"Keep a-movin'" has always struck me as good advice. For a while it served as the motto of my life. Those words form the refrain of a folk song. I first heard it at a concert in Town Hall in New York in the late 1950s. I was with my brother and two young ladies, one British, the other a Briton of Egyptian nationality. The folk group sang that refrain again and again, and we clapped in rhythm as they sang it.
"Keep a-movin'!" Yes, sir! There was nothing I wanted to do more at that time than to see the world. And in a structured, late-'50s way I was able to do that for the following seven or eight years.
Later, when I got married, I "settled" in Los Angeles, where I was born. Back from Africa, I stayed there for all of 20 months. Donnane, who had grown up in the Foreign Service, said: "I hope we don't stay here all our lives!"
She needn't have worried. A year and a hald later we left for what proved to be six years, most of them spent living and traveling in Africa. We loved it!" "Keep a-movin'!" was exactly what we wanted to do.
Now we have been in Santa Barbara for six years. In the same house for five. Five years!
the curious thing is: it's amazing to find there are advantages to staying in the same place for a while. Amazing to feel part of a place, to know it instead of merely carrying a snapshot memory of it in your mind. Amazing to know the neighbors. And to have friends over years instead of over months. It's astonishing to see their children grow up -- and to watch your own child grow.
Was it Thoreau -- or Emily Dickinson -- who said: "I have traveled widely in Concord." That's what we're doing here.
It's uncanny to realize the variety in things we had always thought stayed pretty much the same. Having tramped around Goleta Beach for five years now (solving literary problems), I've seen the mouth of our small creek move up and down the shore.
I notice, too, that the amount of fruit varies from year to year on the trees in our yard. Our first year here plums sprouted dozens to the branch on the tree outside our bedroom. Another year we gave sacks of avocados to our friends. This year, while the plum seems dormant, the orange tree is sagging. I've had to prop up low-lying branches to keep the fruit off the ground.
For the thirf year a pair of blue jays have nested in that orange tree. We watch them give flying lessons to their fledglings. They know us now and we know them.
When I was younger, I interpreted "Keep a-movin'" in purely physical terms. Now I know there's plenty of moving you can do in the same place. Have to do.
You've got to "keep a-movin'" if you want to build a business or career.If you want to stay abreast of what people are thinking, doing, reading. If you don't want to fall behind the gophers and the weeds. If you want to keep up with the Joneses. (That does not interest mu much, but I'd like to keep pace with inflation!) If you want to grow in grace.
At the moment that's my challenge. Donanne has just become activities director and docent coordinator at our Natural History Museum.It's one of those five-hour-a-day jobs that take eight to 10 hours to do.
As a result, we're each learning more about the way the other used to live. I'm trying to convince myself that a writer can solve literary problems while tramping around doing household chores. I do more dishwashing, house-cleaning, laundry, errands, and marketing than I have in years. (Donanne does not encourage my cooking, I notice. Is this guilt? What else could it be? Paul and I like my hamburgers fine!)
I've done more mothering, too. I've arranged for Paul's piano lessons, taken him to them, sat through them with him. I've badgered him to practice and do his homework. I've racked my brain for the proper tactics (should I threaten or nurture?) when he flatly refuses to obey.
Donanne has learned why it is that when the business person comes home, he wants to sit down to read the mail alone.m I know now why the stay-home person sometimes wants to run from the house shrieking. Now it is I, more often than not, who watches concernedly across the dinner table and asks: "You OK?" She's the one who's staring out over her plate, mulling a business problem.
When out eyes meet, we smile. We hope the time comes when we'll be taking some trips again. Until then we'll "keep a-movin'" in our own way.