them to a new location. Then you rebuild the mirror: keeping the pieces that survive the journey, and adding some new ones, until you’ve got something you can see your reflection in. And, in my experience anyway, you look a little different in the new mirror. I’m still getting used to it.

I look forward to building a new life in Portland, but I also want to remember that hazy, surreal, is-this-really-happening feeling that consumed me during the transition. In retrospect, however scary that unsettledness may be, it represents action, effort, and change. Every now and then, I think we need that. I know I do.

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