"I was, in fact, homesick for wildness, and when I found it I knew how intimately - how resonantly - I belonged there. We are charged with this - all of us. For the human spirit has a primal allegiance to wildness, to really live, to snatch the fruit and suck it, to spill the juice." - Jay Griffiths, Wild: an Elemental Journey

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Clowns in California

I have friend, Amelia.

We both used to live in Takoma Park, Maryland - a tiny, hippie town just outside of D.C. - so tiny and hippie that everyone between the ages of 25 and 35 became friends, pretty much just because there were so few of us.  (And because we were awesome, obviously.)  (And because there was only one bar in town, so we all saw each other more often than we'd like to admit via that watering hole.)

Amelia had a lovely little life going for her in Maryland - a caring boyfriend, a great job at the local music shop, a budding acting career - and then she left it all to go to clown college in California.  I remember our Takoma Park community being excited for her decision, but also slightly confused.  Why would she leave when it seemed like she had everything going for her here?  And clown college?

In short, folks asked the same questions of her that were asked of me when I made my decision to leave my everything-going-for-me life in Maryland.

A few weeks ago, I took a weekend trip from Santa Cruz up to Oakland (on the east bay of San Francisco, for my east coast readers), to drop a travel friend off at the airport.  While there, I visited Amelia, whom I hadn't seen in over three years.

She showed me around her apartment - which is sort of a theater-turned-loft; part of a larger, labyrinthian network of other such unique apartments inside a huge artist complex.  It's difficult to describe, so here are some photos:

One outside shot of someone's porch (not Amelia's)
All of the interior hallway space doubles as a gallery for the artists who live there

Another hallway art installation

There are five of these inner, green courtyards throughout the place.
This is the one Amelia walks through each day to get to her particular hallway. 

Amelia showing me her purple, fuzzy door.
It came that way.

An interior shot of their apartment, taken from the perspective of
the loft kitchen, looking down on the music studio portion.
Under the stairs to the left is a stage that doubles as a bedroom.
Under the stairs behind the piano is a puppet workshop.
Spiderman is on the stairs.
Amelia lives here with her fiancé, Michael, a puppet maker and clown that she met in clown college.  Currently also living with them are a couple from Puerto Rico and a friend from clown college who is about to leave for Bali.

As Amelia and I had tea in her incredible apartment, I asked about her life journey since I'd seen her last.  She told me about clown college and how she met her fiancé.  She showed me photos of a show that they and another friend wrote together and took on the road.  She told me all the things she loves about Oakland, and clowning, and her fiancé, and her life.

As she spoke, I recognized something in her.  Something rare but intimately familiar.  She was glowing.  Her smiles were deep; they came from her gut.  She spoke with a lilting, joyful ease.  She laughed a lot.  Amelia has always been a happy person, I'd say, but this was different than just happiness.

This was. . . rightfulness?

That's the only way I can think to describe it.  While we might not have all understood Amelia's decision to leave, something inside was pulling her to a new place for reasons that no one else could - or needed to - understand.  

And now that I saw her here, at the other end of her decision, it was so clear to me that she was in the exact right place for her, with the exact right people, doing the exact right thing.

I'm proud of her, inspired by her example, and grateful to still call her friend.

And to end this post, here are some silly shots from our trip to Whole Foods, where her fiancé, Michael, works:

Amelia modeling a fuzzy hat and wooden tie
(Yes Whole Foods carries this stuff - who knew??)

Michael behind his fish counter, getting crabby.

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