Can I trust you to tell the difference between me and a storm?

For two years, we didn’t really leave our house much, and then for the past three weeks, we left.

(Vaccinated, masked, tested frequently, etc.)

Now that I’m back home, I keep asking myself if I really got the benefit of travel; does my body, my mind, retain some sensation of movement? Do I feel rested, enlivened, even moderately changed? I’m not sure, but it’s probably no different than it ever was; the mystical ambiguity of whether it’s possible to understand how far a plane can take you, how fast.

It was my sister’s birthday, and so I met her in Mexico, where we went swimming in the ocean and ate fresh fruit and released baby sea turtles onto a patch of clean sand. We slept in the same bed, and saw thunder clouds roll over the hillside where we were staying, and walked up a very large hill every evening to get back to the house. Once, there was a rather frantic iguana in a tree at the bottom of the hill; another time, we went out on a boat and saw a pod of dolphins swim alongside us, and I didn’t even throw up from seasickness.

I realize that it certainly sounds like I got the benefits of travel, so I probably did. I drank the milk of a fresh coconut!!! What else on earth could revive a person from existential malaise!!! Mostly, though, what I’m grateful for from that trip was just my sister, who I had missed so badly, and who I miss again now. This is the problem with air travel, really: not that I have existential questions about whether I feel fully vacationed, but that it became so easy to leave our families that we sometimes forget it was ever (recently!) possible that they were here.

It’s cool enough now (high of about 90; lows in the 50s-60s) that I can wear long pants and I’m going to plant my garden. (I’m actually a couple of weeks behind my normal gardening schedule, but that’s what happens when you go out of town, I guess.) (I’m going to put the ranunculus corms back in the soil and hope they survived; I also bought some new ones which haven’t arrived yet, so there is a chance my garden will be, in the spring, a transcendent floral paradise. I still have so many pictures of this year’s ranunculus blooms in my phone that it’s a little bit deranged, but every time I look at them they wash over my spirit like a cool wave and I can’t quite bring myself to delete them.)

The birds still sing here in the fall; more so, actually. Last night I did an event about literary translation for A Public Space & the #TolstoyTogether reading of War and Peace (which is having an encore right now in celebration of the Tolstoy Together companion book, quite recently published). I was in conversation with the translator Thomas Kitson, and we had a grand time. I was nervous leading up to it, because I get nervous before and after every event, even though I am perfectly happy during.

This Saturday (10/23, at 4:30pm PDT/5:30 CDT/7:30EST) I’m reading from End of the World House at an event with the wonderful Brandon Hobson, for the Southwest Word Fiesta.  So I guess I will be moderately nervous until then, and afterwards I will go out into the garden and see if any seeds have sprouted.