Sunday, June 17, 2012

the solace of uncertainty

It's only two acres, the land I'm thinking of buying. It was once part of someone's pasture, level and grassy with a few tall trees at the back fence. Maybe they loved it, but fell on hard times and had to sell, carving up their ranch into small lots, or maybe they can't believe their good fortune to be able to ask so much for such small parcels. I probably won't ever know.

I think about this land and sometimes I drive by it. It's only about 3 miles from the house I rent. I think about the fire lookout style house I want to build on it. And yet I can't commit. Although I bought and sold two houses in the past, this seems like a big step. Although everyone told me to buy permanent license plates for my truck, that I'd save money if I stayed two years, I couldn't bring myself to do it.

As a firefighter, you live about half the year in a state of unpredictability. People learn not to count on you being there for holidays, weddings, birthdays. Even if you're not out there following the lightning as it moves from Arizona to Alaska to Oregon, you come home well after dark on those long, soft summer days. And yet, friends of mine seem to have no problem commiting to a settled kind of life. They get married, have kids, send roots deep into the community. They belong to a place instead of just to themselves.

I have never been able to do this. Since I left my childhood home, I haven't lived anywhere for more than five years. At first I could blame this on the seasonal lifestyle, the need to leave small timber communities every six months to find work. But I have had a permanent job for over 15 years now. I don't have any excuse for the desire to find out what might be around the next corner, to pack everything up and just go.

But maybe this isn't such a bad thing. I cringe at the classic job interview question: where do you see yourself in five, ten years? I make something up that they want to hear, but I don't know, nor do I want to. Strangely, having choices feels safe. Whenever I try to make a plan, something unexpected happens: a helicopter crash, a divorce, a chance meeting with someone who will change my life. I balance on the edge between home and the unknown. With each new place I ask: could this be it, the one that will keep me off the road? And the answer is always, maybe.

So I dream about lying down in the tall grass of the former pasture and calling it mine. Maybe I will, or maybe in a year or so I will be in a new place watching fire walk through a different forest. Either way, my mind and heart will be open to every possibility.


  1. What? You mean, you made up your answer when we interviewed you? But, that was the reason we gave you the job...just kidding, I hate that question, too. I always want to tell them my intentions of becoming an undercover secret agent living a life of glamorous international intrigue...pretty much the same plan since I was seven. Have a great Wyoming assignment!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.


I try to answer all comments, so comment away!