photo by Paul Mayer



After her divorce, my youngest sister moved closer to the center of town. Her street is a cul de sac primarily of duplexes, inhabited by highly educated, multi-ethnic, mixed-aged residents, both married and divorced. This is where she now rents and where she has found a real neighborhood.

A small creek runs behind my sister’s house, visible from the window over the kitchen sink. And just beyond the homes at the end of the cul-de-sac: train tracks. Where a commuter train frequently comes whistling through, connecting ‘burbs such as hers to downtown Boston.

The sound of the train gives me comfort when I visit. Day and night it’s a type of clockwork. As in Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, everything seems to be running on time, as it should. But I know I derive more pleasure from this than my sister, for train trips had filled our family’s earliest vacations. By the time she was born, our family was flying.

After my divorce, I flung myself out to California. The seed for that, I believe, was planted long ago on those family train trips west to explore the national parks and reach The Pacific. I will always credit the railroad for opening my world. Whether the seed was planted in me, or I left a part of myself there, I don’t know. But I came to live out west and have given it the greater part of my life.

A seed knows how to wait. Most seeds wait for at least a year before starting to grow; a cherry seed can wait for a hundred years with no problem. What exactly each seed is waiting for is known to only that seed. Some unique trigger-combination of temperature-moisture-light and many other things is required to convince a seed to jump off the deep end and take its chance—to take its one and only chance to grow. 

Each beginning is the end of a waiting. We are each given exactly one chance to be. Each of us is both impossible and inevitable. Every replete tree was first a seed that waited. Hope Jahren, Lab Girl

The west calls to me with its wide open spaces and quietude—even in the cities, where drivers don’t lean on their horns and honk. I applaud that. When I fly back to Seattle from Boston, even the freeways feel like meditation. After all that honking and yelling and road rage.

One girl’s Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood; the other girl’s Bonanza. In one scenario a track runs round n round an idyllic village on a model train table. In the other, the tracks go the distance and seem to disappear, only to start a whole new life somewhere.

What calls people west? What makes some New Englanders stay and others go? Come to think of it, Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood was not only what my sister needed at the time, but what she has always wanted. Whereas I was always pushing out.

We are each given one chance to be. Each of us is both impossible and inevitable.

My husband must be the same sort of soul. We recently recounted to a friend all the places we had lived since marrying, and how long now in The Pacific Northwest. “You are like the pioneers,” he smiled and said, “who settled here because this is where the wagon wheels fell off.”

I think that’s it. We age and we slow down or find ourselves at last.

Every replete tree was first a seed that waited.





Filed under moving west

13 responses to “Bonanza

  1. Hi Kim,
    This is my favorite one yet, or maybe it is coming to me at the exact right time. I have been pondering this almost non-stop of late, and just this morning had a conversation with a sister along these lines. Thanks for your lovely insights and for pushing them out. Katie

  2. Paul Mayer

    I love this spot up in Desolation Sound… my seed likes to float 😉

  3. This is very beautiful Kim. Both thought and emotion-provoking. I am at the cabin right now, raking and looking both at and through the trees, once seeds. I can hear the freeway just barely but no trains. What’s wrong with the trains? They’ll come and I, well, I know how to wait. Thank-you for this. Beautifully written.

    • Sweetbriar, where you live and breath and make things with nature. And where your father, from his porch, could count the cars on the train going by across the river and through the trees just the sound or the seconds.

  4. Beth Yourgrau

    Beautiful. Your other sister (me) lives on a bit of a Leave it to Beaver Street in New England. Kids have lemonade stands, pick-up softball games in our always open to kids backyard and we have to dodge roller skaters and scooters on the sidewalks. But we always like packing up, hitting the road, railroad tracks, bike path or sky.
    And sure do like coming to The Pacific Northwest and Canada.

  5. Beautiful Kim. Love your writing. Is there anything you don’t do to perfection? I also love Paul’s photo. It reminds me so much of one we had years ago, and sold when we scaled down. Beautiful! If you get to SD, please look me up!

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