Monday, January 18, 2010

Further West Than We Thought

When you step over the borderline of the "known" into the land of the "unknown," you take a risk. But this borderline is so unendingly fruitful, we just say "Okay." We take the risk. — Werner Sobek, architect and engineer
My last week at work I took a back way to the office. There are vast tracts of farmland and woods here, a district impossible according to previous experience and landmarks. The road winds between dell and vale, through hunting grounds and an old graveyard, and I wish I’d known these paths years before, but catch myself, grateful I know them now.

The sun glitters through trees, through the grey and silent world, dumb with frost, and the road finally opens to the back streets of Phoenixville. The bridge at Gay Street has been rebuilt, and it takes me across the Schuylkill to the wide, low skyline. Everything familiar has changed and been reborn in our time here. The old steel city itself, and more recently familiar, everyday haunts: my gym, which closed without notice; my company, which has relocated to a new building. We have sold our house and live in a back room of our friends’ house in Spring City. Everywhere I go, walking through a restaurant, driving through fields, the words rise up in me like a prayer: We are moving to New Zealand.

It is not lost on me that our new quarters are situated on the corner of Wall Street and Park Road, the convergence of material and creative abundance. It’s a fitting wink to the work Jenifer and I have done this past year, to our aspirations and willingness to identify and seek opportunity. I can safely say we had no idea New Zealand would change our lives.

During our first trip three years ago, we quickly fell in love with New Zealand and its people, making lifelong friends and discovering a pioneering culture that offered seemingly unlimited opportunity in our respective fields. Afterwards I came home and (according to reports of dubious origin) stomped around the house muttering, “I want to live in Wellington.” That was a start, setting an intention, but really no way to manifest a new reality. We didn’t know how to make this leap, what mechanisms were needed to click us out of one life and into another.

I made another push towards Los Angeles. But searching for work you don't really want has a way of wearing on you. Hawk's arrival the next year changed everything. His presence, his needs, his potential and my awareness of my role in fostering it led to a serious contemplation of Where I Was and Where I Was Going. After Hawk's name came to us (there is no other way to put it), we learned that, apart from its being derived from the Old Norse word for the bird, as well as a first name, it comes from an ancient Indo-European root that means "to seize." This was wonderfully appropriate for him as well as an ongoing lesson.  

Questions arose. About the conditions of my life, what I really want for myself, the life I want to give my son. David Byrne's shrill voice sang in my head, asking: What am I still doing in this house? Why am I still doing this corporate work? And: Why don't I wear autumn colors more often?

At the same time Jenifer, less given to brooding, was searching and finding answers of her own. Last winter (in the northern hemisphere), she discovered a holistic health practice for sale in Wellington. It met every criteria she had established for the kind of business she wanted to run, and in May we returned for a scouting trip. It turned out to be exactly right.

The next six months were jam-packed with a seemingly endless stream of tasks. Filing our application with Immigration New Zealand, which meant writing a business plan and accumulating sufficient evidence as to our Good Character and general Suitability. Preparing our house for market. Selling it. 

An odd thing happened during all this. I started getting good at it. Meaning, there was so much to do in any given week (on top of raising a small child and visiting with two sets of grandparents most weekends) precious little time was left for worrying about how I was going to finish everything. Paying bills, running errands, keeping up with the house--all the things Normal People do--now seemed within my everyday capacity. I got less practiced at procrastination. Maybe taking on the opportunity before us was my way of taking responsibility for my life. Maybe I was growing up.

I don't think moving to New Zealand is required for this. For us, however, it's what we needed to integrate our individual and shared dreams, to spend more time together, to live in a harbor city, to create a way of living that's in step with who we'd become while living in and outgrowing a small condo in a small town in Pennsylvania.

As I've shared the news of our plans, responses have been mixed. Some regard us with supportive excitement, others as if we are sailing into the West, to the shores of Valinor. (And perhaps we are, though I promise we’re going by plane.) The most common question is what my family thinks. Our move will be hard on them, no doubt, but I trust that through the distance we will grow closer.

There are many things I will miss. Perhaps most of all will be the sweetness of this time, these last days in the world we've inherited, when we didn't yet know the shape our dreams would take.

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Blogger Jack M. said...

Waiting with open arms, mate. The weather has improved, too!

- Jack M.

6:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautiful post! And being with you guys since your first trip to New Zealand, it has been great to see this dream manifest. I am so happy for you guys!!!

love, Sherpa

6:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautiful post! And being with you guys since your first trip to New Zealand, it has been great to see this dream manifest. I am so happy for you guys!!!

love, Sherpa

6:15 PM  
Blogger Eric D. Lehman said...

It is the culimination of your shared creativities, your shared crafts.

It has been unavoidable in some form, and this is the best of all possible forms, the best of choices.

9:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I stumbled onto your blog via the comment you left on the Colonial Theater Facebook. Though I don't know you, I enjoyed this entry very much. Best of luck in New Zealand and hello from Phoenixville!


Rich Wilhelm

10:33 PM  
Blogger Ryan Rasmussen said...

Thanks, everyone! So far, so good. And to Rich, hope all is well in Phoenixville!

10:54 PM  

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