California didn’t keep me for long. I moved there in the 90s and only lasted a year and a half. One cannot dispute that the redwoods, dolphins frolicking in saltwater just off the shore, and complicated plutonic rock formations are captivating. Yet somehow not enough for me to consider calling it home.
Is it possible that the Windy City’s copious ferromagnetic materials pull upon a giant magnet attached to my insides? It sure feels that way. My feet have roots that have burrowed—for many of my years on this planet—deeply into the concrete of the city streets, and are still firmly planted from over 1100 miles away. Perhaps my thousands of miles of walkabouts in Texas were a roundabout way to try to get back home.
If I say Bari foods and you can imagine tearing off a piece of a freshly baked baguette and dipping it into olive oil and oregano you might be of the same ilk. If you love the clang of metal doors being pulled down over storefronts, are not afraid to explore Lower Wacker Drive, and gazing upon smoggy steel mills might as well be a misty mountain range in your eyes, we will get each other. Maybe we have microscopic bits of steel dust inside of us that make us feel incomplete unless we are in the city of wild garlic, near canals and the steady wheels of industry.
Or maybe we’ve been cryogenically frozen enough times that we start to feel old and shriveled up without subzero temperatures. It was in the 90s in Austin today. Here we go! Months of above one hundred degrees to look forward to for those who are staying. After 7 years I have had enough. Maybe all of the sun damage on my neck, face and chest will reverse with the next polar vortex.
Chicago is so much in my bones that when I drive through rural Texas I stop at every oil rig I pass. I park the car and get out, and I’m captivated by the slow and steady up and down of the arm of the rig. I could sit and watch that forever. Machinery. Is that normal? Do non-rust belt folks feel that too? The Austin music scene is special, but give me a blanket and machines become my drive-in movie.
In my travels to the deserts, mountains, rainforests, oceans, lakes, and plains all around the world I am always aware that I’m a person from Chicago. It’s my identity. For the first five years of living in Texas I introduced myself as “Caren with a C from Chicago.” It was a way to be sure folks would not forget my name, and it often worked. But I also saw it as a badge of honor.
Whenever I read an Anaïs Nin quote I feel seen and understood, and less alone. I Googled her name and the word “cities” to see what she had to say about all of this. I learned that she put together a compilation of novels called Cities of the Interior. How very apropos. I’ve written about what Carl Jung calls one’s inner partner her on EFD, er—I mean EGD, in the past. With the right intention, it seems all roads can lead to a sense of inner peace. We just need to have the courage to be engaged in the world around us. To be creative and adventurous, and whether homebound or sojourning, stay true to ourselves.
In three mere weeks I will say goodbye to Austin for now and start heading north. I will hike and kayak along the way, and see as much of nature’s beauty as I can. When I roll into Chicago it will be a soft landing. I found a sweet coach house to rent—in the city of course!—with knotty wood paneling and a large outdoor deck. I can’t wait to be back in the city of big shoulders, embracing and being embraced.
“The enemy of a love is never outside, it's not a man or a woman, it's what we lack in ourselves.” Anaïs Nin