Kaboom! I landed in Ashland in January 2015, on my feet, a little breathless, and with a suitcase full of dreams for my new life.
Was I nuts to leave my cozy Hawaiian cradle and arrive here smack in the middle of winter’s iciest time? As I layered my clothes, starting with thermal underwear and ending with woolly hats and scarves, I found myself longingly looking at the little Hawaiian floral dress hanging in my closet.
In Ashland, it is easy to amuse oneself to death. There is theater, free shows on the green, classes and an amazing restaurant scene. If that is not enough, there are brewpubs with 47 gut-expanding beers on tap, hiking trails to lift the soul and tighten those thighs, and wineries romantic enough to rekindle tired relationships.
But I was having none of it — no classes, no volunteering, and no inviting to dinner anyone I thought interesting. Just as well, because I would have been entertaining every night; Ashland is a ghetto of Type A, highly accomplished, widely traveled folks.
It was simply delicious not running into anybody I knew at the Co-op or in Lithia Park. I loved the total lack of commitment to anything except my writing.
It didn't last for long.
Before I knew it, I was taking tai chi and Spanish. I bought theater tickets and co-taught at OLLI. l was morphing into an Ashlander. I was way too busy to live simply or simply live. Like many Ashlanders, I am a take-charge and fix-it kind of person whose days are overflowing with enough activities to warrant a personal secretary.
I was on a dizzy high, concurrently living life in the fast lane and writing in the slow lane. Having that recluse writing life I had dreamed of was not happening.
Spring came in so gently at first, kissing one naked tree at a time, making it bloom, and then went totally out of control, transforming the entire hamlet into a massive flower show. The birds were back, and endorphins had me floating on an ocean of elation. I published my first book.
Then came the summer’s heat, so soft and inviting. Off came the winter layers and out came the little Hawaiian dress. The sun became angrier, setting forests alight. The stifling smoke had me under house arrest. Couldn’t go out, couldn’t breathe.
Summer rolled into the fall. The forest fires chilled, the days shortened, and the wind made the rainbow-colored leaves dance and swing and fly. The sheer exuberance of the trees and their leaves had my soul singing.
Now fall is here again. The chilly season is around the corner, and I am about to publish my second book. I look forward to the warm glow of candle lights and fairy lights. This time I don’t have my Hawaiian dress hanging in a spot where it can laugh out loud as I begin dressing with thoroughly unsexy thermal underwear.
— Asifa Kanji lives in Ashland.