An Indefinite Season

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[gallery link="file"] I've done a round-table introduction just about every week since I moved across the country. After my name, I say where I’m from. It’s the natural next step in these kinds of “tell us a bit about yourself” prompts.  I’m Sam and I’m from Portland.

In some ways, being able to claim this city makes me sound cooler than I really am — I mean, my bike has brakes. Still, there is some truth to what people think. I do like flannel and farmers markets, indie bands, good coffee and bad beer.  And the collective feelings of the city are mine too. There is a comforting familiarity in gray days, and a sadness when they go on for too long. There is sense of searching, for both purpose and simplicity.

Portland is a word that I took with me.  It has been a way to explain, without saying much, what I love and look for in life. But recently, for the first time since I left, I was asked to talk about who I am now. I fumbled for a few short sentences that in the end didn’t say much at all. How could I define myself in fifty words without the one word that mattered? I could only begin with advice from Hemingway: “Start with the first true simple declarative sentence.”

Fall is here. Everywhere the trees are metaphors for change. I feel like a spectator of this season, no different than the leaf-peepers idling up the shoulder on the interstate. I don’t know how far we are into this process or how it will end — whether it will come quickly or be wicked away, gust by gust.

I don’t know what it means yet to claim this place. I catch glimpses maybe — of the New England thing — in katydids and the peeling paint on the front stoop. But I can’t read the sky here. I’m constantly caught without a coat or sweating in my boot-socks.

At home, I knew when the roses bloomed a few weeks early.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the trees, and about the way we describe them. Trees are green. Trees have leaves. But in October, they defy their definition. They’re aflame with orange and red. Soon they will be bare. Each day they are less recognizable, less “tree” in the way we define it.

To describe myself, I’m left with words like “once was” and “not quite,” words that hint at incompleteness.  They mean that I’m losing, or gaining something – what exactly, I’m not sure yet.  Perhaps it is my sense of place; I’ve lost belonging and gained becoming.