It’s now official. I am a resident of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Driver’s license? Check.
Brand new long puffy parka jacket hanging in my closet? Check.
First snow flurries? Happened yesterday.
After months of talking about it, then planning for it, then diving in and heading east, I have arrived.
My husband is originally from here , which is the main reason we decided to relocate. The thing he says to everyone who wants to know just a wee bit more about his longing to return home is that being here feels normal. There are no palm trees. It rains. A lot. When shopping for a Christmas tree, it will be cold. Guaranteed. Our motivation for packing up everything we own and moving to the Midwest was not so much about reasons that, while understandable, are also vague – “It was time to return to my roots!” – this adventure is more about countless smaller details that we’re now moving through everyday.
I’ve moved here after spending twenty-two years in California; I moved to California after spending the first twenty-seven years of my life on the east coast, mainly in Alexandria, Virginia. I’ve experienced winter and its requisite accessories – snow boots, ice scrapers, electric blankets – so the thought of Wisconsin’s colder climates never daunted me. I’m indulging my own particular longings in this move, in fact, mainly having to do with growing weary of southern California’s nearly year-round sunny-and-72 climate. Because it isn’t sunny-and-72 anymore, but blazing, dry, and extreme. Just last week it was 102 degrees in Santa Barbara, an occurrence that is fast become de riguer rather than exceptional.
During this time of getting settled into our home, learning my way around, and figuring out new routines related to cold-weather preparedness (when in doubt, bring the hat), I’ve been surprised to see and experience how so many everyday details of this place feel normal to me, too. A deep normal, a cellular normal.
I’m not from Milwaukee, but Milwaukee is a much closer kindred to Alexandria than Santa Barbara. When I take a deep inhale in our backyard, hear the rain pelting our windows, and watch gold leaves twirl down to the earth like weightless ballerina fairies, everything within me says, “Yes – this makes sense.”
I hadn’t expected to feel this way when we got here. I was looking forward to the seasons, to not having to worry about fires and earthquakes, to something different. What I didn’t know was that my very cells have long been harboring desires for the kind of seasonal rhythms and routines that were never possible on the west coast. Right here, right now – looking out my window at a soft gray sky and nary a shadow in sight – I feel normal.
When I set these new views alongside the ones we had in Santa Barbara, it is the quality of the light that sets them apart the most. Just over four months ago, everything around me was bright and glittery and intense. On the hotter days, after months without rain, it seemed like I was literally watching the sun scorch the earth. The scenes outside rarely gave any insight as to the season or time of year. For some, this sounds heavenly. For me, over time, it became oppressive.
When I try to explain this, most everyone responds with, “Talk to me in February.” Fair enough. Maybe by then I’ll be totally over it by then – the cold, the gray skies, the muted light. It is entirely possible. But for now, I’m savoring every bit of it, feeling grateful for the gentle blanket of gray that seems to be snuggling us down for the interim. I don’t miss the glaring light or the sharp outlines of palm trees at dusk, and I am ready to hunker down and let nature do its work where I can’t see it – beneath the ground, in the dark, while I sleep.
About the Author: Christine Mason Miller
Christine Mason Miller is an author and artist who has been inspiring others to create a meaningful life since 1995. Follow her adventures at www.christinemasonmiller.com.