Years ago, when my wife and I were young, we moved just about every year. As a young journalist, in order to move up, you had to move on. Also, as a young journalist, I apparently took a vow of poverty — I don’t remember the exact time I made that papist promise, but it was probably some time right out of school when I agreed to edit a little weekly newspaper in Crested Butte, Colo., for wages I likely could have matched had I taken the unenviable job of “fry guy” at the only McDonald’s in Gunnison County.
When moving and poverty come together, it’s a clash of downtrodden fortunes. Moving ain’t cheap. But a journalist is never going to get rich working for weekly and five-day-a-week newspapers in communities like Buena Vista or Salida. The fishing’s good, but even then, you must weigh the merit of every single expense, including gas in the sketchy automobile that you really can’t depend on to get to the river and back in the first place. Nevertheless, the Arkansas River beckoned, as did the Gunnison, the East and the Taylor back during the Crested Butte days. I found ways to fish, even if the undertaking might not have been the wisest course at the time. To compensate, mac and cheese became a staple, and we were lucky to be able to afford a pound of ground beef to cook up with it.
Eventually, the desire to live a bit better kicks in. So you move up. And in “moving up,” between 1993 and 2005, my wife and I moved 11 times. We did our best to make the moves a bit more than just lateral, but with each pick-up-and-go effort, either to the adventure that comes with a new job or just to improve our living situation as young families try to do, the economic realities of our hand-to-mouth existence slapped us in the face. Throw in a couple of setbacks with vehicles blowing up in our face, interesting interactions with bill collectors, the IRS, bankruptcy attorneys and shady loan companies, and we were flat on the mat with a shoulder touching damn near every day.
Of course, much of our economic suffering was due to poor decisions. I entertained the desire to live close to trout water at all costs (and sometimes, that was, indeed the case — I remember coming home from a camping and fishing trip in Colorado to find the power shut off because we hadn’t paid the bill). Between my insistence to live near trout, and the decision, early on in our marriage, to move away from the family home base in Colorado also played a role in our economic well-being, or lack thereof. While that choice may have extended our relationship, it left us without much in the way of a support system — something I now believe in, especially if you plan to raise a family. I wouldn’t say I regret the decision to leave the constant pressure of Sunday dinners, family gossip and the patriarchal hierarchy of the family unit, through which one must navigate with equal parts politics and respect paid to the elders. At the time, with just the two of us, it was just easier to rent a U-Haul and head to the coast for a true taste of freedom.
But I was blessed with not one, but two, fishy grandfathers. I learned the craft at their hip. Leaving Colorado and exploring the remote coast of northern California and then ending up in Idaho likely robbed me and them of some fishing time as they both eventually grew old and passed on. Yet, still, we moved.
And then, in 2005, when things finally settled into a nice groove, both with jobs and family, I figured I’d never move again. But life’s funny, isn’t it?
So here I am, kids grown, working on a new relationship after a divorce some years back, and I’m moving again. I’m not moving far — maybe three blocks. My girlfriend’s house is a little bigger and likely worth more than the house I moved into 15 years ago (which makes it, officially, the longest-tenured home in my home-owning history), so it was a good call. I still get to be close to the trout water I love, and I get to hang it out with someone who makes me smile just about every day. And she has a great little RV pad on the south side of the house, and that’s not nothing.
But I’m telling you this: moving three blocks is much harder than moving across the country. And moving after 15 years of accumulation from a house that I honestly expected I’d never sell is also quite the challenge. In my head, I think, “Yeah, I’ll just run over and grab a load and come on back and put it away in the new house.” Trouble is, the “new house” is already mostly full because the woman who lives here has done an enviable job of filling it over the last four years. So furniture that’s been in the basement of the old house must now come up the stairs and the tight little stairwell (and I remember the nightmare of getting it down there in the first place all those years ago when I thought it would be like Mike Mulligan’s steam shovel and never leave). It’ll go to the local Idaho Youth Ranch thrift store or, if it’s completely undesirable, right to the dump.
Mind you, all this is happening during what is easily eastern Idaho’s most ideal fall in years. Last year at this time, I was up in Island Park for a fly fishing instructional event, and the second night there, an Arctic blast teamed with a front coming in from the Pacific and the mercury plunged to 8 below. The gorgeous autumn leaves on the aspens froze in place and dropped listlessly to the ground, and by the time October was up, we’d already had snow and more sub-zero temps.
This year, as I’m busy moving all of three blocks, the temperatures have stayed “seasonal,” whatever that means in the age of climate change, and the aspens and cottonwoods are standing sentry over some of the best trout water in the West, during what might be the best weather week of the year, where going fishing is simply a no-brainer.
And, remember, that’s the trout water I moved here to be close to.
And yet I move. I guess that’s love, right?
And of course, I’m working, which was also a mistake — moving, even three blocks, is worth a couple of days of vacation time. You’d think, after all the moves I’ve made over the course of my adulthood, I’d know this. Yet here I sit, with my accumulated treasures split between two houses, wondering how the hell I’m going to pull this off when the rivers are literally screaming for attention.
The good news? The kids came home to help, and for that I’m grateful. They, too, are essentially moving from, really, the only home they’ve known. So there is some emotion there, and I get that. But the fact that they showed up in almost Gandalfian fashion is something to behold.
So I’m moving and they’re helping make it happen.
I guess that’s love, too, huh?