A year ago, it was the obvious thing to do.
I lived in a romantic, high-ceilinged, wood-floored, red brick building so characteristic of my native St. Louis south city, but light-flooded unlike so many of those tightly sown Victorian estates—the availability of sunlight has always been the reigning queen of criteria when seeking out a new shelter, a place to be home. I adorned this domicile to my rustic liking, plants framing the picturesque warp of antique glass. Aromas from the oven or from a recently-rolled joint sipped through the back door and enveloped my favorite perch, a twinkle-lit balcony hovering over the muggy St. Louis nights, the air thick with hops and hip-hop, wafting westward from the Mississippi. Reclaimed wood from my parents' garage became the infrastructure for my books and other shelfable belongings, and the vegetable garden I dug in their backyard was my grocery store. My father still lives there, in my childhood home, a mere 1.1 miles from mine; my aunt, whose shoulder I regularly cried on while divulging over a Tanqueray and tonic, lives across the street from my father. Three long blocks west is the coffee shop where I worked, which paid better than most apathetic gigs I've had in my 19-year job history. 94-years and counting, my grandmother lives in a retirement community near my favorite mushroom hunting spots where the chanterelles are certainly pushing their sunny caps through rich, dank earth.
I had ample time, but no external pressure, to pursue projects. I led historical bicycle tours of the disenfranchised north side of St. Louis and orchestrated pop-up dinners where diners brought surprise ingredients to be prepared into a generous communal meal. The social circles that gradually adopted me were large and overlapping and decidedly rare; I was encompassed by groups of warm people who didn't seem to worry about time—who sincerely cared about living, not about parading a branded lifestyle. I felt foreign as I stepped into their unpretentious openness, embraced their ability to be spontaneous, admired their accessibility as human beings. Artists eschewing higher education, filmmakers who've fled LA, non-profiteers and professors starting families, start-up-ers co-working alongside city aldermen, the bartenders and bakers and kombucha brewer; this cast of characters I eventually came to see as my tribe: enthusiastic champions of the slow and stable midwest. This concept of community was anathema to the scant sociability I acquired while plowing up and down the east coast, wearily marching a career-driven path. But here, I strode in slow motion down Cherokee Street, up South Grand, across Arsenal and over Jefferson. Like Sesame Street, like a dream, I was always greeted by familiar faces welcoming me from a place of fear and rejection, and into the neighborhood where I learned to let go.
It was in my hometown, a place I never ever wanted to live, that I was rescued from the maelstrom of discontented desire. These I re-rooted myself here after a 13-year absence. Of course I was going to move to the desert. Why would I be anywhere else?
A year later, I have moved to the desert.