Over the Wall

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Last week, we packed a couple of suitcases, loaded into a rental, and headed for the hills. It had been a while since my last cross-country road trip, which I remember only vaguely as a breakneck race to Salt Lake City, where I writhed my way through a butoh-inspired performance, then rushed back to LA without seeing much of anything. It was high time for a new Great American Expedition, and G attending a conference in Aspen meant the time was right. This expedition turned out to be the missing piece I needed to feel at ease with my return to the US, so I’ll have to tell you about the trip itself some other time.

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This move had been something of a struggle for me, even six months in. When we left for Ireland, I’d already been gone from LA for eight months, intending to head abroad as soon as I could – a return to California so soon wasn’t part of the plan. But neither was meeting my forever-copilot, and as our shiny future rolled out before us, plans changed: G’s workplace asked him to come back and we decided it was best, for now. Not an easy choice, because Ireland, far away from “home” as it may be for this Russian and her Slovenian beau, felt so right. Still, the belonging we both feel on European soil pales next to the belonging that is us, together, wherever our trajectory may lead.

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Falling in love with Ireland was easy. It was just like true love at first sight, with initial infatuation followed by discovering and adjusting to its various idiosyncrasies, to be rewarded with more and more enchantment along the way. A lively, soulful place with so much history, however troubled, and so much natural splendor and magic was almost impossible for me to leave for the too-familiar Californian shores. Returning to a place I felt so done with felt totally counterintuitive, but, for the first time, I moved because it was necessary for the future I imagined, rather than committing to an impulse.

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Still, knowing I made the correct choice and living with it did not align without significant effort. I had moved away just as my own metamorphosis took shape – a new locale simply made sense. Returning to California a vastly different person than the one who left almost two years ago was surprisingly discombobulating. Readjusting to American everything, even though I called this place home for over two decades, somehow took more work than readily slipping into Dublin life. Sifting through old friendships to find many of them atrophied was a surprise, too. I attribute the latter to something a friend and I discussed recently: US friends require a fair amount of maintenance, whereas in Russia, for instance, friends are friends for life, homes open to each other whether it’s been a year or a decade since your last conversation. I won’t speculate as to why things are different here, but they are, and I’ve adjusted my expectations accordingly, if not readily.

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After moving into a great apartment complex and quickly configuring our new home base, I expected to adjust to NorCal life with ease, as I have with all my moves. Instead – surprise! I got sick for a long time. Mystery fatigue, fever, a heinous sinus infection; I’d have to be in denial to not acknowledge these were manifestations of inner turmoil over my decision. The manicured 20th-century Silicon Valley sprawl made for a stark contrast to our Irish residence in old Kilmainham. My grandmother had descended into the depths of Alzheimer’s. Planning a belated wedding reception in Slovenia (we were married last year in a beautiful, private Ljubljana Castle ceremony but had no time to officially celebrate), to discover only a handful of my friends would come chipped away at the emotional resources I needed to recover. Turns out, there was a lot for me to deal with back in America. Running away was fun and (relatively) easy, but coming back to face the fallout was imperative.

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I had a tall wall to climb, but after four months of reflection, powered in equal parts by determination and love, I started to return to form. I finished a hyper-detailed new drawing, began to take advantage of the gym and went to a few art shows. I began to dig my immediate surroundings. We began practicing Taiji. I sent outdated expectations into the stratosphere and hung out with old and new friends. I took a long drive with my copilot and was thoroughly dazzled by American topography for the first time in the two decades I’ve spent here. We drank out of mountain streams, splashed in hidden hilltop waterfalls, made snow angels in salt flats and climbed brick-red mountains at sunset while holding hands. As we drove on, I was floored by natural splendor on an hourly basis. Somewhere along the way I embraced the change, peered hard into the shiny future, made the final push and flung myself over the wall for good.

A friend recently told me he’s always seen me as a “citizen of the world” rather than belonging in any one place. I agreed then, but only fully comprehend it now.

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Until the Future!

About

Artist, photographer and writer, dedicated to proving that life is as beautiful as we make it.

16 Comments

  1. jennifer murphy /

    Beautifully written, clear as mountain water. My door will always be open to you and your forever copilot.

  2. Zoetica Ebb /

    Thank you, Jenni – same goes double for you! So glad I finally got to see your face on this trip and squish you after all this time.

  3. Sabrina Rodríguez /

    Beautiful words and pictures. I’ve never been on the US but I feel I would not like it. I’ve been living in Dominican Republic and Mexico and there is something about America that alienates me. I know those countries are different from the US but, you know, there everything is bigger, faster… It’s too much for me. I love Europe.

  4. Zoetica Ebb /

    Thanks, Sabrina! Thing is, I like big and fast – but I also love deep personal connections and find that they are significantly more difficult to forge here. In the short time I was in Ireland, I made closer friends than folks I’ve known stateside for years, and that’s pretty telling. There is a lot to love about the US, but I doubt we’ll stay here permanently.

