We needed to get the hell out of Belmont. The tech boom busted for us and we could no longer afford the San Francisco Bay Area. The details sound more depressing than they actually were: lost jobs, mortgage payments we couldn’t pay (did someone say “sub-prime?” Golly, that sounds keen), and months of fruitless job-seeking and soul-searching (wait, this does sound kind of depressing). Faced with the option of moving into a mobile home off Highway 101 or moving on, we opted to trek towards cheaper pastures. Billy Shakes was packing up the bus and moving the wife and little one north. We had taken our shot at Silicon Valley fortune and like hapless prospectors of old, ended up with a pan full of sand.
Selecting our destination required one map of the continental United States and one dart. Although not entirely that random, we were fairly open when addressing the question of a new address. We were not entirely destitute, our years of panning left us some flexibility, but we became increasingly less so.
The wife (who I should properly introduce here as Ms. Soo Moon) shot down my idea to move to Nepal and become shepherds (“cliché”, she said). We were fairly certain we’d stay within these United States. We are both Californians, so weren’t particularly interested in Northeast and Midwest winters. Not to mention a rabid, though ill-defined, distrust of what I’ll just call the “Old States.” The demographics of the Southeast (to say nothing of its track record on integration) made that region a no-go, not only for the comfort of my Korean-American wife, but for our collective peace of mind in regards to the formative years of our Amer-Asian boy.
The Southwest was enticing, particularly LA since most of our families still lived there. However, employment opportunities, the desire to try someplace new, and all the reasons we left LA in the first place led us to rule out LA in the end. AZ, NV, NM, UT, etc…were never seriously considered. That left us with the Northwest, which held a certain mystical attraction, a gauzy gray-green fecundity, someplace where we could grow, raise the boy, you know the American Dream and all that.
The Las Piedras Island part was Soo’s discovery. It seemed ideal…an island, not far from Seattle, but far enough so we could rent a cheap place and still be able to get to jobs in town without a crazy commute. Assuming we would find jobs in Seattle.
That is the key phrase, we are still assuming we will find jobs in Seattle. In the interim, to keep me busy, to entertain friends and relatives, and to provide a record for all posterity, I give you this collection of words and thoughts.
The title of this chapter comes from a conversation we had with the rental agent regarding the property boundaries. It was the first time we saw the place, and we were walking in the backyard. She started pointing out the perimeter and said, “The other marker is behind one of those two cedars.” Soo and I looked at each other, I stayed silent preferring to remain quietly ignorant rather than speak out and prove it.
Soo, however, couldn’t resist, “Um, which ones are the cedars?”
A fair enough question. It’s not like we saw a lot of cedars growing up in LA, or even in the Bay Area for that matter. We fancied ourselves as, if not city slickers, at least sophisticated citizens of the world. The occasional camping trip did little to transform our decidedly un-pastoral purview, founded as it was in SoCal suburbia and augmented by San Francisco urbania.
Our feeling of utter rural ignorance was made more pronounced when, from a distance, we heard a cow lowing and Soo asked, slightly shocked, “What was that?” After recovering from the news that our potential neighbors had cattle, we grew to like it. Then came the clucking of chickens, a rooster crowing, and indications that other less domesticated animals frequented the joint.
The deer fence around the garden, for instance.
The prospect of living in our own little rural park became irresistible, images of the local fauna nibbling flora accompanied by gently lowing cows filled our brains. And then there was the rock work. Fantastic rock walls and a dramatic stone staircase that descended to the back yard, leading into the forest, like a path to dark discovery. We felt a sense of liberation and a growing comfort, we had found a refuge at the edge of the country, and renting felt like a good thing. No more mortgage hanging over our heads.
We liked the fact that we were secluded, down a long dirt road away from the civilization. So what if we couldn’t pick a cedar out of a lineup of trees to save our lives. There was something about the place that we just liked, it felt like our destiny, so we took it.