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East Coast Exit

After living ten years in NYC, one year afloat, and one year in Portland, Maine, I woke up in the middle of the night on a full moon, and knew that it was time to get myself to Los Angeles. Well, actually it was my best friend's unborn baby that woke me with the cosmic message. My other two besties had just moved there last summer, and so there they all were, and here I was, in Portland, loving the wild beauty and peace, but very, very much alone. I traveled through Europe for a month with the decision hovering over my heart, and as soon as I stepped back into my beloved apartment downtown Portland, it was clear. 'Twas time. I spent the next three weeks selling everything I had just acquired that year (not a commitment phobe) and packing the remainder in my car.

It was harder than I thought it was going to be. I was so sure of my decision, but it didn't make the departure any less heartbreaking. I loved Portland. I loved the people, my job, my regular spots, my secret spots, the ease, the sweet softness of life there. Yes, I even loved the winter. If I had had a partner, the whole thing would have been damn near perfect. But, sadly, I had the opposite. What I had was one massively broken heart, which made things even worse, because as much as I tried to see other people, the wound was too deep - I wasn't ready.

I realized that I came to Portland to be alone, to heal, to prepare for the launch into the next chapter, shit, the next book. I was there to birth Deering Street Diaries. I was there to witness and be witnessed by, Z. I met her on a flight in India just a year before deciding to move there. She meant everything to me. She was the most vital instrument in my healing process. Z was an angel sent to facilitate my metamorphosis. Ever since I was a little girl, I was obsessed with lighthouses and the state of Maine even though I had never been. I know now that it was written in the stars I would spend time there, and Z would be my lighthouse. She held space for me to lie down all of my broken pieces. Z never judged. My soul sister never felt exasperated by my continuous, relentless tendency to fall backwards. I wasn't ever afraid to be anything other than my flawed self. I was only met with loving support and empathy, and arms that held me up when I only wanted to crumple to the floor. With Z's help I laid a new foundation. I learned to trust and to love myself no matter how many mistakes I made with my heart. In her eyes I saw the Goddess that I was, that I had always been. Z reminded me of my magic, and when she told me that I was a different creature than the one who landed in Portland one year prior, I believed her. It was true, I felt it. In that year, the most amazing and maybe the most difficult year of my life, I had transformed. I felt embodied for the first time. I felt very aware of my power. And it was time for the wounded bird to fly, which meant leaving Z, but we didn't say goodbye. My leaving Maine wouldn't equal the end of our journey. We are sisters for life and beyond, and it won't be long until we are somewhere else together - sparkling, no - afire...

Selling my things was easy. Everything went in a week - everything. I would have a chair and a side table for a good part of two weeks. My life partner, a 16 year old Pomeranian (Mr. Jones) and I slept on an air mattress the last days while I packed the car Tetris style. That big, beautiful apartment emptied so quickly I had barely any time to let go. I made sure to return to all of my favorite places to say goodbye. I meant to leave on a Thursday, but I wouldn't until the following Monday. So much of my last few days was spent schlepping boxes to the post office, to goodwill, to resale stores, that I wanted to have a day, two days, to just be, to calmly and properly depart the softest place I could land. The sweetest, most magical hamlet. The healing rocks. The cleansing waters. The peaceful wooded paths that listened to me when I had no one else to talk to. The most sacred spaces that heard and held my heart when I had nowhere else to love.

And I did. I took my time. I went back to my regular bar three nights in a row, not knowing if the next day would be the day I actually left. The staff there was like my family. They took me in, made me feel like I was home. They said, "we'll know you're gone when you don't come in," and that Sunday night would be my last Burnside Brown Ale in Portland, Maine...

Well, for awhile at least.

Monday morning came. I deflated our bed. Took the last of the trash out. Stuffed the final few items into the gypsy wagon. Placed my Pom in a shoebox sized nook in the front seat, stopped one last time at my Starbucks on Congress Street for a road coffee, and as I walked out the door the barista who knew me very well (I went every single day), called out, "California!" and I threw up a peace sign goodbye.

When I left New York City after a decade, tears didn't come. Maybe it was because I knew that I wasn't ready to go that far away. Maybe it was because I thought I would be back. That I would work things out with my love. This time was different. I stayed very strong until I crossed the Pennsylvania State Line, leaving New York in my rearview. The tears came in a flood. I knew that I wasn't just leaving Portland, Maine.

This was just the beginning of what would be the most unforgettable journey across the country. Just me, my Pomeranian, and a compact car full of all that I owned...

The Farewell Album

The Year I Lived in Portland, Maine

Z

Secret Beach, Coco Cooper

i know a place

where the mermaids lie,

and the wind blows sweet, and the seagulls cry.

where the rocks they heal

under a warming sun

and the sky is so blue,

and the wild things run.

where the waves they crash

upon a rocky shore,

and the mind finds peace,

and the heart will soar.

where the sunlight dances on the water,

and the sand is a radiant pink,

where the air breathes crystal clear,

and thoughts they cease to think.

yeah, i know a place

that not many will reach,

where sacred songs of stillness play,

our magical, secret beach.

You mustn't live so lightly,

Spin your stories, tell your tales,

Let them dance across the oceans

And set the wind upon your sails.

For every truth found on your travels

And in the pits of your despair,

Is a shout into forever

Of "I existed, and I cared."

~ Erin Hanson

Los Angeles, CA

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