on thirty

In the final hours of twenty-nine my plane lands shakily in LA, rerouted from San Francisco where the rain and wind is backing everything up. D meets me at the airport in his tiny, two-seater of a car, a change of my clothes tucked away in the trunk in case we never actually find my suitcase.

In the final hours of twenty-nine we drive up the 5 through the dark. We stop at a gas station for coffee and snacks. We listen to Invisibilia and I try not to fall asleep. But when I do eventually doze off, my face smushed against the window and my legs tucked awkwardly beneath me, he doesn’t wake me, lets me sleep while he keeps driving and eating Chex Mix.

We don’t get to San Francisco until nearly 3am but the room is lovely and welcoming, with corner windows and clean sheets. I fall into bed with a kind of dread, knowing I’ll be up again before the sun. Two hours sleep, maybe three.

My birthday is the second to last day of several weeks of working on the road–San Francisco the final stop. It’s been nearly a month of back-to-back days, cancelled flights, strange hotel rooms, and the kind of hostile winter weather I distinctly try to avoid by living in California. As my birthday nears, I don’t know what to expect. In the midst of those roaming days, I steal any spare moment to read in preparation for a massive rewrite. I chop my hair short and then realize all the clothes I’ve been wearing feel funny with short hair. I wait to hear about an opportunity that could change my life and the stress of it is excruciating. I feel as if the year ahead could take me in any and every direction. Or in no direction at all. I’m waiting for other people, other events, other things to decide for me what this year is about and it takes me several weeks–until now, this moment back in Los Angeles and already ankle-deep in this new year–to once again take possession of my own fate.

In the first few hours of thirty I work all day in the bottom floor of a hotel in the middle of San Francisco, stepping out into the hazy air only once, briefly, because I know I can’t go an entire birthday and not see the sun. And I’m taken by surprise at the calm and joy and excitement and seriousness and warmth that fill my bones. I wasn’t sure if I was ready for this year, but I am. I’ve been ready for longer than I can remember.

When the work is finally done and the sun has set and the misty rain has subsided, D surprises me with dinner out in the Mission, at a place we pass nearly twice before ducking through its tiny entrance. We sit at a small table next to the window, next to another couple also celebrating a birthday and eat strange, delicious things like frozen horseradish and celery sorbet. Afterwards, back at the hotel, we sit on the bed  in our underwear and I open my gifts.

The first–a tiny, hand-painted bike, a placeholder until we can pick out the real thing back in LA. A note attached reads, Things for the journey ahead: something to get you there.

The second–a vintage brass compass, tarnished, delicate, and perfect. The note reads, and something to lead the way…

simple

All week as I’ve driven home in the evenings the sky has been a hazy pinkish gorgeous thing. Mountains vague in the distance. Clouds hanging low in strange places across the freeway. Everything shapes and shadows and textures of color.

Today was the first day that the sky was still bright when I did finally make it home, which says something both about the state of my work days and the lengthening hours of the spring. Either way, it filled me with a deep and simple satisfaction. Something heavy in my heart released, lighter.

I couldn’t be happier to be back with those I love, in the city that I love, with the warming glow of spring rolling in on the horizon.

Los Angeles, CA // February 2015

spinning at the speed of light

My first week back home is a blur.

Even though I’m home, I feel as if I’m still spinning, racing, going, going the way I’ve been for months. I have that sense in my soul, the way you do after you’ve closed your eyes and spun in circles and those first few moments after you stop–the disconnect between body and mind. The way stillness feels just out of reach.

My first week back is sudden orange sunsets and February weather that feels like May, like the height of spring, like the days growing longer, like rolled down windows and the air rushing at you from both sides. It’s sleeping late and waking up backwards, squinting at the clock like it must be a liar. It’s a new bike, bright red, my first since I was thirteen. A birthday gift. We pick it out together from a shop on Melrose and ride nearly twenty miles before the day is up. It’s addictive, that rush of air. The high of my body moving fast along the roads.

The first week back is people and bodies and drinks and sounds and some part of me refusing to slow down, refusing to come to a halt, like I don’t even remember how. It’s a bar fifteen floors up with glass walls to keep you from the edge but I stand close and look down anyway. That LA night sky is something else, unlike any other place I’ve ever been, unlike any other corner of the world and I stand proudly at its crown, just trying to keep myself steady.