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I moved around as a kid. I was born in Chicago, in that mid western climate of extreme heat and biting chill. When I was seven, we moved to Redondo Beach, California, where I was permitted to thaw out for a while until we packed up and headed to Colorado right before I turned 11. And there I stayed, growing too big for the desert shrubs in the landscaped lawns of the sprawling suburbs, perfectly positioned under the famously purple and majestic Rocky  Mountains.

But something was implanted in me during those early years of shifting around. While my bones were growing, they were learning to be restless. I fled Colorado after high school for the sparser version of it – Montana. After three years of avoiding hunting the whitetail deer that cheekily wandered the campus of my college, I dropped out and moved back to Colorado. I wedged myself deeper in the mountains, closer to the pine trees that made me feel less a sore thumb. I spent three years in Boulder, outfitted in fabric that wicked moisture away, buzzing under the desert sun, trying to figure out why this place still didn’t feel like home. It was where I grew up, really. Where I had my first crush (Brendan Perry), my first taste of alcohol (vodka out of a Nalgene in the northern Rockies), my first boyfriend (oh, Timmy), and so many other firsts. It’s where I tromped around with a dirty backpack strapped around me, scrambling up the rough peaks of the 14ers that litter the state like raised hands, pushing the enormous sky to its limit.

I decided that I was just a restless heart, and would always move. That I would never have the hometown pride that so many of my friends do. So I moved somewhere completely random – Seattle. I supposed that 23 was a good age to go somewhere, to start crashing through the world, touching all the hidden corners of the country, grazing my fingers on places as they zoomed past my window.

It’s been almost 3 years since my hands first touched the green and blue watercolor center of the Pacific Northwest, and to cap off this year I decided to take some time with it on my own. I had decided to spend Christmas in Seattle, since my parents were in southern Missouri and I couldn’t get down there. Ty went home to his family in Montana, and I figured I would see how it felt to spend the holidays in this place that I was tentatively poking my roots into. I rented a cabin on Hood Canal, where I am writing this now as the sun is slowly slipping away through the gray shroud hanging over Guillemot Cove, quietly excusing herself for the evening.

I had to drive to the store today to get some oysters for dinner. And while I was driving, the coast slid in next to me. The roots of  the cloud-scraping pines dug their heels into fading land that arched and sighed into the heather gray water. The land across the canal hardly looked solid at all – an ancient and shifting specter behind fog that reflected a thousand shades of gray and blue. And then all of a sudden, the tide rose in me and I started to cry. I had to pull over, and nose my car up to a log that separated the land from the sea. I sat on it, my boots crushing some abandoned oyster shells, pulled my knees up to my salt-washed face, and realized with certainty I’ve never felt before, that I was home.

I felt my foggy heart crack open as the horizon did, and tears kept falling. I’m home, really home. I’ve never been a desert flower, all dry and breezy, delicate and planning ahead for the drought, kissing the dusty ground to hide from the wind. I don’t stretch up to the sun, or regenerate quickly like the grass on the plains.

My heart is a coastal one. It is layered permanently with the accumulation of seasons, taking shape from persistent and slow growing things. It is a stormy sky, constant rain, shifting edges. Joy in the sun could not happen without the gray and the mist. It is close to the soil, growing all year round, letting the heavy sky sink in through the skin, into my blood, into my settling bones.

My heart is home. I know now that I won’t leave, that I wouldn’t want to. It took me 3 years here to see it, and almost 26 to find it at all. There is magic here, magic that I never knew was waiting to welcome me, to draw me in, to change my coastline,  shape me and keep me. I have looked down on my quiet retreat in my wooded cabin, and seen that I’ve already been shaped, quietly and patiently, just like home always does.

Happy New Year.

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