September 16, 2020

Belonging In Oklahoma

I was been reading the unfamiliar road signs out loud to Steve as we drove over rolling hills, along the tree-lined, two-lane roads, surrounded by the green farms, tiny, country hamlets, and abandoned buildings of the Choctaw Nation. We stopped at the Cedar Lake Vista to give our beagle Scout a chance to stretch and run. Breathing in the sweet, moist air after a rain shower, standing on the ridge of the Talimena Scenic Byway, among the stick bugs and oak trees, serenity swept over me like a cool breeze. 

I've spent most of my life feeling awkward, lost, and as if I don't belong. That's probably why being a drifter felt so natural. When one doesn't belong somewhere, it's easy to leave that place behind. 

When I met Steve, I knew that he was the one for me, long before I ever spoke the words. We worked together, and when he spoke, I hung upon his every word. That sense of connection was not a violent jolt, but a simple, silent slipping together. For the first time in my life, I knew he was the one. Suddenly, I belonged with someone. 

Just like me, Steve felt out of place everywhere he went. Born from a Japanese mother and American Serviceman, raised in San Diego, Steve always knew he was an outsider. Half one thing, not enough of another, he had difficulty finding his place in this world. 

We let go of most everything we owned, got on our motorcycles, and drifted around the country. Together, but in many ways, still very alone. We rode side by side, but alone in our own helmets during the day, seeing the roads, landscapes, and towns, each from our own unique perspective. Thousands of miles we traveled, alone, together, lost in the thoughts, working through the pain of our pasts, moving into a new horizon every day.

After years of motorcycling around the U.S., we moved into our toy hauler. We traveled together in the cab of Steve's pick up truck. I flopped into the same bed at night after a long day, I cooked in my own kitchen, we worked at our same desks. We were more grounded with each other, we had our own home that was with us wherever we went. Still, with the hearts of travelers, we needed to keep on the road. 

Yet here I stand, on the ridge of the mountain range, looking over the land of my people, and feeling a sense of belonging. Originally from Mississippi, my tribe, the Choctaw, was forcibly moved to Southeast Oklahoma in 1831 on The Trail of Tears. Over the last 189 years, the Choctaw persisted, survived, and thrived on this land. Both of my parents were born in Oklahoma, relocated, and later met in Fontana, California. They didn't bring any Choctaw heritage with them. We were raised as "white" and we weren't to question that.

But I've known all along that isn't true. I've always known something was missing. I don't know if I'll find that missing piece here. What I do know is there's a comforting sense of calm that comes to me in these woods, sweetness to the air that tastes familiar, and a sound of the wind in the trees that calls to my heart. I might not be home yet, but I'm getting closer every day.

1 comment:

  1. Sash, I love your story. I lost contact with you over the years. I came across a post I shared from you from 2014. The method I used was broken to the original link. So, I dug deeper to make it back here, to your blog. It's great to see you still posting. I kinda went off the rails and stopped everything online. Long story... But, we're now in Southeast TN, about 90ish minutes from Gatlinburg, TN. We love it here. We've been here now for 2.5 yrs. We're sort of in the middle between my family and his family.


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