So, I drove to Richmond to visit my sister last week – hadn’t been to see her since we moved, and since I’m unemployed and she has the day off…

Thought I would take a shortcut of sorts, driving down 33E rather than subjecting myself to the mini-horror that is 29N and the mind-numbing sameness of 64E. Wasn’t prepared for all the ghosts floating up before me on the trip though.

It was a gorgeous day – something I definitely will NOT miss about Pittsburgh is gray, cold weather, even in June. This day was warm, summer-warm, and it seemed as if the Earth had turned green overnight. I drove past millions of antique shops and acre upon rolling acre of horse farms, wineries, the fencing rolling up and down, up and down like a wave machine in a Sharper Image store (how’s that for forced simile?).

Passed by the Barboursville Ruins and vineyard and it reminded me of a trip made long ago by myself, my cousin Kelly, and her roommate, Marnie. We were headed to see my cousin’s sister at JMU for the weekend and took the long way. Stopped off at the ruins and lay in the grass on the first pretty spring day of the year. Then traveled along 33W with Belly’s “Feed the Tree” blaring out of the stereo. Heard that song the other day as I was dropping off donate-ables to the Salvation Army. The drive and the song whispering, “Remember me? Remember that trip you took?”

At the time I was so up in the air, nothing solid, nothing stable, and I remember passing a white farmhouse with a cerise roof. “I want to live there,” I thought, “right there.” Big oak tree, big porch, sunny day. Bright red roof. That house promised stability, contentment, home, and family. My heart actually lurched and I wanted that and what it represented more than anything on this green earth. It felt like something I could hold onto.

The trip itself was great fun – Jenny was (and still is) a tremendous actress and her and her roommates at JMU had rented a farm house in the sticks. Huge party that night, everyone drinking, sleeping in the grass. We lost our keys somewhere. I remember a short guy on a porch playing an acoustic version of “Tangled Up in Blue”. Cows mooing along to the melody, fireflies bouncing. And that cerise roof. Still on my mind.

Now, driving to Richmond, I began to look for it unconsciously. That ghost from my past. Drove the whole way down 33E looking for it. Saw some that looked similar but weren’t quite the right shade. Me looking for ghosts.

I found them in Richmond. In the shops and the streets my sister and I walked in Richmond. We ate lunch in Nacho Mama’s and it was as crappy as it ever was. Plan 9 still around. Luxor still around. Saw glimpses of old friends, looking older, grayer. Saw my favorite professor walking into Barnes and Noble – same gray hair. Still with that childlike twinkle and smile about her. Didn’t have the guts to say hello. Had that fear I would see in her eyes something that said, “Wow, you sure have changed.”

Saw the most ghosts in World of Mirth as my sister and I shopped for my cousin Kelly’s baby shower next week. I felt them all around me swirling, hovering, like a hand on a shoulder or a breath on the back of your neck. Kept expecting Kathryn to walk out the back or to see Bryan slumped on a sofa which isn’t there anymore. It wasn’t creepy per se, or even unsettling. Just found I had to breathe a little more to get through it. I don’t care what people say – it’s always going to be a little tough for me to shop there. The altar at the front of the store startled me so much I dropped my bag and gave a little, “Oh!”. Didn’t expect to see that there, and it made me turn away…

I miss them so damn much.

Drove home late that night with an almost full moon above me, its light settling itself on everything I sped past. I felt the ghosts swirling, rising, and then settling again. Took 64W to Gordonsville, heading up 15N for a spell. The moon shining, I suddenly get this feeling that I’ve been on this road before, this very one. I know I have. Something tells me that this is the road with the red roof. I know it, but of course, even with the moon’s light I cannot see it. I drive on and out of 7,000 songs on my IPod, what comes on? House of Freaks song, “40 years” starts playing. Then my mother’s favorite – Rod Stewart’s “Reason to Believe”. Then Francis Dunnery singing about how he’s going to take my mother away so I can be broken down and then built back up again.

You can’t tell me the ghosts aren’t out tonight. I can feel them. I’m not scared, not comforted, just aware that they are about. And I just keep driving. And breathing.

A funny thing has happened since we have moved back to Virginia. The feeling I got from seeing that house so long ago has appeared again inside me. It’s like a seed, or a low, blue flame. I feel a little glimmer of something like contentment growing with each day I spend here. I still feel like a stranger – it’s so different from Pittsburgh, but that feeling lessens each day I spend walking our woods. Not to be too schmaltzy or anything, but I may have just found something. There’s just such a rightness to everything for the first time in a long time.

Second Postscript:
A week before going to Richmond, I had a dream about Bryan. We were in his studio, and he was telling me how excited he was because his new album was coming out, and Kathryn was pregnant again. I awoke smiling, feeling like I had been to another place, a better place…

The Best Part of My Day (11/18/07)

Originally published elsewhere on the date indicated

Sunday, and I’m hurting. I herniated a cervical disc, C-5, and so now I’m groggy on muscle relaxers that at least dull the pain to a soft throb, but leave me feeling like a zombie.

It’s gray and cold, but I’m excited because Bruce and I will be moving next March to Charlottesville, closer to family, closer to more sun, closer to friends, closer to everything. I can’t wait.

The best part of my day today was checking my voicemail and finding that my favorite Ya-Yas were “wayward” :0)

I loved the message guys, you brought me right out of my funk. Kelly, I left you a message sweetie, happy birthday ma deah, welcome to “da club” :0)

The Best Part of My Day (10/27/07)

Originally published elsewhere on the date indicated

Woke up feeling yucky with a cold, it’s freezing and breezy out so I made coffee, pancakes and turkey bacon. Read the paper and then went and took a bath. I have this glorious bubble bath that smells like the sea, I mean, JUST like the beach. It’s fucking awesome. And shower gel to go with it. I luxuriated in the bubbles and fell asleep in the steam listening to kickass music. I swear there’s not much that a bath won’t cure.

The Best Part of My Day (10/22/07)

Originally published elsewhere on the date indicated

Bruce went to Charlottesville for an interview (keep your fingers crossed!) and I was feeling puny because I felt like a single parent – just me and Lois, no breaks. So I called in sick and went out to shop – sat in Barnes and Nob-lays, ate a Reese’s Cup cookie and a coffee with lots of half and half and honey. Made my Christmas lists, read my travel writing book, and bought some cute patent leather flats. I grabbed some time for myself and never let go. It felt good.

The Best Part of My Day (10/21/07)

Originally published elsewhere on the date indicated

Definitely first thing that morning – sunrise. I’m riding in the car up to the park with Lois. She’s sitting in the driver’s seat, alert – looking at everything. She’s smiling at me with her big toothy grin. The fog is rising up over the trees, everything is quiet, and we’re listening to Paul Simon’s “Me and Julio Down By the School Yard” It’s such a completely happy moment, that I feel like I’m in a movie. Just Lois and me riding off into the sunrise.

The Best Part of My Day (10/16/07)

Originally published elsewhere on the date indicated

This favorite part of the day is simple – I had one of those simply horrendous days, one of those days at work where nothing you do is right, and you have not one bloody minute to yourself to even inhale your lunch.

But I come home, let Lois out back to pee, and spend 10 minutes playing ball with her and all is right with the world. The way she greets me at the door with such pure, unbridled happiness is enough to erase everything that has happened up to that point. All I see is her toothy smile, panting, tongue hanging out, excitement in her eyes and her ears perked up because I’m about to throw the ball again. I love her so much. She lives in the moment, always in the present moment. It’s a way I’d like to learn. It’s a good way to be.