Moving Gingerly

By Laura Oliver
Special to The Washington Post
Monday, September 22, 2008

Anna is telling of a reading she just had with a Canadian mystic by phone. I teach at the state university and Anna is an acupuncturist, but we are also mothers who run households and wonder at the mysteries of the universe. We read about Tibetan singing bowls and quantum mechanics, any theory that might educate and enlarge us.

Anna reports the mystic predicted a move. I have been alone a lot the past few years, and Anna lives just down the street. She leans toward me as if to soften the news: It's true. She's made an offer on a house in another neighborhood.

I had a reading with the mystic a month ago, and she didn't tell me my best friend would move. How psychic is that? I do a quick inventory of all the other things she was wrong about: I'm not speaking before large groups. I have not become wise.

As a healer, Anna thinks in terms of the five Chinese elements -- water, wood, fire, earth and metal. Once she told me I was wood. I ask where the new house is.

I am wood.

My husband and I moved just a year ago, wondering if it might be the last time we would live together. Our children were leaving home; we had married young and half-formed, and in many ways we had become different people. Our uncertainty, however, was based upon more than those facts. Our careers had put us in different hemispheres for months at a time until collectively those months had become years.

Before having children I had followed him around the globe, but kids need pets and pediatricians. I remained anchored to home, friends and work, while my husband designed yachts on the far side of continents. While I stood at a university blackboard on a balmy spring afternoon, he doused the spinnaker on the Hauraki Gulf in an autumn storm. Eventually we became self-sufficient, as we might have had we each lived on our own before marriage, but growth exacted a price. The distance between us became difficult to map and harder to bridge with each absence.

When we discovered an old four-square with a walled garden we both liked, we agreed a new home might initiate a new perspective. My husband could travel less and now I could travel more. That Anna lived nearby was a peripheral bonus. She and I didn't see each other any more often than when I lived across town, but proximity became a comfort, like knowing your parents are still alive.

I have been practicing shifting my vibrational energy. It's weird how it works: I want an answer to a difficult question, and instead of meditating on my confusion, I remember how it feels to be struck by insight. Answers seem to pop into my head later at odd times of day, or a song on the radio will seem to point the way. Maybe I've intuited guidance this way all along. Minutes after I told my husband, on a blustery January afternoon, that I'd marry him, we dashed into a bookstore to get out of the wind and were met by the soaring strains of Mendelssohn's "Wedding March." I saw the music as a sign -- this was good, meant to be -- because I'd been given a gift of inexplicable timing once before.

When I was very young, my family lived on the water in a home my parents built by renovating an old barn. "Barnstead" sat on 200 feet of shoreline and three acres of pastureland. In winter, migrating swans met the water as gently as light. In the summer, my sisters and I swam until the parts in our hair were bright pink from the sun.

Then my father began traveling until just before I turned 10, distance became divorce and the house was sold. With my mother and sisters, I moved to a community where I could make friends. I was grieving but too "well adjusted" to know it. I was lonely but didn't name it.

The developer of our new neighborhood began building a spec house across the street. Every night when the workmen left, I'd slip down to the construction site, sit on the stacks of plywood and wish on the first star that shone in the indigo of early evening. "Let a best friend move in this house," I would ask. "Let a best friend move here," I would say. I held not the absence but the vision in my heart. I saw my new best friend and myself mounting the steep steps of the boxy school bus, picking the first violets of April to make bouquets for our rooms.

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