“Just One Box”–Since moving into our new apartment, this had been my rallying cry.  Except now it had degenerated into a zombie plea.  Despite the vise gripping my shoulders, I soldiered on, mindlessly unwrapping each dish, every glass.  

My husband and I had decided moving cross-country without a job was an excellent plan.  Life was too short, we told ourselves, for playing it safe. Boldly going quickly became not-so-much, as two months in my sister’s extra bedroom stretched into six and our cushion deflated. Then, in a flash, Andrew found a new job, I stopped biting my nails about supporting us solely on my freelance income, and we found a new home.

Now, I was desperate for everything to be solidly, safe – normally – in its place.

Outside, Southern California’s spring sun drenched everything in chamomile light.  I put another (why did we have so many?) mug on the shelf and shifted my feet, buried in drifts of packing paper.   Doggedly, I reached for the next mystery package when a breeze, the one we’d moved 3,000 miles away from home for, swept through our kitchen window.

I needed to go for a ride.

Traveling north on the 405, braking for (another) vehicle veering across three lanes, dodging a texting drifter and swerving to avoid a chair, I reconsidered. ‘Turn around.  You should have never left,” each obstacle intoned.  Gritting my teeth, I prepared to exit when I saw the sea of cars crawling southbound.  There was no turning back now.

At my destination, the farm where I lease Playday (an off-the-track Standardbred), acres of box-free ranch and the Los Angeles National Forest beyond beckoned.  Half an hour later, I was on Playday’s back, enjoying birdsong and her companionable silence, yet cataloging all I had left undone.

 We crossed a stream, leaving the boxes to float away.  Anxiety drifted with the dust behind us as we trotted through bamboo.  Cantering to the top of the trail, mountains greeted us, gold relief against a cloudless sky, a familiar breeze playing in the long grass.

 Why had breaking land-speed unpacking records seemed more important than this?

 Wasn’t making it this far good enough?

My Mental Health Day thanks:
Jessica Fox
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