Moving day

Princes, adorn yourselves!
This earthly house is not our home.
Princes, adorn yourselves! 

A fragment of old poetry, translated from Nahuatl to Spanish to English. I did the Spanish-English translation years ago, but still don’t know what the writer meant by Princes, adorn yourselves! To prepare for the journey? To celebrate it?

Put on me a necklace
Of varied flowers.
They are in my hands,
Garlands flower on me.
We will leave the earth here.
We are loaned to one another.
We go to His house.

That’s another translation. I’m guessing it’s from the same Nahuatl original.

I left my bottle of flowers on a random doorstep, because they would not travel well. Hopefully the person who finds the daffodils in the lemonade bottle will be pleasantly surprised. My garlands are boxes of clothing, a red bicycle, and an unused banjo in need of repair. The Asheville apartment was boxed up, the forecast was rain. A good excuse to linger in town, postpone loading the bike rack until tomorrow… an unexpected urge, given my excitement to leave. But the daffodils and forsythia were out, and the redbuds were fat, and the birds sang. Spring was about to pop. It’s rumored that spring and summer in Asheville are top notch: festivals, music, exuberance, joy. There’s a lot more to see and do here. But maybe another year. I packed boxes into the car between spells of drizzle, grateful for the slight clearing. My week of solitude had been enjoyable, but it was time to go.

Hot beverage
Typical evening fun

I’d reverted, laughably quickly, to a tame spinsterhood in J.’s absence. (He left for Georgia several days before. His paying job was over, and he was drafted as a shuttler of recently repaired family vehicles.) Alone in the apartment, I was like a grandmother in an independent living facility: baby carrots and popcorn and microwaved soup for dinner, washing my singleton dishes to a soundtrack of NPR on a clock radio, in bed by 9:30, wrapped in blankets with a candle on the nightstand, reading my library book until it’s no longer indecently early to fall asleep. Not unfun, really.

I also read Asheville: A History, by Nan Chase. Without the internet, which J. took with him, I actually visited the library in person. After reading a few chapters after work, I’d walk around town, absorbing the living history, comparing notes and impressions with the history I’d learned. The book explained many previously confounding Asheville paradoxes. Despite an SUV’s bumpersticker that proclaimed “Keep Asheville Mediocre,” Asheville is a city of extremes, nothing mediocre about it.  “Asheville: Sweet Cesspool of Sin,” sported by more than a few rundown Toyotas, may be a bit more apt. Because the town contains both the grand Art Deco high school… and the painful and belated racial integration of same. The Grove Park Inn… and crumbling sidewalks. Magnificent public edifices… and apathy masquerading as uniqueness or bohemianism. The liberal “Coexist!” enthusiasm… the persistent segregation of the community. Pride and neglect. Warmth and coolness. Skill at craft and music, skill at boozing and mooching. Even an unenlightened newcomer can sense the legacy of the extreme boom-and-bust cycles of Asheville, which, after the Depression, had the greatest per-capita debt of any city in the United States. It took until 1976 for those debts to be paid: a wonderful time capsule for architecture, but a lousy omen for infrastructure. The effects still reverberate today in overgrown underbrush (is that an oxymoron?), the kudzu choking the flowering trees, nature overtaking blacktop.

Triangle Park Mural
A small part of the Triangle Park Mural

After clocking those last few, historically tinted miles on my labyrinthine MapMyRun of Asheville Ramblings, it was time for goodbyes, or goodbye-for-nows. I did not make fast friends here. I am a slow friendmaker. But I did make a handful of lovely acquaintances with potential. I made cocoa truffles as a gesture of thanks for my coworkers, dusted with red Hawaiian sea salt, toasted coconut, and cayenne pepper. For Carl and Jude, the lovely couple at the Farmacy Juice & Tonic Bar; for Rosanne, kind owner of the Market—the folks who let me paint their windows. For Sumitra, the tea bar woman who soothed J. and my post-move nerves with Pu-erh. And for my workmates, whether stylish, quiet, mysterious, jack-up, depressed, grumpy, kind, and/or deeply good. All containing hidden talents which I did not stay long enough to know. Everyone wrote notes in a card that Nicki gave to me along with that lemonade bottle filled with daffodils. Really touching notes. I was surprised to feel so sad to leave them. Does a part of me like leaving places because leaving makes people show you their affection?

We are loaned to one another.
We go to His house.

It’ll be good to return to the mothership for a few days: J.’s parents’ house. To smell country air and watch bluets, violets, and henbit shade the lawn lavender. To squeeze onto the sofa between family, one old cat, three dogs, maybe a rabbit. Then it is on to the next house, and again and again, until we make our own. Our own bit of earth, until we leave it. Every day is moving day!

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