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“The trees are too tall, they block the moon,” says my bosses’ son from the backseat as I drive him home from school. It is a short and poignant thing to say.  “They are pretty though, aren’t they?” I ask, and he agrees. It was a simple observation, one that led to a conversation about the moon and space and sunlight and how trees wouldn’t be very good to eat. It was a short and quiet moment in the busy, loud life of a three year old.

In some writing class in college, my professor told us about how his brother had been a forester in the pacific northwest, and how he had fallen from a tree and shattered all of the bones in his legs. I wonder if that guy thought trees were too tall or if they were beautiful or if he only did it for the money.

It is raining here in Los Angeles. It must be good for the trees. There are puddles on my balcony. The streets shine. I sit and listen to the rain and wonder if it all comes from the ocean, and how long it will take to get back there.

My job is terrible and dull and it makes the people who stay there for years terrible and dull. Sometimes we sit around a table and talk about other people’s money. Last time this happened I remembered sitting at a table in Seoul, staring at a tiny Korean girl refusing to eat her lunch. Those two situations were very different but very much the same. It is all some kind of strange humanity.

Someday there might be someone who loves me more than someone else’s money. Someday there might be someone who loves the trees because they are beautiful and not because they can be cut down and sold for lumber. We will grow tall and strong together in the rain.

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I sat on the beach on the faded old towel I’d brought from home. Home home. Stolen from my mother’s laundry room while packing for the big move. The adventure. Also known as South Korea.

The tiny salty waves crashed on the shore as I stared out into the blue and chewed on some dried mango chunks. An Austrailian dude and his big yellow dog drew a large crowd of interested Koreans to the exact spot on the beach that was located in front of me and my little towel. We all watched together, smiling and laughing, as the man threw a pinecone into the waves and the dog happily retrieved it over and over, barking at his owner when the pine cone was not thrown again quickly enough. After ten minutes of this, the man and his dog walked on, and the crowd dispersed, and again I sat alone watching the ocean, holding an empty dried mango bag.

I would see them both again, the man and his dog, Sadie. I would hear him call her name each time she ran too far down the beach. I would see her yellow fur wet from the ocean waves. He would recognize me the next day, the white girl from the faded beach towel, as we stood at the intersection together, waiting to cross, to leave the beach and go back from wherever we both came from. He would look back at me over his shoulder, just for a moment, saying nothing, and I would avoid meeting his eye.

And then I would cross the street, leave the beach, and go home. But not home home.

And since I crossed that street, I’ve been thinking about it. Home. And what home means. And where my home is. And the things people need to feel happy in a place. The things that make you want to stay. The lack of things that makes you want to leave.

People. Love. Comfort. These things?

People. People to see, people to talk to, people to be friends with.

Love. People to love. Things to love. Places to love. To be happy and in love with yourself and your current place in the world.

Comfort. To be safe and happy or at least ok with your home. To like where you are. To feel like you’re actually going home when you go there.

What else? What makes you want to stay? Is it harder to know unless you leave?

It felt like going home to leave that beach. But also, it didn’t. It felt like leaving. And it felt like I would still be gone once I arrived. Yet, I stay.

I see two women walking together on the side of the road as I drive past, and I wonder if the woman waving her hands is talking and talking and talking too much, and if the other woman is regretting inviting her friend to exercise with her on this chilly late summer afternoon, since that’s what she really wanted to do, exercise, not walk slower than she normally would and listen to all of her friend’s  updated life struggles. “My cat just won’t stop staring out the window,” I imagine her saying, waving her arms as she walks, pretending that she wants to exercise, too.

And now the women are in my rearview mirror, I can look back and see them, and see the leaves turning orange or brown on the trees they walk under.

People are already complaining about the cold, about how it’s almost fall and the weather is colder than it was a month ago, and I think about how this always happens, every year, everything. Hot in the summer, cool in the fall, cold in the winter, with snow, and the same fetching of the dusty snow shovel from the basement.

I look in my rearview mirror at the beautiful orange leaves and I think about how I’ve seen this all before, seen those women before, or women like them, had those same experiences, talked about that same cat, seen those same leaves change from green to orange to brown, raked them into piles and jumped in them, or left the piles to rot. Again and again, year after year.

“It’s so cold!” she says, another faceless woman in my mind, pulling on the sweater she hasn’t worn in nine months.

Winter will come. Snow will fall. Salt trucks will melt it away, or try, or make ice patches that are worse than the snow was.

Again, again, of course. And of course the people will go on, dealing with seeing their breath in the air on cold winter mornings, plowing through snow drifts and piles of paperwork and gallons of hot coffee. What else can they do?