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Life's roadmap and learning along the way

You wake up at 5:50 a.m. after hitting the snooze button for the last hour. Your left shoulder protests the four hours of sleep you got after a 16-hour work day. Things pop and click as you stretch, rolling the shoulders, wagging the head. Multiples of 11 are lucky, you have heard. You are 33 today, and you decide while brushing your teeth that you will no longer pluck the gray hairs that now appear on your crown in cadres of conspirators, wiry and insistent, refusing to be counted. So you count something else. You count what you have learned, not with numbers so much as states.

California: Where you began learning; where you have boomeranged throughout your life; where you first observed the power and fright of a man's fist and that in order to make a splash, you must jump into a deep pool.

Georgia: You learned how to diagram sentences, talk to people and listen to their stories, how to talk-story, how to run, run, run. Where you grew so tall and so fast that it angered boys when you beat them up or beat them around the race track. You learned how to fight once the boys finally overcame you, the size of your opinions too big for their small hearts. You learned your brain would have to be your money, your ticket out.

New York: Where you landed with a scholarship and suitcases, your first glimpse from the sky. You learned how to question, how to think, how to write, how to drink, how to play pool, how to love your body (and protect it), how to find friends and lovers (and get rid of the ones who don't love you back).

Alaska: How to really see light, opening your eyes to every wavelength; that many seekers end up there and you are just as likely to find yourself in a canoe on an emerald glacial lake with a voluptuous lovely from Portland as you are to have a discussion about Rosicrucianism with a cute bartender who lives in his van during the short summers; that fireweed is the most beautiful flower; that waiting tables is performative and aerobic; that you can spend an entire day sitting by the railroad trestle, float planes landing and taking off, beers chilling at water's edge; that you can live without a day planner.

Nevada: This is where you learn about guns, single and double action; about Burning Man and firewalkers; about not taking the dealer's bust cards; about singing sand dunes; the Pony Express; a man who lives in trees; a prehistoric lake and the ichthyosaur that once lived there; high desert winds; the horror of the Rag Queen's delirium tremors after she quits drinking for a day; the healing powers of reading aloud and the wide, wide sky; the strength of La Patrona, who lost the love of her life but picked up the pieces to raise her kids and revolutionize her father's dairy farm; that gopher trapping is best done accompanied by a stiff cocktail and a Chihuahua named Taco.

New York: Another boomerang state, where you learn that no matter how broken or battered your mind, body or soul, there is always bellydancing, yoga and love.

Marriage: Your newest residency thus far, the state where you learn daily about your capacity and your partner's, that contrary to what you grew up witnessing and enduring, this state is not a place for the exchange of power, but of breath and music and story. And this: Every person is the wrong person until you meet the right person.

Gray: You declare this another state as you turn on the shower, anticipating the magic the hot water will perform on your muscles. Gray is not the absence of color but the color of magic, of mist, of spirits, of sages. You'll live in the gray, each new strand an unkempt, winding road waiting to be mapped.

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