Thursday, January 31, 2013

Quote - on books

Creative Commons License

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

How to build a home

Moving is hard. On any list of life stressors, it's right up there with marriage, death and taxes. Having recently moved, I'd argue that not only is the move hard, the rebuilding is hard and is a separate task unto itself.

In early January, my sweetheart and I moved from Boston to Kansas City. I've written about it elsewhere in this blog, so I won't rehash it here. For the last two weeks we've been unpacking and settling into our new home, working together to build a place that is comfortable and comforting.

Building a home, simply unpacking and settling in, is hard work so I've been thinking about what constitutes home. It's pretty complex. Home ranges from the personal (the space I live in, the layout, design, meaning of stuff) to the communal (the community within which I live, my neighborhood, my social networks, my work) to the geographic (the neighborhood, city, country, language, weather) and undoubtedly other factors I'm forgetting. Building a home requires manipulating those factors you can control and gaining an understanding of those you cannot.

For the last few weeks, Kevin and I have been working on the personal (the easiest to control) unpacking, choosing where pictures go, what we will see when we walk in the house, what do we need to adjust to be more comfortable. What we value is revealed by what we choose to focus on. I unpacked the kitchen and books, he worked on technology. We set up our bedroom together first, so we could nest, then the office, so we'd each have a place to work. It was the easiest and most effective way we could care for ourselves and each other. There's still a lot of personal homebuilding to go, but we're on our way. The personal act of homebuilding seems to be dogged determination as much as anything. Keep unpacking. Keep deciding. Keep working until it's done.

The communal homebuilding is slower and harder to control. We were lucky, in that we have a friend in town, the wonderful storyteller Priscilla Howe. She's made sure we know where the good stuff is, has comforted and listened to us. We're working on building community through work and play and neighbors. It takes time to build community and relationships; I have no doubt we will. I don't feel a need to rush it, I'd rather let the heart move at its own pace.

The geographic is the hardest to impact and build, though brings offers unexpected and necessary  comforts. We picked a great neighborhood in a cool city. While we speak the same language our ears are still tuning to the regional accent. And this morning, the weather gave me a gift that helps me feel at home, far more than I expected.

I woke up to a rainstorm. I love the rain. Hearing the rain this morning removed me from my anxiety about new place, new home, more work to do. All I had to do was listen and I remembered the home I carry inside of me.

And this is what I really wanted to say. Homebuilding is a complex and ongoing act. Our homes are both external and internal - the places we live and the internal life. As long as we retain a link to our internal homes, the key parts of ourselves that help us understand who we are, the external homebuilding becomes easier. We just have to remember to be willing to notice.

Of course, the picture goes there. Yes, community will emerge. And look, the rain finds me within myself, again and again and again.

(c)2013 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The sounds of my new home

Any move includes a lot to get used to. The layout of the new house, the resources in the new town, the accents and social mores... right now, all of it is the same and oddly different. Kansas City isn't so different from Boston, yet it's a world apart.

I thought it might be interesting to think about the parts of my home that are new to me in sensory terms, describe my new world with images you can consider. I thought I would start with sound.

  1. Helicopters. My old house was on a very quiet street. This street is also quiet, however it's spitting distance from a teaching hospital, one of the better medical facilities in the area. Every day I hear helicopters, bringing people in for help. In Boston, I lived under an occasional flight path for jets approaching the airport, so the distant roar was familiar. Now I'm getting used to the Apocalypse Now sound of rotors.
  2. Dogs. There are a lot of dogs in this neighborhood. They like to talk to each other.
  3. The accent. A lovely, twangy, slower cadence of speech. And boy, do people like to talk here. 
  4. The furnace. The heat in this house is forced hot air, propelled along by a talkative furnace. Clearly, it's from Kansas City, talking. It rattles and chatters to itself as it warms us.
  5. The music. In Boston, when a car drives by with loud, basey music, it's often hip-hop. Here it's country. No less loud, no less basey. 
  6. And, oh, the trains. Kansas City is a freight train hub. At night I hear the long mournful wail.

All of this is to say I like it so far and am enjoying observing the differences. Soon enough these differences will be every day and familiar, so I wanted to capture them while I could.

Up next? The smells of my new home.

(c)2012 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

Friday, January 11, 2013

From Boston to Kansas City

So, I made it to Kansas City. The road was long and not without adventure, but (to spoil the ending) all is okay.

Last Saturday (less than a week ago!) Kevin and I were preparing for our going-away party. We were excited and tired and nervous. The movers had arrived the day before and much of our life was already boxed, but the party would be fun; among other things, we were getting married, surprising everyone who thought they had come to wish us a safe journey in the most literal sense.

Half-an-hour before we were to leave, both of us rushing to shower and dress, trying not to trip over boxes, we got a call from the realtor who had found us a home in Kansas City. The whole process had been a little odd, she'd refused to let us sign a lease though she happily took our money. She wanted us to sign once we arrived, saying that way we wouldn't be paying rent until we were there. We objected, she insisted, and we were so relieved at finding a home that we didn't push the way we should have.

The house had been sold, she told us. Sorry, you don't have a place to live or put your stuff when the movers make it to KC in 10 days.

Her story changed as she repeated it, so both Kevin and I believe she knew about the likely sale ahead of time, that this was why she didn't want us to sign a lease; we were her ace-in-the-hole if the sale fell through. Be that as it may, we didn't have time to worry about her unethical behavior, we had a party with a wedding to go to, we had movers to oversee... we were busy.

