I had not intended to stay in Tucson after the ride. Originally, I was aiming for Kansas City; that's why I travelled east to Mississippi, heading for a northern route through Tennessee. I was looking for a place to relocate that would be "horse (& mule) country" with plenty of grass and water, on the rural outskirts of a large city with a thriving contemporary arts scene. That way I could keep Walter with me, and commute to make a living and get my art fix. The second option would be a small quirky town with a mix of live-and-let-live rural folks and some writers and artists, a place that would tolerate an old lady keeping a mule in her back yard and riding him to town for errands. I wasn't sure how I'd make a living with option #2, but I figured if I was lucky enough to stumble on such a haven, I'd settle the details later.
I changed my mind about Kansas City, and never did find that mythical town. I arrived back in Tucson in a state of mild shock, having no idea what I was doing there and no plans for the future. I only knew I needed some time to regroup - I figured maybe 6 months max - to rest Walter, make some money, write a book, do some paintings, then take off either in truck & trailer or on muleback to wherever it was I'd be living next.
Eight months later, I'm still here. I'm just beginning to write and paint again. The longer I'm in the city, the more I start putting down roots - roots I pulled up 4 years ago, when I moved into the living-quarters trailer on a ranch 30 miles away. It makes me nervous. What if I wanted to pack up and ride off next week? Next month? Next year? Do I ever want to do that again? If I don't, is this the way Walter and I want to live - each in our separate pens in the middle of a midsize metropolis? Even if that metropolis is surrounded by the most hauntingly beautiful desert on the planet... the most powerful place I've ever known... with a doggedly stubborn arts community that supports each other through good times & bad... and a borderlands culture... and good friends who have been with me through everything... and... dang it... I knew there was a reason I've lived here for 24 years!
But 23 of those 24 years were before the ride. Everything feels different now.
So, back to the San Francisco trip. The first three days, besides of course enjoying family, I reveled in the energy buzz, the culture, the architecture, the mix of languages, the crush of humanity. As the creative part of me fed more and more off that energy, I began to get the sinking feeling that this crazy urban electricity was what I needed: I had left New York so long ago that I didn't realize what my soul was lacking. I had to move back to a big city! Now! What would I do about Walter??
But by the fourth morning, the spell was broken. I awoke with an odd sense of the mundane. Later, as I gazed out the window at the smoggy skyline, I felt the vastness of the planet, the oceans and deserts and jungles and tundras, the power of the immense changes that have begun, and how very very small this one tiny spot was in all that vastness, and how the life of the city buffers its inhabitants from the realities of life outside its bubble. (For now.) I felt like I'd been pulled back into a strange illusion for the past three days, an illusion that had been beautifully stripped away last year. Part of that was the illusion of who I am and what kind of life I want.
It was time to go home.