It's hard to pinpoint exactly where the trouble started, but I like to blame it upon pangs of wanderlust, a once off-handed suggestion of picnicking, and lilacs. Shortly before or after Sabina and I had gotten together, I'd spoke of the divinity of picnics with the incoming warmer weather of spring. After all, we'd both endured a long and brutal winter, both meteorologically and metaphorically. It seemed with our leaving the vampire caste I'd been consumed by wanderlust. The historic district, where I lived, the greater metroplex itself, was not as fun as it once was. I wrote it off as going through a time of transition as opposed to having lost that loving feeling that was gone, gone, gone.
Whoa, whoa, whoa...
And of course, the matter of lilacs. Sabina loves that particular flower. Her tales of collecting them as a child and my memories of her expression when seeing and smelling them have inspired me to string together words like a spider spinning its web to tell a tale. Perhaps, in that context, she is my muse, but I'd hate to burden her like that.
But it was her idea to strike west one fine spring day to have a picnic, going deeper into the American Maghreb to the great Rocky Mountains. I still remember the point along the Road I refer to as the Border, because that's where one is afforded their last glimpse of down below and the metroplex, the badlands beyond and the first glance of the real mountains. Even after so many years, I'm still impressed by that point of aspect.
The first time we jumped off the twilight end of the world and entered our Sahel, I recall the first township we encountered reminded me of the historical district, where I lived; a juxtaposition of quaint Victorians and newer builds, sometimes stacked cheek to jowl. The lilacs Sabina sought were in bloom and she picked a few sprigs.
"I know of this place about fifteen miles west of here," she said. "It's a funky place you might enjoy. Would you like to go?"
"Let's let our destination find us," I said.
And so we headed west. The township, like Morocco, in the land furthest west, before the Roof of the World, where the North American continent splits in half and the rivers flip a coin by virtue of gravity to decide whether to flow east or west, caught my undivided attention. All along Rue Main were strings of Buddhist prayer flags. We were listening to music of a Himalayan flavor as we found a place to park.
There was purchasing tea from the Tea Room and bread at the bakery. We hiked the short distance to the picnic table at the eastern ledge. From there, we could see the Road, the train depot, and look west toward the Roof of the World. Sabina popped open a bottle of the good, good south African wine we so love. I was in awe.
"It's all so magical, isn't it?" She said as we toasted.
Perhaps it was the memory of a southern friend once proclaiming we were on the road to Kashmir. In his mind, Kashmir was not as much geography as a mental state; one's place in the world. Like falling in love, only you could really know when it happened. As we sat there, having a picnic on a lovely spring day beyond the end of the world, I found myself being enraptured. The realization hit me between the eyes like a two-ton heavy thing.
...This is Kashmir...
"It would be so nice to live here," I said as we were leaving to return to the city.
"Well, let's do it," Sabina said.
"Really?" I was gobsmacked, knowing how much she enjoyed being downtown. She took my hand.
"If we can figure it out, let's go for it," and I fell in love with her all over again.
It was amazing how quickly we decided we were over the greater metroplex. The very things that drew us in began to repel us. At every opportunity, we ran for the hills. Sabina would introduce us to locals as residents in waiting.
Less than a year later, we spied what would become the House of Owls and Bats. Our story, our tenacity was the stuff of local legend for a summer after. Although our determination to come to our place in the world is still the subject of admiration, it seems equally impressive that we stayed. The fact we've weathered the long dark winters here, just ten miles east of the Roof of the World.
I have mentioned before, Sabina and I have a lot of anniversaries. This day upon the calendar is one of them. It is the anniversary of when we found our place in the world. Kashmir. It's a given at some point during the day I'll take Sabina by the hand, pull her close, and say;
"Happy Kashmir day..."