The party was fun, the wedding was great and the next day the movers came back. We decided I should go to KC early to find housing, so I left on Monday as the movers were packing the truck, leaving Kevin to deal with them and the apartment clean-up without me.

From Malden to Kansas City is about 1425 miles. I arrived Wednesday afternoon, 2-and-a-half days of determined driving. Tuesday, my longest driving day, covered 700 miles. Along the way I saw stunning landscape, eroding farmhouses, mountains and plains, the wonder and oddity of this country. It was beautiful. It also gave me time to process some of my emotions about leaving Boston and time to strategize around finding a home.

Upon my arrival I immediately saw two homes (one lovely but with a limited lease, the other not really what I was looking for). I was prepared to go with the limited lease, just to have a home base, when one last home listing caught my eye. I sent an email at 11pm Wednesday, looked at the property at 9am Thursday and had a signed lease by 1pm. Just like that.

This home is beautiful. It's in a great neighborhood, blocks from a terrific bookstore and shops, and the house itself is warm and bright. Clearly, all of this madness was the universe conspiring to give us the home we really needed, not just a good-enough place.

All told, I am grateful. I am also tired, worn-out, exhausted and weary. Today and tomorrow I'm mostly resting. Once we're settled I will rest a little more before I undertake my next adventure. Because that's what it all is. An adventure.

Life is shaped by how we view it. While all of this has been stressful I'd rather view it as an adventure and fodder for more stories, than see it as anything else.

I'll keep you posted. Who knows what else the road will bring?

(c)2012 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Oddservations: On the road

I drove 699 miles today, from central Pennsylvania to the western side of Illinois. Tomorrow I hit Kansas City.

While driving I saw:

  • A living room chair in the middle of the highway.
  • A matching chair a mile-and-a-half further down the road.
  • A truck with a giant crate, marked FRAGILE and THIS END UP, heading for Chicago. I looked for air-holes.
  • Lots of collapsing barns, which has me thinking about how farming has changed.
  • Several GIGANTIC crosses. I kept hoping for a gigantic Star of David, but haven't seen one yet.
  • and other things, I've already forgotten.
It's a big world. Go out and explore it.

(c)2013 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

Monday, January 7, 2013

The necessity of the unfurling road

The movers came on Friday. Saturday, I got married (that's a different post, but I'm happy). By Sunday night everything was packed. And today I set off on a 3-day drive to Kansas City while my sweetie (husband?!) supervised the truck loading and wrapped up the loose ends in Boston. He joins me in KC soon.

To say the last few days - actually the last few weeks - have been stressful is an understatement.

All that being said, it could be worse. I am on the road. I am safe. I love and am loved.

I drove today from Boston to central Pennsylvania. I have about 1000 miles to go. This gives me time to process some of my feelings of grief and exhaustion and anxiety about what will happen once I arrive.

There is something to be said for slower journeys. Once upon a time that meant by foot or horse or wagon; now driving is the slow way. As I watch the landscape change from the urban east coast to snow covered farms with encroaching developments, as I see the color of the sky change from ocean grey to mountain blue, as I prepare for the road ahead, I have time to watch my personal landscape change.

I don't know what my new internal map will look like. I know only that I will never know if I don't explore, if I don't take to the road and allow for the possibility of new places, new vistas, new selves.

Tomorrow is another long drive day, 500 miles or more. The ribbon of the road will carry me on and help me explore my new geography of self. I'll let you know who I find.

(c)2013 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

Thursday, January 3, 2013


Tomorrow, the movers come.

While that would be a terrible opening line for a film or short story, it fills me with dread and drama. Or is that excitement. Or maybe relief. I'm not sure which. So many reactions to that simple fact. Tomorrow, the movers come.

I've lived in the Boston area for 27 years, more or less. By this time next week I will be on a road trip, to my new home in Kansas City, Missouri. (I had to pause to make sure I was spelling Missouri correctly, though I can spell the equally complex Massachusetts with ease. So much to learn.)

I'm undertaking this move for all of the right reasons. My beloved has an exciting new job, I will be launching full-time into my own work, we're moving forward together into the next new adventure. But right now, all I can think is Tomorrow the movers come. I will be uprooted.

It's a complex thing, putting down roots in a place. It means you become accustomed to the faces and tones, the geology and geography, the way the light plays across the trees, the smell of the air. It's intimate. I know the subtle cues of spring here, that the scent of the marsh is rich with life, not rotten. I know how to navigate my home in the dark. My body has adapted to these seasons, this light, those drivers and that fit of a key in a lock.

And tomorrow, with no uncertainty, I am going to uproot myself and search for fertile soil 1500 miles (almost) away.

I know, people do this every day and often over far greater distances.
I know, modern technology will make this so much easier than it would have been pre-internet, pre-telephone, pre-postal system.
I know all of these things.

And I know I am echoing the American expansion (or invasion, depending on how you look at it) that I am following in the time-compressed footsteps of those who came to America, to Massachusetts, in search of new vistas, then left the East coast in search of wide open spaces. I know I will come to love the prairie and plain, the rhythms of the new city, the people and faces and scents that will be revealed to me.

I know all of these things. I know I am lucky and that unexpected joys await me, that my love and I are doing this together, that this is the best choice for us both.

But for right now? I just know that tomorrow, the movers come.

(c)2012 Laura S. Packer

p.s. Please don't worry. I'm okay. Feeling uprooted is natural and to be expected. I'm looking forward to digging into new soil and finding out who I grow into there. It's just in this moment, in this jumble of boxes and recycling and confusion... it's a bit much. Creative Commons License
True Stories, Honest Lies by Laura S. Packer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at
Related Posts with Thumbnails