  5. Mary /

    Beautiful read, I have never been to Ireland but I’m from south america and understand the feeling about friendships in the US, after 4 years of living in Northern CA I always go back home, give anybody a call and we go back to the last page we remember like it wasn’t so long ago, while in the US friends feel like they have to be chased down :/
    Nature though in CA has always given me a bit of balance for the craziness of the cities, good luck with the rest of the time around the US. Cheers!

  6. Zoetica Ebb /

    Thanks, Mary! I’m happy that the notion of more, let’s say, “casual friendship” doesn’t apply to everyone in the states, but it can’t be an accident that most of my long-term, closest friends have been other immigrants. Not everyone, but lots. The melting pot aspect of America is awesome that way, alongside with its crazy natural beauty.

  7. GINNY /

    You know you’ve always got a place here with me no matter how long it’s been or if you only have ten minutes… <3

  8. Nikki /

    Wonderfully written and those photos are gorgeous. (Your jacket is divine!)

    I’ve been down here in the US from Canada for work related things for the past month, and while it has been fairly wonderful so far for the most part, there is definitely a different vibe that has been hard to get a proper grasp of. Which probably sounds silly considering how close the countries are but it is most definitely different down here. I also moved from the western side of Canada all the way to the eastern midwest, which in itself is a change to say the least.

  9. Zoetica Ebb /

    Thank you, Nikki – glad you enjoyed this! I am a little surprised that it’s that different here versus Canada, but I’ve only been to Canada twice, so my experience is very limited. I do recall everyone being kind and charming!

  10. Jeanne /

    Hey Zo! it’s so good to read you again.
    I am so happy to read about your happiness (I remember when we met and you talked about G, and how you let him enter in your life), but also sad to read abour you difficulties to reconnect with friends when moving back, wich seems very odd and unfair to me.
    It feels good to read you again! I’ve always enjoyed it, I love how your adventure turn like a metaphysical experience (the power of writing).
    Bisou!

  11. Zoetica Ebb /

    Hi Jeanne! Thank you for the words of encouragement. I have been thinking about writing more, and it felt really good to sit down for a few hours and do it after this wonderful trip we took. I hope for more times like this!

    While it’s sad to see people fade away from my life, I guess in some cases that’s the price of moving around, even with the internet being the Grand Connecter. Part of it is that all my old friends are in SoCal but we moved to NorCal, so I’m not exactly *there*. Another aspect of this is that my life is drastically different now than it was before – I suppose that must be a little strange for some, too. And perhaps my friendships were overdue for a culling, anyway!

    Yes, I remember that G and I had only been together a short while when you and I finally met – seems so long ago now, even though it really wasn’t. So much has happened since! Everything has been totally surreal from the second we entered each other’s lives.

    xx

  12. Mike Lazarev /

    You can be of this world, but not in it… anywhere you go… Another famous quote that comes to mind is Thomas Wolfe’s “You can’t go home again…” – well, perhaps not a quote, but a whole novel. Dealing with the reminders of the past (or running away from them) is a part of our lives. It is that permanence through time of things remaining the same, and yet the inevitable impermanence of it all, that reminds us of our own temporary and borrowed time that we have left. Sometimes it’s important to reflect on the past. Sometimes that’s what helps us shape our future. But more importantly, the only thing that one can truly grasp is the present. And when you focus on the present moment, everything is always new. You have never been here before, at this very moment…

  13. Ashbet /

    Don’t discount the distance/different culture in NoCal vs. SoCal — I’m used to seeing friends all over the world when I travel/visit, but it amazes me how physically and logistically far-apart people from NorCal and SoCal are. They seem to socialize a lot less with people who are technically in their same state, versus some other part of the country.

    Lovely to see you back and writing again, and your trip with your beloved G. sounds heavenly!! <3

  14. Zoetica Ebb /

    Ashbet, thank you! It’s a big state, to be sure, but I think the issue is largely individual rather than logistical – the internet make it really easy to keep in touch, if the drive is there. Some people make an effort, catch up when the opportunity arises, are excited to reconnect whenever, while others do none of the above.

    Mike, I don’t feel my time is borrowed at all, to be honest. I am acutely aware of its limits, however, which is one of the driving factors behind just about all my decisions (see this website’s URL). To that end, I’ve never fully accepted the idea of home for myself, because it didn’t seem to apply – the closest thing to the concept is the idea of friendship. Fellow travelers whose psychological trajectories align with or complement my own.

  15. Eric B. /

    Beautiful post Zo, an inspiring read. I’m really happy for you, for both of you. I look forward to many new adventures as you three (can’t forget Micron!) zoom about, stateside in your shiney silver spaceship!
    I read this awhile ago but forgot to comment, busy getting ready for a little trip myself! Sadly my pictures will not be as wonderful as yours, nor will my posts revelatory or uplifting but I’ll try. Not sure what awaits me in Las Vegas or the outlying desert, but if I knew would there really be a point in going?
    Salut! & Godspeed to you Zo!

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